SHOWS FACING SECURITY SLUG

By SALLY GORDON

NEW regulations requiring organisers to pay for police presence at special public events may force some smaller regional shows to fold.

Reports yesterday suggested that agricultural shows could face individual bills of up to $15,000 to pay for police to attend.

The move is part of a new NSW Police policy which stipulates a user-pay system for all sporting and entertainment events that require police monitoring.

There are reports that a number of North Coast show societies ? among them Taree and Nambucca ? have decided to go 'alcohol-free' to avoid additional security costs.

Maclean Show Society secretary Dawn Stewart said that in the past her organisation had operated on the understanding that if there was any trouble the police would be available as part of their normal duties.

She said if show societies had to pay for a police contingent the cost would be overwhelming.

"We're having enough trouble with insurance and public risk at the moment," she said.

"You try to do the best you can, but it is getting harder and harder, this would just make it very hard.

"The cost, if we had to pay for police presence would be astronomical ... it'd be the death knell of the show."

Both the Maclean and the Grafton show societies employ private security to monitor the grounds and to supervise stalls selling alcohol.

Grafton Show Society secretary Anne de Graaf believes the society's current system of employing private security guards is an adequate precautionary measure.

But Ms de Graaf said that if the cost in terms of security of being able to sell alcohol at the show became exorbitant, the society would definitely consider moving towards an alcohol-free event.

"It's not unusual to be alcohol-free, the Coffs Harbour Show has been alcohol-free for years ... it wouldn't affect the show as much, the show would still go on," she said.

A police spokesperson said that for any big event where police were requested, such as Grafton's July Racing Carnival, organisers were required to pay for police services. Racing carnival organisers had been paying for police surveillance for the past three years.

"When it's the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney, police are required because it's a very big event and you have a couple of hundred thousand people going through it, but when it's a small show like here, no, because it doesn't affect our running," the spokesman said.



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