After weeks of pressure and protests at the selection of The Briars wildlife sanctuary for Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience, it appears the location is being reconsidered.
In a brief statement posted to the shire’s Facebook page approximately 2pm today (8/2/24) the shire wrote, attributable to CEO John Baker;
“Together with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment, Mornington Peninsula Shire is re-evaluating the current location of the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience at The Briars in Mount Martha. We will have more information soon.”
The shire’s social media post follows an email from Peter van Roden, Senior Vice President, Global Themed Entertainment Warner Bros. Discovery, to the group Save Briars Sanctuary at 12.22pm today stating that Warner Bros and Fever “are reevaluating the current location of Harry Potter: Forbidden Forest Experience in The Briars at Mount Martha”.
Louise Page, spokesperson for Save Briars Sanctuary, provided the following statement to The News:
“While we remain somewhat cautious until the final decision is made, the Save Briars team and supporters extend heartfelt thanks to the decision makers for recognising the error in choice of location and taking steps to identify an alternative.”
“This is not only a win for the sanctuary and its precious wildlife, for the community and for the environment, but also for local businesses and The Briars because now, we really do have a quadruple bottom line decision; we are not sacrificing the environment for economic gain.”
“We thank everyone who supported us and we look forward to hearing more information soon.”
It was feared that any decision to move the event once contracts had been signed could see the shire sued for breach of contract by the event’s producers, Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment in partnership with Fever and IMG. It is not currently known if the venue change was at the instigation of the organisers or the shire.
Possibly the biggest single event ever held on the peninsula, the shire says Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience “will unlock significant lasting benefits, both for The Briars and the Mornington Peninsula more broadly” (Potter sequel at the ballot box, The News 29/1/24).
A petition at change.org calling on the shire to not hold the event in The Briars sanctuary currently has more than 21,400 signatures. A councillor, who did not wish to be identified, said “40,000 to 50,000” tickets had been sold for the Harry Potter show.
The mayor Cr Simon Brooks was almost shouted down when he told last week’s public meeting at Mornington Yacht Club that councillors had not seen the fine details of the contract with Warner Bros and could not reveal what they did know because of the confidentiality agreement signed by most councillors.
Brooks said confidentiality clauses were common in council matters that included intellectual property, and particularly when commercial in-confidence was required.
He said community unrest over the Harry Potter event being held within the fenced wildlife sanctuary at The Briars had seen some councillors pushing for a “review” of the shire’s events approval process.
“I share your frustrations with the way the conversation has occurred,” Brooks said, in reference to the secrecy around the contract.
He also said that when council officers considered the proposal, financial benefit had been the “elephant in the room”, because council had to consider “new and innovative” ways to ensure the sustainability of The Briars.
The 3000-person a night event is expected to be a financial windfall for the council, despite councillors apparently not being privy to those details.
The event planned at The Briars would require 18 sheds, two kilometres of cabling for lighting, sound effects and electronic figures, a portable toilets and generators.