40 people caught with drugs at new Melbourne electronic music festival
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40 people caught with drugs at new Melbourne electronic music festival

Sniffer dogs at the First NYD festival on New Year's Day in Melbourne.

Sniffer dogs at the First NYD festival on New Year's Day in Melbourne.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Forty people have been caught with drugs at the inaugural First NYD festival in Melbourne's CBD after police swarmed the event with sniffer dogs.

Of those caught, eight people were arrested at the New Year's Day music event, which unfolded as news broke of several drug overdoses at Beyond the Valley festival near Warragul, resulting in the death of one man.

The suspected drug overdose death of the 20-year-old from Mansfield is set to further intensify debate about pill testing at festivals, despite opposition from state governments in both NSW and Victoria.

Police at The First NYD festival on Tuesday.

Police at The First NYD festival on Tuesday. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

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On Tuesday, police conducted 110 searches at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl during the First NYD festival, which focuses on live electronic and hip hop music.

Thirty-two people were issued with drug diversion notices or cautions and eight were arrested for trafficking a drug of dependence, possession of a drug of dependence and outstanding warrants.

Police speak to a man at the festival.

Police speak to a man at the festival. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

After the police operation, Sergeant Robert Milliken said the arrests and recent overdoses pointed to the increasing danger of drugs.

"The recently publicised events in Victoria and in NSW indicate both to us and the wider community that it is a considerable risk to be ingesting these substances because we just don't know what's in them," he said.

At the Beyond the Valley festival, police arrested six people for trafficking and “a number” of people for possession of drugs, according to Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton.

"Any pill - it doesn't matter what the colour is. You don't know what's in it," he said.

"They're produced by criminals. Often, it's just garbage picked up off a floor and thrown in a mix."

Victoria Police were at at the four-day event with sniffer dogs since Friday, searching all festival-goers for illegal substances on entry.

The 20-year-old man who died on Tuesday had been airlifted to hospital from the festival in a critical condition on Saturday.

It came after two other men were rushed to hospital after taking drugs at the same festival over the weekend.

Sniffer dogs were brought to the festival by police.

Sniffer dogs were brought to the festival by police. Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

One of those men, aged in his 20s, was flown to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a critical condition at 7am on New Year’s Eve. The other man, also aged in his 20s, was taken to Dandenong Hospital in a critical condition on Sunday.

Both men are now stable and have been discharged from hospital.

Other major festivals which occurred in Victoria over the New Year period were Falls Festival in Lorne and Let Them Eat Cake in Werribee.

Festival organisers at both events warned revellers of "extremely dangerous" orange pills in circulation.

"We have been notified by emergency services of dangerous orange pills that have been in circulation and causing issues in our community," read a warning on the Let Them Eat Cake Facebook page.

"We want to remind you that every time you take an illegal substance you take a gamble - and losing that gamble could result in death. We are all unique, and everyone reacts differently to drugs. All it takes is one pill to not agree with you, so always be sceptical of what you put in your system, pace yourself and remember to hydrate regularly."

In Lorne at Falls Festival on New Year's Eve, a man in his 20s was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition after falling and hitting his head. He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital just before 10pm, where he was in a serious condition on Tuesday morning.

The text message alert received by patrons at Lorne Falls Festival on Sunday.

The text message alert received by patrons at Lorne Falls Festival on Sunday.

In NSW, a 22-year-old man died after he went to the Lost Paradise music festival on the weekend.

The fourth such death in NSW since September has moved the state's Labor opposition leader to indicate he is willing to open the door to pill testing.

But his Victorian Labor counterpart has not been similarly swayed, putting the Victorian government in the ‘just say no’ camp alongside NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who also refused to budge on the issue.

“We have no plans to allow for pill-testing at events in Victoria,” Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said on Monday.

Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.

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