A LOCAL councillor has backed the ConFest community despite more than 70 per cent of drug searches conducted by the police at the event finding illicit substances.
Wakool councillor Katarni Lipp, who lives in Moulamein, acknowledged drugs were in use at the festival, but it hadn’t resulted in trouble for the town.
“I’m coming from a younger generation so I’m aware drugs are a part of everyday life,” she said. “I know even in our small town there’s an existence of drugs.”
Between Wednesday and Saturday, Deniliquin police conducted 54 searches on the approach to the ConFest site, about 13 kilometres east of Moulamein, with 38 people found to be carrying illicit drugs.
Deniliquin crime manager Detective Inspector Peter Hayes said police were focusing on harm minimisation in their efforts in tackling drugs at the festival.
“With festivals of this nature, in the nature of the clientele that go to these events there is a higher percentage of drug use,” he said. “We’re aware we’re never going to beat the drug problem.”
Inspector Hayes said ConFest stretched policing resources in the region, with the event “effectively creating another township” for officers to monitor.
The festival was rocked at the weekend by allegations of two indecent assaults against young boys against a 43-year-old man. He will face court on Wednesday.
Cr Lipp said despite those issues, the “good outweighed the bad” for the town.
“They’re not causing any trouble in the town itself,” she said.
“They spend their money in town, they support us.”
The efforts of police to crack down on drugs heading into the festival were helping keep the local community onside, Cr Lipp said.
“I feel (the police’s) presence over the last three or four years is working and eliminating what people are taking out there and it isn’t as bad as people are making it out to be,” she said.
ConFest moved to Moulamein in 2006, a decision Cr Lipp recalled sparked some resistance among locals who were wary of the foreign concept. However, she credits its with saving the town’s business community, which had been brought to its knees by years of drought.
“I know that what our trade in a week (during ConFest) was what we were doing in a month in those first two years,” she said.
“Our business wouldn’t have been the only one feeling the pinch.”