About 100 people attended a public meeting this week to talk about Vanfest 2017, and another 2000 have looked at online video of the meeting.
One year into Forbes Shire Council’s three-year lease of the music festival, Council is auditing the event and hosted a public meeting on Tuesday night for the community to have a say.
General manager Steve Loane, who came to Forbes mid-November, said the auditors had been asked to look at the costs and income from the event including long and short term benefit to the community.
They have also been asked to examine Council’s probity in taking on the event.
Mr Loane said the auditors’ report would be presented to the March Council meeting for councillors’ consideration – any later would be too late to organise the 2018 festival.
“The report will have a recommendation, formulated on fair consideration of the facts,” he said.
Although council had signed a three-year lease for the event, Mr Loane said councillors could decide not to proceed.
“There’s always a reversion clause in the contract,” he said. “It’s a prudent move to consider year on year.”
Mr Loane said Council was anticipating a financial loss from the 2017 festival, the second day of which was rained out.
“As late as last Friday we were still getting invoices … especially the providers that had to come in since the grounds were in need of repair,” he said.
Even without the weather, a loss was not unexpected, he said, events typically started to run “in the black” in the fifth year.
“Do we see it as a loss or an investment?” he said.
Watch the full video online, here are some of the questions and comments from the night.
“I applaud the Cliftons for bringing something exciting to Forbes.”
“I’ve got roads that don’t see a grader for three years … yet a project like this happens. We need young people in our community 360 days ... isn’t that what’s going to make more houses? It’s the jobs, it’s the whole big thing.”
“It’s a great thing, the kids that come are all very positive, but we need more transparency (around Council’s involvement and the costs).”
“Council has signed up for an event, but given away the only part of it (the bar) that can make money.”
“I have questions about the financial set-up but I think it’s wonderful. I’m all for it, but I’m against the process.”
“I think for an event of this size and the fact that it’s in its infancy, I think it’s very normal for an organisation to seek money to progress … Why aren’t we spending our time, money and energy focussing on how we can improve it and make it work rather than shoot it down and drive it out of town.”
“Credit to be given to the organisers and council, they do their best for the benefit of the town. This has to be sorted out for the benefit of our town.”
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How much was the event organiser paid?
The event organiser has exclusive rights to run the bar at the event, rather than a salary.
Was Council approached to help with Vanfest, or did Council approach the organisers?
“My understanding is Council was approached to see if Council was interested. My understanding is that the subject about Vanfest’s viability going forward was under consideration,” Mr Loane said.
What numbers were available and presented before the decision was made?
“Because the event had been going for three years, there were some figures to be called on from the previous operating result,” Mr Loane said.
“When anybody comes to council … projections is what it’s all about. I believe council considered projections put to them because of the perceived outcome.”
Will the festival-goers get a ticket refund?
Council is negotiating the refund with its insurers. Anything over 50 per cent is a win for Vanfest 2017 ticket holders as first night was an exceptional success, Mr Loane said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
Refunds will be processed through Ticketbooth as soon as the insurance company releases the funds.
Event insurance cost $9000 plus GST.
Why wasn’t there a Plan B? A significant rain event was forecast.
Mr Loane described the contingency planning as “deficient” and said there had been a number of meetings and discussions about the likelihood of the worst of the storm hitting Forbes.
“The SES first called us in on Tuesday … within three hours that forecast had been scaled down,” he said.
“I regret not having a better fallback position,” he added later.
Did you consider delaying the start of the event on Saturday and seeing if the weather improved?
Mr Loane said there was a lot of discussion about whether the event could be salvaged, the decision to cancel was made with police and SES with consideration that people were getting flooded in.
How many tickets were sold?
Mr Loane said 6067 persons held tickets, equating to 12124 persons coming through the gates over the two days. This includes complimentary tickets.
The audit will look at how many tickets were sold and given away.
There were 1240 ticket holders from Forbes and district; 5046 from other parts of NSW; 759 from interstate and 13 from overseas.
Did people who were asked to leave the camping area have to pay for accommodation?
No. Mr Loane said Council provided free accommodation to about 12 people.
Why didn’t other venues get to host Vanfest artists once the event was cancelled?
Mr Loane said Facebook advertising that “Vanfest would continue at the Van” was an error and the ad was removed once he was made aware of it.
He said performer contracts were with Council and Vanfest ceased to exist when the decision to cancel was made, adding that feedback about other venues being able to access artists had been taken on board.
What is Council’s involvement?
Council’s ongoing involvement depends on the outcome of the audit.
Will the audit be public?
Yes, except some financial matters covered by commercial confidentiality, it will come to the March council meeting.