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4000 flock to Tocumwal festival

Tocumwal Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the region’s financial boost provided by 4000 patrons at the Strawberry Fields Music Festival over the weekend despite 72 people being charged with drug offences.

November 28, 2012 4:22am

The festival was held over three days beginning on Friday, at a site on Lower River Rd, near Tocumwal.

Chamber president Clive March said the financial benefit of the event was about on par with last year.

‘‘They probably would have had more through this year if the roundabout works were finished,’’ he said.

‘‘I am pretty sure [festival organisers] booked out two motels with their own staff.

‘‘They spend quite a bit of money in the town, which is good.’’

Mr March said events such as Strawberry Fields bring a lot of money into the Tocumwal community.

‘‘Chamber certainly welcomes events to the town,’’ he said.

Berrigan Shire Mayor Bernard Curtin also said the festival was ‘‘a positive’’.

‘‘It is believed that the benefits of attracting significant visitors to the region outweighed the obvious impacts of the festival, particularly on local property owners,’’ he said.

Victoria Police objected to the proposal to hold the event earlier this year, and residents also cited safety concerns and the impact on neighbours.

Council approved the event subject to strict safety and traffic conditions.

However there was still a darker side to the festival, with dozens of people arrested by police in relation to drugs.

A total of 72 people were charged with drug offences, including supply.

Police from across the Deniliquin Local Area Command were involved an the operation that saw drugs allegedly found in 66 per cent of vehicles searched.

A total of 21 people were charged with drug supply offences, including one case where two Richmond people were allegedly caught with 68 tablets of the drug known as ecstasy, as well the drugs known as GHB, ketamine and ice.

Another 55 people were allegedly found in possession of prohibited drugs, resulting in 41 charges being laid and 14 people being issued cannabis caution notices.

Another 10 people were charged after allegedly being found in possession of equipment to administer prohibited drugs.

One person was charged after allegedly being found in possession of ammunition while another was issued a criminal infringement notice for offensive behaviour.

A drug detection dog was used throughout the event, with police seizing a range of prohibited drugs including amphetamines, cannabis, ecstasy, LSD, methylamphetamine and magic mushrooms.

Officers conducted 114 person searches, 78 vehicle searches and 337 random breath tests while also issuing 12 traffic infringement notices.

Deniliquin Local Area Command crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Cloake said it was alarming that more than 66 per cent of vehicles searched allegedly contained drugs.

‘‘Whilst police see the benefits to the community in holding events of this nature, we ask that patrons show some respect and responsibility to the host community,’’ he said.

‘‘Bringing drugs into our community will not be tolerated.

‘‘Police will again undertake similar operations into the future.’’

All charges are expected to be heard at Finley Local Court on February 1, 2013.

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