AMBULANCE officers took 12 people attending the Hot Dub Wine Machine music event in the Hunter Valley to hospital with “drug and alcohol associated illnesses”, capping off a night that also included police charging four people for drug possession and 61 ejections from the venue.
Central Hunter duty officer Inspector Peter Vromans said ambulance officers took 12 affected patrons from the Saturday night event attended by more than 10,000 people at Hope Estate to Cessnock Hospital.
Police joined by two drug detection dogs charged four men with possessing prohibited drugs, issued four criminal infringement notices and three infringement notices.
“People should not expect to escape detection,” Inspector Vromans said.
“People will be dealt with according to the law if they have prohibited drugs, which pose a significant risk to people’s health as can be seen from the number of people taken to hospital. Every single incident of drug use carries a risk.”
He said police had received no reports – and were not making any investigations – related to allegations of drink spiking.
Inspector Vromans said a 27-year-old was found with a small quantity of suspected cocaine, a 22-year-old and 19-year-old were each found with a small quantity of suspected methamphetamine and a 23-year-old was found with four tablets suspected to be ecstasy.
All were given field court attendance notices to attend Cessnock Local Court on April 19.
Hope Estate owner and registered pharmacist Michael Hope said neither police or ambulance officers had spoken to him about any confirmed “overdoses”.
He described himself as an “avid anti-drug campaigner” and said he had “zero tolerance” for drugs and anti social behaviour.
“I embrace the police coming here and bringing the [drug detection] dogs,” he said. “I realise a lot of kids will pop a pill because they reckon it makes them feel good, but they have no idea what’s in it.
“We don’t want people coming in who are under the influence of drugs or have drugs, it adds a level of complexity that we can’t control.
“The event had a lot of wilder, younger patrons who were a lot more boisterous and it took a lot more work from us, the police and security to keep it to safe standards. We agreed to shut the bars at 6.30pm for half an hour and then it was one drink each [at a time] from 7pm.”
Mr Hope said he was “dead against” drug testing at events.
“I don’t want to be encouraging use. If someone sees three pills are ‘safe’ and then dies, then I’m complicit. It will never happen at Hope Estate.”
Event director Chris Murray said his team worked with the venue and authorities “before, during and after the event, to implement as many harm-minimising measures as possible”.
“We believe we provided a safe environment for our ticketholders – their experience was our first priority – and the very low numbers of drug-related arrests attest to the quality of the crowd at Hot Dub Wine Machine events,” Mr Murray said in a written statement.
“There’s always going to be unavoidable outliers that occur at an event of this magnitude – when there’s upwards of 10,000 people together – but we were fully prepared in the event that an incident out of our control should happen to take place.
“We believe we implemented all measures possible that were required, and beyond, and that’s all that can be reasonably asked of us as event organisers.”