31 July 2023

Festival canned: Lakeland locals win battle against Orin Aya

| Matt Nicholls
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The Orin Aya festival, previously held in Rossville, won't go ahead in Lakeland after local opposition.

The Orin Aya festival, previously held in Rossville, won’t go ahead in Lakeland after local opposition.

PEOPLE power has prevailed in Lakeland after organisers of the controversial Orin Aya festival put up the white flag and conceded that it would not be relocated to the tiny Cape York community.

Almost 50 people turned up to last week’s community meeting in Lakeland, organised by the local progress association, to voice their concerns with the executives of Orin Aya, which had previously been staged in Rossville.

Robyn Holmes, the deputy mayor of Cook Shire Council, was one of a handful of councillors in attendance and said that Lakeland locals made their views known.

“The community was very clear with their objections and I think the organisers got the message loud and clear,” she said.

Founder Rafael Asulin was in attendance and said he was now looking at other venue options after Lakeland voted with their feet.

“It’s very disappointing but we want the community to support the event,” he said.

Mr Asulin said he struggled to understand the negative reaction of people who had never been to one of the previous Orin Aya festivals.

“It’s an amazing experience and we have people coming from all over Australia, and the world,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“A lot of people who were talking have never been to our festival.

“We create a platform for people to express themselves.”

In previous years, there has been a number of reports of nudity from festivalgoers who have exposed themselves in the main street of Cooktown, Rossville and Lakeland, often lingering in the region for weeks after the event.

Mr Asulin said he was hopeful that Cook Shire would take a more objective approach when assessing future event applications.

“We were told we had to consult with the Lakeland community and it was a horrible meeting,” he said.

“They didn’t want to hear anything from us. Some of their concerns we could have definitely addressed.

“Now we are looking for other venues outside of Cook Shire, but at the end of the day, if I have to postpone the festival it’s not the end of the world.”

After two years at Home Rule Rainforest Lodge, which drew a number of complaints from locals in Rossville, Orin Aya was going to be shifted to Olive Vale Station at Laura until organisers were told that it was unlikely to be approved due to its remote location and lack of infrastructure.

Tickets have been sold for this year’s festival, which is due to be held from September 1, but those who have purchased tickets did so believing it was at Olive Vale.

Cr Holmes said she sympathised with the Orin Aya organisers but said her loyalty was with the local community.

“If the people of Lakeland don’t want it, I couldn’t support it being held there,” she said.

“The meeting did get a bit heated at times but it wasn’t too bad.

“A lot of the concerns were about the lack of first responders in the community and the safety of locals.

“Some businesses even said they would shut their doors for the weekend if the event went ahead.”

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