Maitreya Festival Continues Fight to Overturn Cancellation
The EDM and alternate lifestyle Maitreya Music and Arts Festival in Lake Wooroonook in Victoria's north-west is is battling to overturn its cancellation so it can still be staged for the tenth year between March 11 to 14.
Four days ago, Buloke Shire's decision to deny organisers a permit was upheld by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
This morning, promoter Lachlan Bell confirmed in a Facebook post that since the cancellation, he has been trying to get the documents that council wanted in the first place, before it first refused permission for the festival to be staged on its land.
The Facebook post revealed, “We have been working day and night, in confidence and good faith, trying our absolute best to meet all of the requests, and be part of all negotiations to meet the councils requirements. A vast amount of people have been putting their hearts, souls and massive amounts of time and expert advice into the process.”
The only outstanding document is a cultural heritage management plan. “We have been working for two years with Uncle Rick Nelson a recognised Dja Dja elder of the area on indigenous sensitivity and inclusion, and our program this year is more substantial than ever, and seeks to forge a stronger relationship with the traditional owners of Lake Wooroonook. The program centres around a sacred fire, so that education programs and cultural messages of caring for the land and spirit can be passed from caretaker to caretaker, the same as they have been at the lake since the dreamtime. We are proud to present this important cultural exchange to you, and hope you can immerse yourself in it.”
In the wake of the VCAT finding, council noted that a Cultural Heritage Management Plan “will be needed in line with Council’s previous decision. The tribunal noted one could not be provided in time for the staging of this year’s event and that an urgent hearing would be futile".
The local community of Charlton is also trying to keep the Maitreya festival alive. The drought-affected area, of mostly farmers and small businessmen, is also pushing for council to change its mind. The festival, which draws 10,000, injects $2.5 million into the local economy. The festival also donates proceeds of up to $50,000 for local sporting clubs, the kindergarten and fire brigade.
A petition which began before the VCAT hearing has reached 2,100 signatures, well over its target of 1,000.
The president of local ratepayers' group, the Charlton Forum, Alan Getley, rebuked the council for its handling of the permit and says it should be doing all it can to keep it alive.
"If you've got a promoter that's bringing this sort of money into the community, that you grab hold of him by the hand and you work through with the problems," he said. "I believe it's time for a change in Buloke.”
In fact, Getley says that he will stand for council at the next election. "Obviously this festival has highlighted some problems in council and [it's] time for some fresh blood and new ideas in the Buloke Shire.”
Tickets are still on sale for the festival. Those costing of $150, $200 and $250 – about 7000 in total – have sold out. There are still some left for the $300 tickets.