Diwali volunteer fury

The Diwali Festival in 2017.

By Rowan Forster

Dedicated and hardworking volunteers driving Pakenham’s Diwali Festival are fed up with Cardinia Shire’s bureaucratic red tape – which they claim is jeopardising their event.

Despite being a non-for-profit community group, the council has demanded it bankrolls a comprehensive traffic management study for the November occasion.

The Indian Association Casey Cardinia (IACC) has already splurged $10,000 to meet council’s exhaustive criteria to hire a venue.

Organiser Aanchal Meshram said the group can’t afford to finance further studies, leaving the highly-decorated event in the lurch.

“I provided them a map showing exact parking and they came back saying I’d need a professional report.

“This is a community group with a bunch of volunteers who all have families to look after and we don’t have the money to be producing these thousand dollar reports,” she said.

“We’re not profiting from this, we’re doing this for the community and trying to host a fun day and they’re adding all of these costs and pressures.

“It feels like council, rather than being supportive, is trying to bully us so we cancel this event.”

Ms Meshram contacted the council in March requesting to hire the Toomuc Oval for Diwali.

It took for officers until June to respond, rebuffing her request due to cricket games taking place.

Ms Meshram conceded to host Diwali at the PB Ronald Reserve, until the shire requested a series of expensive studies.

With Cardinia Shire refusing to budge, the IACC is yet to lock in a venue – just two months out from the annual festivity.

“We should be doing marketing and instead we’re struggling to find a venue,” Ms Meshram added.

“I’m starting to give up hope.”

In a bitter twist, Melbourne councils previously funded traffic management studies on behalf of community groups.

The arrangement was scrapped several years ago.

Cardinia Shire has referred the IACC to Australian Traffic Control, the company which undertakes studies for the Pakenham Show.

It claims the report is required because Diwali is expecting more than 500 patrons.

The stalemate comes after revelations several weeks ago that the council has been donating $15,000 to the Pakenham Racing Club on a yearly basis for its Kids Night Out event.

Diwali, India’s stunning Festival of Lights, made an inaugural debut in Pakenham last year, attracting almost 1000 residents.

Even if the 2018 event is salvaged, disgruntled volunteers say it could be the last.

Council’s Infrastructure Services Manager Andrew Barr said a traffic management plan (TMP) is required to ensure community safety.

“Public events require a TMP to ensure that people stay safe around moving vehicles when there are temporary changes in traffic and pedestrian flow,” he said.

“Cardinia Shire Council is committed to making sure that events within the shire and those on council-owned/managed land are safe for event attendees and the broader community.

“To do this, council works closely with event organisers to ensure that events comply with relevant regulations and have the required insurance, traffic management and risk management

plans in place.”