People power forces Harry Potter event to change locations

In a magical outcome for wildlife lovers, community pressure has today forced the banishment of The Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience to a nearby community forest.

In an emergency meeting today, Mornington Peninsula Council voted unanimously to move the upcoming event from The Briars sanctuary to the Briars Community Forest (dog walking park), 500 metres away.

Wildlife advocates are celebrating the result, which involved detailed negotiations between council, Warner Bros, and the event company Fever.

Mayor Cr Simon Brooks said in the meeting that there had been no ‘subterfuge’ or ‘underlying motive’ in the planning to hold the event in its original location. He thanked council officers for working quickly to gather information for the change to the community forest.

“I also want to recognise the community – you raised your concerns, and they were heard,” Cr Brooks said.

The shire CEO John Baker had earlier told the council meeting, which was live-streamed, that community pressure was ‘absolutely’ a factor in today’s decision. He said the event is still expected to bring in between $27 and $35 million for the region.

Other councillors agreed that the community upset at the original location had shown the passion of people in the area.

Cr David Gill said “this is a great coming of age … I hope the community keeps putting pressure on councils and government”.

Save Briars Sanctuary spokesperson Louise Page said the group was relieved wildlife would now be safe.

“We are relieved that a decision has been made to relocate Harry Potter but are disturbed by Council’s initial failure to recognise the importance of the wildlife sanctuary and also its disregard for the Briars Masterplan which clearly articulates the special qualities of this peaceful home for wildlife,” she said.

“This campaign has focused national attention on the harm to wildlife from artificial light, sound and the presence of lots of people at night. We hope that our efforts can be used to prevent this happening elsewhere.”

Southern FM’s Alli Harding first brought the story to listeners when she interviewed Louise Page and Cr Brooks on her show, South of the River, on January 7. Hundreds of people visited the protestors’ Save the Briars website soon after the Southern FM interviews.

The battle had started just a few days earlier, after concerned locals learnt that the council had done a secret deal with Warner Bros to stage the interactive light show at The Briars, which is a haven for thousands of native animals.

The Forbidden Forest Experience is due to start in April and attract up to 3000 people a night over at least six weeks.

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