ACT government, Groovin The Moo promoter in stalemate over pill testing
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ACT government, Groovin The Moo promoter in stalemate over pill testing

Pill testing may not go ahead at Canberra's Groovin the Moo, with the territory government and the festival's promoters in a stalemate over the trial.

STA-SAFE's drug-checking pilot has won the support of the ACT government and the University of Canberra, where the festival will be held on April 29, but needs the support of organisers to proceed.

Festival-goers cheer on The Wombats during their set at Groovin the Moo last year.

Festival-goers cheer on The Wombats during their set at Groovin the Moo last year.

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

However, a letter between ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris and Groovin The Moo promoter Cattleyard obtained by Fairfax Media revealed the promoter's support for the trial was "contingent" on a list of requirements being met.

It's understood some of the demands can't be met under current ACT laws.

"As Minister for Health and Wellbeing, I urge you to reconsider your willingness for a pill testing trial at Groovin the Moo," the letter reads.

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The ACT government did not take its decision to support a trial of pill testing at a music festival lightly.

"Evidence suggests that the merits of pill testing as a harm minimisation measure have the potential to protect the lives of individuals who may engage in drug-taking behaviour.

"I would also urge you to reconsider the potential impact of drug taking on a young life, such as preventing death or serious illness or injury, and the role pill testing at this event could play to protect young people from such harm if Cattleyard chooses to allow it to occur."

Cattleyard was contacted for comment.

The letter follows a series of suspected overdoses at a rave in Fyshwick earlier this month.

A pill testing trial planned for last year's Split Milk festival in Canberra's Commonwealth Park was canned weeks out from the event after the promoter, Kicks Entertainment, pulled the pin.

Advocates, academics and the ACT Greens claimed federal intervention was behind the cancellation, after the Canberra Liberals' legal affairs spokesman Jeremy Hanson wrote to his federal counterparts raising concerns about the trial.

However Kicks Entertainment blamed the STA-SAFE consortium for failing to hand over the paperwork needed by the National Capital Authority, which has jurisdiction over Commonwealth Park.

Gino Vumbaca of the consortium said extra documents had only been requested two days prior, and team of lawyers had since been working "around the clock" to prepare them.

This year will be the eighth time the travelling music festival has come to Canberra.

Katie Burgess

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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