DOZENS of police officers drove into the bush on Saturday to shut down a would-be secluded taster for the coming three-day Rabbits Eat Lettuce rave.
The police cited fears of rampant drug abuse among naive young music lovers as one of their chief concerns.
Cars were stopped, campsites were searched and sniffer dogs checked revellers for any illegal chemicals on private property and forestry land near Ebor, about 110km inland from Coffs Harbour.
The event was a "launch party" - a 24-hour taster before a much larger festival planned for the Easter long weekend in April, which looks somewhat shaky given the no-nonsense stance authorities took at the weekend.
"History has shown that these events are drug-fuelled and the events operated by Rabbits Eat Lettuce are drug-fuelled," Coffs Clarence LAC Detective Inspector Darren Jameson said.
"Having spoken to a large number of these partygoers at this event on the weekend, we are talking about naive young adults who do not know the drug culture and the excessive drug-fuelled nature this event brings to this area.
"It was only a matter of time before somebody was either seriously injured or died as a result of either drugs (or) poor safety and harm mitigation strategies which were, or weren't, employed by Rabbits Eat Lettuce.
"In this case, we're satisfied that we've been able to save people from serious injury and also possibly from death."
HEAR MORE OF WHAT POLICE SAID HERE
But the organisers have hit back at police, saying they have been unfairly targeted due to a "personal vendetta" and that despite the major police presence, not one drug arrest was made.
A 47-year-old man was arrested for trespassing after allegedly ignoring police orders to leave the site.
The two men behind the event, Erik Lamir-Pike and Shane Lowe, said weeks of preparation - which included bringing four international DJ acts to town and hiring Port Macquarie architects to build a custom bamboo stage - had been wasted.
"The police did not find any drugs at the event and made zero arrests despite searching people's camp sites with sniffer dogs," the organisers told APN News & Media via Facebook.
"So hardly a 'drug-fuelled' event. Our events are focused around music and art.
"We spoke with the landowners at Ebor (who have rented the property to us over five times in the past for events), and they told us eight police officers were at their house for one and a half hours intimidating and threatening them.
"These people are very nice elderly people (in their 80s) and were extremely shaken up by the bully tactics of the police."
A police spokesman said "about 27" police and two forestry officers attended the scene.
Claims of intimidation do not align with the police's own statements that the property owners were fed misinformation about the large-scale commercial activity and legality of the event, and quickly agreed to withdraw their permission for it to go ahead once they had been briefed by police.
"Prior to shutting down the party, two police officers spoke to the owners of the property, before permission to use the property was revoked," a police spokesman said.
"Property owners have been supportive of police action and continue to work with officers."
Easter festival free those who had party stopped short
FESTIVAL-GOERS kicked out of Ebor bushland at the weekend have been reassured the upcoming Rabbits Eat Lettuce three-day rave will go ahead - and that their tickets will be free.
Police have said no council approval exists for the Easter long weekend party, but its organisers are adamant it will happen.
"Rabbits Eat Lettuce was fully approved in 2014 in the Richmond Valley Shire and ran with no complaints and no medical emergencies," they said.
"RVSC have invited us back to submit a new development application for a five-year permit to host the festival in the shire."
Coffs Harbour City Council gained permission from the NSW Land and Environment Court last week to stop Saturday's "launch party" being held at 500 Fridays Creek Rd in Upper Orara due to safety issues, forcing its hasty move to Ebor.
The festival's organisers have vowed to keep fighting for permission to regularly use the Upper Orara site in the future.
"We really believe, based on our consultant reports and previous events, that all of the council claims relating to the Friday Creek venue are completely false," they said.
"We are pursuing a development application for the venue as we believe it is the best venue in the country for these events.
"It is so close to a hospital, airport, hotels etc yet the sound is completely contained within the venue due to the topography.
"If approved our events would bring over 3000 people to Coffs Harbour annually from as far as Sydney and Brisbane.
"As long as our approval is not granted Coffs Harbour businesses are really missing out on potential revenue."
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