Future of Highland Fling far from certain

IS THIS THE END: Organisers have yet to decide whether to cancel the 2017 Highland Fling. Photo: Madeline Crittenden
IS THIS THE END: Organisers have yet to decide whether to cancel the 2017 Highland Fling. Photo: Madeline Crittenden

The Highlands Fling may not go ahead in 2017.

Founder Huw Kingston said continued issues with Wingecarribee Shire Council had frustrated  him to the point of cancelling the popular event.

One of the biggest events on the Highlands calendar, the Highland Fling attracts thousands to the Southern Highlands each year.

“The event has put millions of dollars into the regional economy and has contributed over half a million dollars to local community and charitable causes,” Mr Kingston said.

One of the latest frustrations for event organisers was an invoice for close to $3000 received in April 2017, five months after the event was held.

The invoice was for the hire of the Bundanoon Pony Club and Wingello Oval.

Mr Kingston said they had not received an invoice for this in recent years, nor did he understand why it was so much.

“We have never seen such a fee in recent years and I question how are we supposed to prepare budgets?” he said

“I recall in the earlier years of the event, receiving invoices for the facilities of a far more moderate amount in the hundreds of dollars.”

While organisers have worked to try and clarify this, Mr Kingston said they had been threatened with legal action from a collection agency.

A council spokesman said they regretted the delay in sending the invoice.

“Council acknowledges the delay in invoicing was regrettable and has taken steps to rectify the process involved. As per all commercial ventures, the Highland Fling was charged in accordance with council’s adopted fees and charges,” he said.

Since the Highland Fling began, Mr Kingston said organisers had continued issues with council including Development Applications (DA) that proved unnecessary and getting permissions that were not required.

 In 2012 council told organisers a DA  was required for some sections of the event.

After hours spent preparing the documents, then general manager (GM) Jason Gordon told them it was not required.

Mr Kingston said at a meeting in December 2013 with GM Ann Prendergast, mayor at the time Juliet Arkwright and senior staff, he was assured they would not be “caught out” with late requests or requirements.

However the issue of a DA was again raised in 2014 just months before the event and organisers submitted the appropriate paperwork.

In 2015-2016, while organisers had a DA for the event for Wingello Oval and a booking for the facility, Mr Kingston said council tried to block or restrict our usage of part of the land claiming another group had the right to use that land. 

But it turned out this was not the case.

“Wingecarribee Shire Council has done little to support the event. Almost every year without exception inane blockages have been put in our way, most of which turn out to be unnecessary,” he said. 

“I am quite frankly tired of trying to present successful events while working in such a framework.”​

A decision is expected to be made by the end of the month.