Zenith Gathering, a three-day music festival that was held in Mudgee recently attracted praise and derision from both attendees and nearby residents who battled it out on social media over complaints that it was disruptive and poorly organised.
According to a colourful exposition on the festival website, Zenith Gathering is described as a mixture of music, art, culture, myths and legends. The three-day-long music festival saw headline acts like Yabba Dabba and Tassone perform late into the night across the weekend. The music festival took place over the three days at the Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC) just outside of Mudgee.
On Wednesday afternoon, November 29, in response to a series of questions from the Mudgee Guardian, AREC management issued a statement apologising to residents who were affected by the loud music.
"AREC saw the Zenith music festival as an opportunity to diversify its income and events offered. However, due to the noise levels and late finishing times, the event has upset many in our community. This was not our intention and we apologise for that," the statement read.
"AREC take feedback very seriously and the wellbeing of the community is central to our decision making and ongoing development. All future events will be assessed with its impact on the community. With regards to the Zenith music festival, this will not be hosted by AREC again."
Once the first day of the festival got underway, it wasn't long before posts on social media began to pop up, with some complaining that the noise from the festival was excessive.
Posts criticising the loud music began to gain traction as the revellers danced well beyond midnight over the weekend, November 17 to 19. Some residents reported hearing the music's bass tones as late as 2am.
Prior to the event, organisers applied to council for an extension to entertainment hours, a modification of an earlier development application (DA).
The existing DA allowed for the event to operate until 2am, however, from 10pm was when the decibel measure of the music was to be reduced - over three days from Friday 28 the Sunday 30th of April 2023.
Zenith Gathering's organisers reasoned that they required the extended entertainment hours to be able to maintain programming for the event as well as the cultural aspect of the gathering.
'Our patrons expect to be able to participate and dance to trance music for extended hours to enjoy their event experience,' it read. An acoustic report that was provided to council can be found here.
AREC was considered a backup site for the festival if wet weather or fire risk issues interfered with a planned Shoalhaven event which was set for May, 2023. Zenith also flagged possible future shows in Mudgee. The festival may have breached a number of conditions outlined in the DA approval including a letterbox drop and the approval of one stage at the event. No letterbox drop occurred according to residents and two stages, one inside and one outside were present at the event.
A spokesperson at Mid-Western Regional Council confirmed council has received a number of complaints from residents relating to offensive noise from the Zenith Music Festival held at AREC over the weekend. They said council is currently investigating compliance of the event with the conditions approved under a modification to the DA in November 2022, to undertake a single music festival at AREC.
"The modification was issued on a trial basis for one year only. If future events such as this were to occur, further development consent is required so that council could consider the suitability of the noise mitigation measures implemented for the event, and community submissions/complaints," the spokesperson said.
Zenith Gathering event manager Aqua Verde said no objections were raised with council before the event took place.
"The enjoyment of this style of music includes being able to feel the bass and that means that it also gets shared with the event's immediate environment," Ms Verde said.
"Any event of this kind required public notice and to give people a chance to object before the permit is issued. There was not a single objection raised with council.
"We have approached Mudgee with the our quest for a home for our event. A community that would be happy to accommodate us for a weekend once a year for the boost in trade we can provide as well as the exposure of the region to our patronage as a great place to visit even beyond the festival itself.
"Yes the music is loud, we like it like that. It's part of the enjoyment. We do try very hard to control the sound emitted beyond the venue. We have have employed acoustic consultants to determine the best way to set up and orientate our stage and we have collaborated and complied with all requests from the police to lower the music volume while trying to maintain patron satisfaction."
The consent was granted by council under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, subject to conditions of consent which included amongst others:
- Limiting the event to a single event.
- Allowing amplified music in the designated stage area up until 2am.
- Requiring compliance with the approved Event Management Plan and Sound Management Plan
- Requiring sound levels at the mixing desk to be reduced to 115dB(A) at 10pm.
- Requiring compliance with the recommendations of the Noise Assessment Report.
"Council staff are reviewing compliance with all conditions including the recommendations of the Noise Assessment Report in regard to sound levels, local resident notification, and a contact hotline for the event," a council spokesperson said.