Ten revellers were hospitalised yesterday after suspected drug use at Sydney’s Ultra music festival, despite an increased police presence at the dance music event and the surrounding area.
NSW Police report ten people were transported to Westmead Hospital via ambulance. Nine News reports at least five were transported in a critical condition, but all are now thought to be in stable conditions.
The hospitalisations came amid heightened police scrutiny, stemming from Ultra’s new designation as a ‘high risk’ music festival under the state’s controversial new licensing regimen.
Ultra experienced a heavy police presence, with officers from Parramatta Police Area Command and added personnel from neighbouring jurisdictions patrolling the streets around the festival.
Sniffer dogs were also deployed at the event.
The Daily Telegraph reports the added law enforcement personnel did not deter people from taking drugs, with some opting to ingest the illicit substances while walking to the Parramatta Park festival.
In total, 45 out of an estimated 20,500 attendees were charged. Of that number, ten were charged with supplying an illicit drug. Another 29 people were issued Criminal Infringement Notices f0r possession of MDMA or cocaine.
The hospitalisations and arrests came after Ultra’s calls to host a pill testing trial were rejected by the state government.
In January, Ultra issued a joint statement with Pill Testing Australia and harm minimisation advocates NSW Users And AIDS Association (NUAA) calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW state government to permit the measures.
“The zero-tolerance stance does not work,” said Ultra Australia chief Dave Rubin.
“This approach is not currently successful despite working tirelessly with the police to keep drugs out of our events and we need to acknowledge this goes beyond policing and is a health issue.”
That perspective was backed by NUAA head Mary Ellen Harrod, who said “we know pill testing works from the successful Australian trial and years of overseas experience.
“There is almost universal agreement that we need to do more to keep young people safe and the Ultra festival is the perfect opportunity launch a trial of this measure in NSW.”
Five people have died at NSW music festivals after suspected drug use since September 2018.
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Image: @ultraaustralia / Instagram