Forbes councillors vote to suspend Vanfest 2018

Forbes Shire Councillors have voted to suspend Vanfest 2018 and implement the recommendations from an auditor’s report into the event.

The auditor’s recommendations include Council formally assess and document how licence and event management agreements for Vanfest comply with the requirements of Council’s procurement policy; a more rigorous budgeting process; a review of policies and procedures for negotiation of significant commercial arrangements; and a review of risk assessment for events managed by third parties. 

The vote to suspend was passed five votes to one with councillor Phyllis Miller the only member of the chamber voting to proceed.

Councillors Steve Karaitiana, Michelle Herbert, Susan Chau, Jenny Webb and Jeff Nicholson voted to suspend Vanfest. Mayor Graeme Miller wasn’t required to vote

Cr Phyllis Miller argued that VanFest could be held in 2018 parallel to council carrying out the auditor’s recommendations.

Speaking in favour of council suspending the event for this year Cr Susan Chau pointed out that she was a fan of VanFest.

“The problem is the lack of due process,” Cr Chau said.

“You can’t have an event and then come up with a budget.

“We have to account to ratepayers for every single cent, there are issues that have to be addressed,” Cr Chau said.

“You can’t patch holes in the boat, leaks need to be patched before going ahead,” Cr Chau said of the problems identified by the auditor.

Cr Steve Karaitiana, who seconded the recommendation to suspend Vanfest, said “we were never against it”.

However he said council had “been mislead, given little information” and when council had been given information had been asked “to make a quick decision”.

“We need time with something like this. That was a continual problem with VanFest,” Cr Karaitiana said.

Speaking strongly in favour of holding VanFest again this year in parallel with the auditor’s recommendations Cr Phyllis Miller pointed out the council hadn’t even spent one per cent of its entire budget on VanFest.

“We have over one million people looking at the (VanFest) website. That kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

Cr Miller went on to point out that major country events like the Deniliquin Ute Muster and the Parkes Elvis Festival both ran at a loss for many years with support from their councils.

“Giving it a year off, we might as well sign the death warrant for VanFest,” Cr Phyllis Miller said.