Police close down Dunedin cannabis festival

Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Thursday, 18 April 2019, 8:35PM
Police and the DCC issue a trespass notice to the organiser of an event at Woodside Glen on Thursday afternoon. (Photo / Gregor Richardson)
Police and the DCC issue a trespass notice to the organiser of an event at Woodside Glen on Thursday afternoon. (Photo / Gregor Richardson)

Council and police officers today closed down a planned cannabis festival near Outram, but organisers have vowed the show will go on at a different site.

Dunedin City Council community services general manager Simon Pickford turned up with police about 1.30pm and issued trespass notices to organisers and some of the few attendees who had turned up early to the festival at Woodside Glen.

The Harvest Festival was set to start on Saturday on council reserve land, to coincide with 4/20 (April 20), a worldwide day of cannabis celebration.

But it ran into trouble before it began, when council chief executive Sue Bidrose sent a letter to organiser Joe Nicolson, asking him not to proceed with the event.

Dr Bidrose said the council was not prepared to allow him to use council-owned land to host the event without a permit.

Mr Nicolson said the cannabis and hemp festival was a more professional alternative to the J Day cannabis smoking protest in the Octagon in previous years.

It is billed online as a celebration of all things cannabis, headlined by Tiki Taane, and featuring hemp and cannabis businesses, music, food, workshops and panel discussions.

Tickets started at $100.

A stage was already mostly set up at the site this afternoon when Mr Pickford arrived with police.

He told the Otago Daily Times the council's concern was over the use of public land for a commercial event.

Any such event approved by the council would have a full health and safety plan and resource consent for use of the land.

As well, the organisers were charging for entry to public land.

He had trespassed the organisers, who he said were "really co-operative, which we appreciate''.

They had told him they planned to move it to private land, which the council had no problem with.

"That's an appropriate way to go.

"The police may have a different view around some of the other issues.''

Mr Nicolson said he respected the council's view, but was disappointed with the council's process.

He had been open about the event, felt the issue was political, and the council was "bullying'' organisers.

Asked if he should have organised the festival better, considering he was charging for entry to a public space, Mr Nicolson said he had organised another venue well in advance, but that had fallen through.

He repeatedly claimed that police had told him to use Woodside Glen, which police had earlier denied.

The Christchurch terror attacks had also got in the way of planning.

Mr Nicolson declined to say where the event would be held tomorrow, but said he expected "thousands'' to turn up.

"We've got a strong community New Zealand-wide, and when they see this it's just going to rark them up.''

People would be able to camp overnight at the new venue.


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