Nimbin retailers fear poor turn out for Mardi Grass
By WILL JACKSON
NIMBIN retailers fear a large police presence could mean a poor Mardi Grass turnout for the second year in a row.
Lindy Brown, co-owner of the Nimbin Craft Gallery, said Mardi Grass was traditionally boom time for the village's business owners.
She said the shop had a turnover of between $1500 and $2000 each day of the Mardi Grass in 2005. However, last year it was down to less than $1000 per day of the event.
Police last year declared their intention to crack down on the event, sending a small army of officers to Nimbin, including riot squad officers and sniffer dogs.
"Before last year I would have said I was really anticipating Mardi Grass but the police really killed it," Ms Brown said.
"That weekend we rostered on extra staff to take care of the shop but it turned out we only needed one person.
"We'd much prefer there were more police in Nimbin when they were really needed like late at night on the weekends rather than at a peaceful festival."
Ms Brown encouraged people to attend this year's event on May 4, 5 and 6, despite assurances from the police of a strong presence over the Mardi Grass weekend.
Officers from the Richmond Local Area Command will this year be joined by reinforcements from around the State, mounted police, public order riot officers, sniffer dogs and the drug bus.
Sam Burcher, acting manager at Nimbin's Rainbow Cafe, said Mardi Grass was traditionally the second biggest weekend of the year after Easter.
She said retailers relied on it as a big boost coming at the start of the annual slow season.
But last year's event was 'dead' because police stationed at either end of town told visitors to turn back.
Mardi Grass organiser Michael Balderstone has urged people who wanted to have cannabis prohibition ended or simply wanted to have some fun to come to the event despite the police.
He said there was an exciting line-up of entertainment and activities planned for the 15th annual Mardi Grass with $30 buying entry to all the weekend's events.
"This year's Mardi Grass has an expanded program with events beginning earlier and going later in Peace Park," he said.
"The rally to change the cannabis laws on Sunday afternoon is the main event and never has it been more important to stand up.
"While John Howard, Christopher Pyne and their cronies have had an obsession with pot, the popularity of ice has exploded.
"He's been an incredibly ignorant and inexperienced prime minister in the war on drugs and things have got a lot worse on his watch. "They didn't see the Ice Age coming.