Five-year deal for new fes­ti­val site

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS -

Ber­ri­gan Shire Coun­cil has granted a five-year plan­ning per­mit to the Straw­berry Fields Fes­ti­val at a new site near Tocumwal.

The ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved at coun­cil’s Au­gust meet­ing.

Hav­ing op­er­ated on two pri­vate prop­er­ties on Tocumwal’s Lower River Rd since 2011, the event has this year locked in a new lo­ca­tion on a 300 ha Tup­pal Rd prop­erty, sub­ject to an­nual re­view by coun­cil and emergency ser­vices.

The mu­sic, arts and life­style event, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 10-year an­niver­sary, is ex­pect­ing its largest crowd to date, with coun­cil ap­prov­ing a max­i­mum of 8000 patrons — 2000 more than last year.

Fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Tara Ben­ney said the de­ci­sion to move was largely im­pacted by the fes­ti­val’s nat­u­ral growth.

She said the plan was to in­crease pa­tron­age by 1000 each year if is­sues did not arise.

‘‘The new site pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity to grow the event and ad­dress some of the main points our emergency stake­holder part­ners have ex­pressed over the last few years,’’ Ms Ben­ney said.

‘‘Re­lo­cat­ing stemmed the need for a larger space to pro­vide im­proved ameni­ties, es­pe­cially from an emergency ser­vices per­spec­tive.

‘‘Pa­tron­age safety is a pri­or­ity for us. The new site has more open pad­docks bor­dered by a stretch river frontage that pro­vides for safer swim­ming, not to men­tion safer camp­ing ar­eas. For ex­am­ple, peo­ple won’t have to camp un­der river red gums.’’

Tocumwal Cham­ber of Com­merce In­dus­try and Tourism pres­i­dent Ser­gio Rede­galli wel­comes the news.

‘‘From Cham­ber’s per­spec­tive, this is such a fan­tas­tic re­al­i­sa­tion that Straw­berry Fields is here to stay in Tocumwal long term,’’ Mr Rede­galli said.

He said last year’s in­de­pen­dent eco­nomic ben­e­fits as­sess­ment of the fes­ti­val showed fes­ti­val go­ers di­rectly spent $330 000 with lo­cal ser­vice providers in the Ber­ri­gan Shire and more than $800 000 on food, fuel and other ser­vices.

Ms Ben­ney said the fiveyear per­mit com­pletely changed the dy­namic of the event.

‘‘Hav­ing been given the sig­nal from coun­cil changes the way we plan. We are in­vest­ing heav­ily this year so we can put more into the venue and knock the socks off the town and all of our patrons and lo­cals,’’ she said.

‘‘The com­mu­nity bar­be­cue can raise up to $100 000 per year for lo­cal char­i­ties and we’re ex­cited to fur­ther con­sol­i­date with a num­ber of lo­cal com­mu­nity groups.

‘‘We walk into the cafe´s and peo­ple know us and we know the peo­ple who run the lo­cal busi­nesses. We don’t feel anony­mous here, we feel a part of the com­mu­nity and that’s why we want to stay.’’

This year’s Straw­berry Fields Fes­ti­val will run from Novem­ber 16 to 18.

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