Music

Now sniffer dogs are raiding tiny festivals attended by a few hundred people

Article image by Jack Toohey at Splendour in the Grass

Just days after announcing an April Fools “sniffer pig”, Tassie Police decided to focus their attention on more serious matters: conducting a raid at a tiny festival at a nature lodge in the south-western corner of Tasmania. Spoiler alert: They found nothing.

Taking place last weekend for the first time, Rose Quartz drew just a few hundred punters to the picturesque shores of Lake Pedder in the Tasmanian wilderness, with a line-up centred around local underground electronic acts. Roland Tings, Otologic and Kangaroo Skull were the biggest names on the bill, and there was even some legend sampling Aussie legend Shane Warne on the dancefloor at 8.30am.

But Tassie Police were having none of it. Despite attendees heaping praise on Rose Quartz this week, some have described a heavy-handed and “irresponsible” police sniffer dog operation targeting the 500-capacity event.

‘People ate their drugs in a panic’

Some attendees told inthemix they saw police stopping and searching cars, sweeping the dancefloor and festival grounds during the night, and searching punters’ rooms. There were even reports of a sniffer dog on stage mid-set.

“People were being safe and looking out for each other,” one punter told inthemix, until the dog squad arrived and “people ate their drugs in a panic, and felt uncomfortable and unsafe. It was irresponsible of the police and they should have known better.”

Tasmania Police told inthemix that five people were arrested for “minor drug matters” at Rose Quartz, and praised both the organisers and patrons “for their behaviour during an otherwise incident free event”.

Are sniffer dogs effective?

While it may seem like an overreaction, police have form when it comes to unnecessary sniffer dog searches. Since 2014 research in NSW found that two-thirds of all searches in the state are false and find no drugs, resulting in thousands of needless public searches each year.

The NSW Greens are currently pushing a bill to end sniffer dog patrols in public and at festivals in NSW. They believe they’re ineffective, unfairly targeted at disadvantaged groups, and are likely to increase harm by causing panic overdoses.

The heavy-handed policing at Rose Quartz hasn’t dampened attendees enthusiasm, however. “I’ll definitely be back,” a punter told inthemix, “and hope that next year the cops will cooperate responsibly.”

inthemix has reached out to Rose Quartz festival for comment.

[Via ITM]