Event organiser contests $5,000 police fine for allegedly breaching COVID guidelines

Police claim they advised event organisers of the potential breaches, but organisers allege they did not

A New South Wales musician and event organiser is disputing a $5,000 fine issued to her by police, who allege an event she oversaw was breaching COVID-safety regulations.

Lisa Hunt, organiser of Byron Bay music event SummerStage, engaged two police officers under NSW Police’s user-pays policing scheme for the event. The event is running every second weekend between January 9 and February 28.

On the first evening, police allege they witnessed several breaches of current COVID-19 restrictions, including groups standing and dancing and patrons not appropriately distanced. Officers returned the following day (January 10) and found the issues to be rectified. A month later, Hunt and an event licensee were fined.

Advertisement

“Police also observed an alleged breach in the event’s limited liquor licence, with the absence of an RSA Marshall at each bar service area,” a NSW Police spokesperson told NME.

“Officers spoke with event management and the event licensee at the event and acknowledged the breaches of both the Public Health Order and the Limited Liquor Licence.

“Following additional inquiries, a 59-year-old woman was issued with an infringement notice for fail to comply with noticed direction in relation to 7/8/9 – COVID19 Corporation.”

Hunt told NME the SummerStage event was “by design three times as COVID-safe as any other event or venue in Byron” and that “the police were opposed from the day they caught wind of it”.

Speaking to Echonetdaily, Hunt has claimed police did not give any indication that the event was breaching guidelines.

“There were two police officers there for the entire show – why didn’t they say something if regulations were being breached?” she said.

Advertisement

Hunt said $18,790 was raised over the weekend, but the costs handed down by police, local council and Liquor & Gaming NSW – not including the $5,000 fine – amounted to $13,358. She has decided to contest the infringement notice and will be represented by Barefoot Legal principal Mark Swivel, who told NME event organisers consulted with officials to ensure the event was COVID-friendly.

“The organisers have done their best to reduce the number and scale of events, working closely with council, police and other stakeholders, to a COVID Safety Plan,” he said.

“Summerstage is a community event that is break-even at best. Organisers also paid for police under the user-pays scheme for festivals. With so many larger crowds happening now, we need to consider how the law is applied to grassroots events.”

Advertisement
Advertisement