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Fight erupts over Snell’s Park and McQuade Park formal event ban after Harvey Harvest Festival cancelled

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
John-Mark Sommerville, Lisa Matthews, Nicholas Blunt, Billinda Jacob, Jamie Muir and Matilda Cumbers prepare for the WA Grape Stomping Championship at the 2023 Harvey Harvest Festival.
Camera IconJohn-Mark Sommerville, Lisa Matthews, Nicholas Blunt, Billinda Jacob, Jamie Muir and Matilda Cumbers prepare for the WA Grape Stomping Championship at the 2023 Harvey Harvest Festival. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/RegionalHUB

A fight has erupted over who is to blame for the banning of formal events at a popular Harvey park after it resulted in one of the town’s biggest events being cancelled for 2024.

The Harvey mainstreet committee pulled the pin on next year’s Harvey Harvest Festival earlier this month after the Shire of Harvey said it would not grant approvals for community events at Snell’s Park and McQuade Park until further notice.

In the September 29 announcement, Harvey chief executive Annie Riordan argued the council’s hands were tied with the decision.

“The decision to limit access for formalised community events is not one the Shire chose to implement and we understand the frustration and disappointment this may cause,” she said.

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“The Shire is currently in negotiations with Arc Infrastructure regarding the leased area along the rail corridor. There are some safety concerns which have been brought to the Shire’s attention under our existing arrangements with the Public Transport Authority and the proposed licence arrangement with Arc Infrastructure.”

The move caused the festival organisers to pull the pin on next year’s festival, saying all arrangements related to hold an event of its scale were dependent on “a suitable location being in place many months in advance”.

Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke met with Arc Infrastructure representatives on Thursday to discuss the issue, uploading a post on social media shortly afterwards claiming “they confirmed there aren’t any issues preventing events at Snell Park”.

“Arc Infrastructure has urgently scheduled a meeting with the Shire of Harvey to resolve the matter, so the Harvey Harvest Festival can possibly return next year and Foodtruck Festival as soon as possible,” she said.

A meeting was held between Arc Infrastructure and the Shire of Harvey after the company’s discussions with Ms Clarke, though a council spokesperson claimed discussions between the two parties had been scheduled the week before.

“Discussions confirmed that permission to use Snell’s Park and McQuade Park for community events must be sought by contacting Arc Infrastructure directly,” she said.

An Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said the company was committed to ensuring the safety of communities that surround its rail network.

“We understand the Harvey Harvest Festival is a significant community event and are willing to work with the event organisers to find a way forward,” she said.

The Harvey Harvest Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in March, hundreds packing Snell’s Park for the free event.

It is most known for the headline WA Grape Stomping Championships, with dozens of teams competing to see how much grape juice they produce within a set time.

This year’s event was the first time the festival had been held in two years, with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forcing its cancellation in 2020 and 2022.

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