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Maitreya Takes Local Council To VCAT Over Permit Denial

Next month’s regional Maitreya Festival at Wooroonook Lakes (near Charlton) has started VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) proceedings against Buloke Shire Council and Victoria Parks. It wants them to approve a three year permit so it could plan its events over a longer period.

The music, arts and dance festival was to stage in the region for the 10th year in March. It expected to draw 9,000 punters and inject $2.7 million into the local economy. It has had a close relationship with local businesses and community.
 
According to promoter Lachlan Bell, it has raised $10 million for the local economy in the past five years. Last year alone it drew 7,000 people and contributed $2.1 million to an area that has been struggling with severe drought.
 
This year festival organisers additionally promised a $80,000 donation to local sporting and community organisations. Last year the donation was $40,000.
 
The saga began when Maitreya asked for a three year extension on its permit. Council said that documents needed to approve the permit – including insurance, security bonds, emergency contingency plans, and agreements with Liquor Licensing and Ambulance Victoria – were not supplied. It rejected the permit last Wednesday.
 
"Despite council repeatedly listing and requesting the information needed, the applicant did not provide the required information with his application," Mayor Reid Mather told the Bendigo Advertiser.
 
"This meant that council could not legally approve the festival at the lakes and considerable benefit to the community has been foregone. Arts and cultural events are few and far between in the area. I am sure that Charlton, the wider Buloke community and ticket holders feel very let down."
 
The festival said, in a Facebook post that has since been taken down, that Council’s decision had “acted without sufficient consultation with their community, and has now forced us into a position of having to take them to court over (their) decision to knock back our 3 year permit at Wooroonook Lakes.” It expects the council and Parks Victoria “will be ordered by the court to revoke their position.”
 
Festival organisers began to unload material to set the stage up in anticipation, but were stopped by police. A petition was launched last Friday here calling for the decision to be overturned. It targeted 1,000 signatures. Within 24 hours, 1938 had added their names.
 
Local real estate agent Allan Getley told the Advertiser that while he understood Council’s position, many residents were disappointed it had pulled the plug" on the event so quickly. He said that some businesses could go out of business without the festival’s input. Many had already bought food and other items for festival attendees.
 
"These won't go ahead if the festival doesn't happen. It's a major economic event and we all need to get to the (negotiating) table and find a way forward.”
 
The Advertiser noted that in 2013, Maitreya’s promoters had run foul of the Central Goldfields Shire when it allegedly failed to apply for a permit. The festival still went ahead at Sea Lake.

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