Ballina's Rivafest in doubt

A DECISION on the future of Ballina’s popular Rivafest will be made tomorrow, with council staff recommending the event be cancelled.

In January this year, Ballina Shire Council voted to seek registrations of interest frombusinesses and community organisations to help run the event.

Three applications were received, but the council’s general manager, Paul Hickey, said they were not acceptable because they did not propose to co-ordinate Rivafest.

“It is difficult to justify the council increasing its cash commitment (excluding staff and in-kind resources) to $80,000 for a one-off event, which is heavily dependent on the weather,” Mr Hickey wrote in his report.

“In a year where the council is also asking ratepayers to increase rates by 7.4 per cent for five years, it is important for the council to scrutinise its own expenditure.”

Mr Hickey also said with council already struggling to provide services, the cost and benefit of putting on Rivafest was ‘questionable’.

No other councils in the region ran major festivals or events, he said.

On this basis the staff recommendation is for the council to ‘cease supporting Rivafest and cancel the event’.

However, $20,000 of the money that had been allocated to Rivafest could be reallocated to a community event cash sponsorship program.

The remaining $20,000 would not be reallocated in an attempt to reduce the council’s $189,000 budget deficit.

Mr Hickey said it was disappointing thatno organisations had come forward to helpco-ordinate Rivafest.

“I guess once people saw the amount of work involved they were reluctant to put their hand up,” he said.

“The options for the council are to provide extra funding to hold Rivafest, or to put the money to some other community event.”

Mr Hickey admitted it was not going to be an easy decision for councillors.

“We would like to keep it running, but it’sa big investment for the council and there is always the risk that bad weather could lead to the event being cancelled anyway,” he said.

Councillors will vote on the future of Rivafest at tomorrow’s ordinary council meeting.

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