Tasmania Police 'impressed' by Party In The Paddock crowds, 'disappointed' with drug-use

Tasmania Police patrolled this year's Party In The Paddock event. Picture: Scott Gelston
Tasmania Police patrolled this year's Party In The Paddock event. Picture: Scott Gelston

Ice, cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine were among the drugs seized by police during this year’s Party In The Paddock.

Thousands flocked to White Hills for the three-day festival, including more than 20 Tasmania Police officers and a number of sniffer dogs.

Despite police warning festival-goers ahead of the event, officers seized drugs from at least 12 alleged dealers and caught more than 30 drink and drug drivers – the highest reading was 0.125.

Launceston Acting Inspector Dean McMahon said although police were “disappointed” with those found providing drugs at the festival, the overall crowd behaviour was “impressive”.

“I was really happy with the crowd, it keeps getting better each year,” he said.

Last year, police found at least 30 people carrying drugs at the event, including cocaine, ecstasy, speed, amphetamines, ice, cannabis and LSD.

In recent years, the issue of drugs at festivals was at the centre of public debate when two people died after taking “mixed” pills at Sydney’s Stereosonic in 2015.

In 2016, the Tasmanian Greens’ alternative budget included investing in five pill-testing machines, with the political party strongly supporting the concept. Bass Greens MHA Andrea Dawkins, who was one of the MC’s at this year’s Party In The Paddock, reaffirmed the party’s position on testing.

”The Greens strongly support pill testing at festivals. It keeps our young people safe and healthy, and that should be our primary concern,” Ms Dawkins said.

“Young people will always experiment. The punitive approach hasn’t worked, and never will - all it does is put lives at risk.”

The state government, however, opposed pill testing and Police Minister Rene Hidding this week said their opinion had not changed.

“Our position is clear- Illicit drugs should be eradicated, not normalised, and we won’t become quality controllers for drug pushers,” he said.

Pembroke Labor MHA and former head of the Youth Network of Tasmania, Jo Siejka, agreed drug-use should “never be normalised”, but said “we also shouldn’t be naive as a society”.

“People take drugs at music festivals whether we like it or not,” she said.

“We need to educate young people about what’s actually in the drugs they are taking. If people knew what was in some pills, I suspect they might be scared into not ever taking them again.”