Five-year deal for new festival site

By Cobram Courier

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 300ha 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 $330000 with local service providers in the Berrigan Shire and more than $800000 on food, fuel and other services.

Ms Benney said the five-year 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 $100000 per year for local charities and we’re excited to further consolidate with a number of local community groups.

‘‘We walk into the cafés 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.