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The NSW Cops Spent An Eye-Watering Amount Of Money Policing This Small Town Festival

"Police resources would be far better spent on preventing and responding to real crime, such as domestic violence."

nimbin mardigrass police

Every year, the northern NSW town of Nimbin hosts MardiGrass, an event that’s part festival, part protest, and 100 percent committed to all things weed. Naturally, a celebration of all that cannabis has to offer attracts a fair few cops, and we now know how much the police spent on MardiGrass in 2019: more than a quarter of a million dollars.

How do we know this? Well, NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge asked about it in Parliament back in May, and according to an answer given by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, 133 police attended the 2019 Nimbin MardiGrass, spending a total of 2,036 hours on the event.

The minister did not actually answer Shoebridge’s question about how much those 2,036 police hours cost, but thanks to the magic of the internet it’s possible to make an educated guess. After all, the NSW government famously requires certain high-risk events to pay for their own police presence, and while MardiGrass was not required to foot the bill for the cops, we can get a sense of what they would have been charged if they had.

According to the NSW Police Cost Recovery and User Fees and Charges, police attending “special events” like festival and fairs cost $130.90 per hour, including GST. There are additional fees involved for police cars and other vehicles, but if we calculate the cost based on that hourly rate alone, those 2036 police hours cost at least $266,512.

As for the what the police spent that quarter of a million dollars on, the Minister for Police reports that 2,408 mobile drug tests were conducted within 30km of Nimbin MardiGrass, with 68 drivers arrested for secondary testing. Meanwhile at the festival itself, 90 people who were searched were found to have drugs, and 45 were fined, cautioned or charged as a result. Cops also raided the Nimbin Hemp Embassy a day before the festival. We can think of better ways to spend a quarter of a million dollars.

“Police resources would be far better spent on preventing and responding to real crime, such as domestic violence and white collar fraud,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said.

“Instead we have the NSW police wasting over a quarter of a million dollars policing a festival that celebrates a drug that is legal in a growing number of places around the world.”

“These figures prove once again that the war on drugs is an expensive failure. We need a new, realistic and evidence-based approach to drug policy that reflects the reality of people’s lives.”

NSW Police declined to confirm the amount of money it spent on MardiGrass, providing the following statement instead: “The annual Mardi Grass Festival at Nimbin is a major event which has been running for 26 years. These large-scale events see police conduct operations both in the main township and in the surrounding area. Our top priority is and remains the public’s safety. The New South Wales Police Force will not comment further on resources utilised for such events.”