The future of the Whittlesea Country Music Festival is uncertain after Whittlesea council voted to stop contributing $70,000 to the event each year.
As part of its new community events funding program, the council has decided to cease providing direct, annual funding to six events, including the Whittlesea Country Music Festival.
Instead, the program will offer funding in two categories. Category one funding will provide up to $2000 to small neighbourhood gatherings, while category two funding will provide up to $20,000 for larger events.
The council will provide $86,000 a year across both categories, with applicants restricted to funding for a maximum of three years.
The decision means the country music festival committee will need to apply for funding for next year’s event – and only for up to $20,000.
Cr Emilia Lisa Sterjova said the new funding program would provide a more equitable funding system.
But Cr Mary Lalios said not guaranteeing the Whittlesea Country Music Festival’s funding was an “absolute disgrace”.
“The Whittlesea Country Music Festival is a flagship event run on the sweat of volunteers,” she said.
Cr Norm Kelly said the event attracted visitors from all over, putting Whittlesea on the map.
Whittlesea Country Music Festival vice-president David Watson said the volunteer committee was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.
“Planning for the 2020 festival is already underway, but some doubt as to the viability of the festival now exists,” he said. “A reduction in income will definitely have an effect on our ability to put on the festival.”
Mr Watson said the festival, which has been running for 19 years and was revamped in 2011, had come in on budget every year, with crowds steadily increasing.