Haunting of Oak Beach fined by council

Thursday January 8 2015, 3:00pm

Douglas Shire Council has issued a $569 fine to the organiser of the Haunting of Oak Beach Halloween event. 

The event's organiser, Richard Lavender, who bills himself as the 'Demonised Ghoul', has taken to Facebook to voice his outrage at the fine, while council says the Haunting did not meet several important safety criteria. 

Mr Lavender posted a copy of the fine to several Facebook pages, also including his certificate of nomination for Volunteer of the Year 2014 signed by mayor Julia Leu, with the message 'Amazing how things change. From this (the nomination) to this (the fine) in less than 12 months.'

Council's description of Mr Lavender's offence was 'Undertaking a prescribed activity (Temporary Entertainment Event) without a current approval granted by the local government."

Mr Lavender also said that he was advised by council that if he held the Haunt again in 2015 without a permit he would be fined the full amount of $5690 and taken to court.

Council development and environment manager Donna Graham said the Haunting and the Ghoul had to abide by the same rules as other entertainment events and that council had attempted many times to work with Mr Lavender on the issue.

"Council has made every effort to work with the organiser to make the Haunting of Oak Beach a safe and successful event - the organisers of all public events are required to have all permits in place and the Haunting of Oak Beach is no exception," Ms Graham said. 

"Council officers have had more than 20 interactions with the orgainser in person, via phone and via email to outline the reasons the event requires a Temporary Entertainment Event permit dating back to 2012 under Cairns Regional Council and has raised serious safety concerns with the event organiser."

Ms Graham said these concerns included electrical hazards, inadequate lighting on Council land where large crowds would line up to enter the event, inadequate toilet facilities on Council land, lack of a traffic management plan for parking facilities where children and vehicles share space, and the lack of a first-aid officer or first-aid station.

"Council has a legal obligation to ensure that all public events are conducted in accordance with appropriate safety standards and will not turn a blind eey to these requirements when there is such a risk of children being injured or worse because the proper saftey requirements wer ignored."

Mr Lavender said council's requirements for the permit were too strict to realistically apply to the Haunting. 

"Cost of the permit is not the issue - compliance for the permit is the issue," he said.

"As an example the permit requires an ABN - the haunt is a home display - not a business. 

"The list goes on and on, multiple toilets, security guards, etc - total cost t comply approximately $25,000. The Haunt is a three-hour display, one night a year and no more than 100 people are allowed on the property at one time. Does this sound simple to comply with?"

Ms Graham said that council remains committed to working with Mr Lavender to ensure the Haunting can be held under the safety criteria.