Strawberry Fields approved for 2017 but a move could be on the cards

Kelvin Baxter, who owns property adjacent to the Strawberry Fields Festival site, says he will continue pushing to have it moved to a location he considers safer for patrons.
Kelvin Baxter, who owns property adjacent to the Strawberry Fields Festival site, says he will continue pushing to have it moved to a location he considers safer for patrons.

Berrigan Council has approved the 2017 Strawberry Fields Festival to go ahead, but it could be moved from Lower River Road in Tocumwal in the future.

Council’s initial vote was deferred last month after resident Kelvin Baxter raised concerns about planning issues, stating he would take the plans to the Land and Environment Court if unchanged.

On Wednesday, the plans came back to council with amendments made to conditions relating to fire management after organisers met with residents and the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The festival’s emergency response co-ordinator Matt Wood said concerns were discussed about the timing of the event.

“We agreed on triggers for evacuations, and acknowledged a need to work more collaboratively,” he said. 

Mr Wood presented a range of changes to this year’s plans including upgrades of emergency vehicle access, a 24-hour doctor presence, and the subsidisation of drug and alcohol tests for all drivers.

“Crime statistics have dropped … we do not condone drugs, and we work well with police,” he said.

“We have a genuine commitment to being as safe as possible.”

Councillor John Taylor remained concerned about spikes in drug offences around the festival and voted against approving the development application.

“I hear what you’re saying, and it (drug use) does happen in all places in society, but one could see that as a convenient argument,” he said.

Mr Baxter said he continued to speak with organisers and was still “fundamentally opposed to the site”.

“I believe I’m at the point of reaching an agreement this will be the last time it’s held at that site,” he said.

Festival director Tara Benney also attended the meeting and said mistakes had been made over the years, but organisers were “committed to getting better”.

“We love Tocumwal, and are happy with the decision of councillors and will continue working with the community to put on a great event,” she said.