Strawberry Fields music festival at Tocumwal should not be supported because of drug and alcohol abuse, retired nurse tells Berrigan Council

Where there's smoke there's ire: Finley retired nurse Olwyn Mathers would like to see the Strawberry Fields music festival which draws 6000 patrons stopped by Berrigan Council.

Where there's smoke there's ire: Finley retired nurse Olwyn Mathers would like to see the Strawberry Fields music festival which draws 6000 patrons stopped by Berrigan Council.

A RETIRED nurse is asking councillors whether it’s appropriate they support a music festival “shown to be a venue where drugs are consumed/inhaled?”.

Olywn Mathers has put that question and others related to the Strawberry Fields festival to Berrigan Council.

The gathering on the Murray River near Tocumwal has previously drawn criticism from police over drug use.

Mrs Mathers has urged councillors in a letter to not back a development application for this year’s festival.

“Do you think it is appropriate to support a festival which has been shown to be a venue where drugs are consumed/inhaled?” she asked.

“If so, is this not a contradiction when the council has also supported programs for educating our youth about the dangers of alcohol and drugs?

“How would you feel if you or your loved ones were involved in a serious accident caused by one these festival goers driving whilst physically/mentally impaired?

“How would you feel if you were the one waiting for the ambulance and the emergency care they could provide (being) not available because they were treating a drug overdose?”

Mrs Mathers spoke about her concerns at Wednesday’s council meeting and was told by mayor Matt Hannan they would be considered when an application was received from festival organisers.

Strawberry Fields event director Billy Staughton defended the approach taken to drug and alcohol use.

He said 1500 tests for drugs and alcohol were conducted on the private property hosting the festival last year, in addition to roadside stops by NSW and Victoria police.

“We are very proactive in tackling drug activities and we’re very aware of potential harm,” Mr Staughton said.

He said organisers paid for a NSW police presence on the festival grounds, had St John’s ambulance personnel on-site and a doctor.

“Our medical facility is far superior to Cobram and Tocumwal, it’s the best within 50 kilometres, it’s certainly not something we skimp on,” Mr Staughton said.

He accepted the event was not “universally loved” but he believed acceptance had grown since it began in 2011, pointing to nearby property owners being willing to offer their land for the festival when floods could have seen it cancelled last year.

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