Buloke Shire refuses planning permit for return of Maitreya festival

Lake Wooroonook. Picture: SUPPLIED
Lake Wooroonook. Picture: SUPPLIED

UPDATE: Buloke acting chief executive Anthony Judd said the main reason for the refusal was to do with what the land can be used for.

“The purpose of the land is based as public camping and wildlife, not a commercial place of assembly, which is was any music festival would be,” he said. 

“DELWP also highlighted affects on native vegetation and particularly the damage that happened at the 2015 (festival).

“They noted some of that damage has not recovered since then.”

Mr Judd said there was alternatives for the promoter such as holding the event on private property.

“Certainly, we have the Esoteric Music Festival on private land only 15 kilometres from Lake Wooroonook,” he said. 

“It has been there for two years and has received permits and approvals through council for those two years. 

“We’re not against music festivals it is just Lake Wooroonook is not deemed the appropriate site.”

EARLIER: The Buloke Shire Council has refused a planning permit application from the Maitreya Arts and Music Festival for an event to be held at Lake Wooroonook.

Following the advice and decision of the Department of Environment Planning and Water, council refused to consent to use the land at Lake Wooroonook for the purpose of a commercial place of assembly.

REJECTED: A previous Maitreya Festival. Buloke Shire has refused a planning permit that would see the return of the Maitreya Arts and Music Festival. Picture: THE SWAN HILL GUARDIAN

REJECTED: A previous Maitreya Festival. Buloke Shire has refused a planning permit that would see the return of the Maitreya Arts and Music Festival. Picture: THE SWAN HILL GUARDIAN

Buloke Shire acts as the committee of management for Lake Wooroonook and may grant licenses to enter and use any portion on the land for purposes other than those for which the land is reserved.

But, DEWLP as owner of the land has provided written refusal of consent for the land to be used for a music festival.

Minutes from last Wednesday’s Buloke council meeting say Maitreya organisers were non-compliant with conditions on their 17B Crown Licence in 2015.

Council’s minutes also state that following a refusal to grant a licence in 2016, the applicant defied court orders to case the use and development of the land for a place of assembly.

“The complete lack of compliance with conditions on a range of statutory documents in 2015 and the experience in 2016 whereby a number of orders to stop works and cease the place of assembly land use leaves DELWP and Council in a position as Public Land Owner and Manager to ensure that a licence is not provided,” the minutes read.

“In addition to the reasons listed, the environment at the lake is only beginning to recover from the two events.”

A report completed in 2016 says that vegetation around the festival site and along the margins of lake had been impacted.

Maitreya organisers submitted the planning permit along with a request to license the land on March 7, 2018. 

The planning permit application sought approval from council for two events per year over the next five years. 

At its March meeting., Buloke council noted the 10 letters it had received expressing support for the festival to be held at the lake ahead of a report being brought to the April meeting.

In 2016, the Maitreya Festival was cancelled after event organisers failed to obtain a permit from the local council and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). 

VCAT upheld a Buloke Shire Council decision not to grant the event's organisers a permit to stage the 2016 event.

Buloke council argued it could not issue a permit after documents – including insurance, security bonds, emergency contingency plans, and agreements with Liquor Licensing and Ambulance Victoria – were not supplied by organisers.

VCAT dismissed the promoter's attempt to argue a technicality in regard to how the festival had been categorised in the planning permit.

In the wake of that decision, police and emergency services urged people not to attend the 2016 event citing health and safety concerns.

Police said in 2016, they were concerned that with no planning permit, thousands of potential festival-goers would gather in an area that “has not been declared safe, with a lack of basic services such as water, toilets, medical care and emergency response.”

Following the cancellation of the 2016 festival, Maitreya organisers were also sued by TryBooking over more than $400,000 of ticket revenue that was unaccounted for.

Maitreya Festival organisers have been contacted for comment.