WildThings Festival organiser says system stacked against new festivals after defeat in VCAT

The WildThings Festival was planned for Walmer, near Castlemaine.
The WildThings Festival was planned for Walmer, near Castlemaine.

THE organiser of a new mirco-festival near Castlemaine says it has become almost impossible to set up festivals in country Victoria after his was knocked back in the state’s planning tribunal.

The WildThings Festival was planned to host 650 people in Walmer in October, but has now been cancelled after the VCAT verdict last month, which cited concerns for nearby unsealed roads and neighbouring livestock.

Organiser William Tisdall said the whole process appeared to be stacked against organisers.

“We did our testing, got all the right noises from departments, but then it ends up not going through,” he said.

“We were only trying for 500 people. We only sold 100 tickets or so for our first gig, thought we’d give it a go anyway.

“You can have the Castlemaine State Festival, the Newstead banjo festival, even Groovin the Moo up against people’s houses in Bendigo – but we can’t have our little festival out in the countryside.”

It was the latest in a series of festivals in country Victoria to be rejected in VCAT.

Rather than a stereotypical “bush doof”, the WildThings Festival was designed for families with low-decibel music, a small stage on the back of a truck, and no noise after 11pm.

Mr Tisdall has worked at music festivals for 25 years, including the Meredith, Golden Plains and Rainbow Serpent festivals.

He wanted to give it a go himself and bought the land specifically for the festival, but will now be selling.

Mr Tisdall said he was disillusioned by the process and may attempt to take his micro-festival elsewhere in the future.

“We thought we’d go to the (Mount Alexander Shire) council meeting because there was an objection. The councillors struggled to come up with reasons to reject it,” Mr Tisdall said.

“The mayor asked for their reasons and left the room to give them time to come up with something, but they couldn’t come up with much at all.”

Councillors decided it was too isolated and poorly serviced.

Presiding VCAT member Megan Carew rejected a permit for the WildThings Festival despite saying the neighbour’s concerns could be mitigated.

“I find that given the distances involved and the nature of this event that the risk is reasonably addressed,” she wrote in her ruling.

“This is not to say that the use may not result in the need for adjoining owners to manage or monitor their animals, or to take other actions over the short duration of the event.”


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