IT was billed as a wellness festival of yoga and enlightenment but it’s left workers and suppliers across Australia and New Zealand bitter and unpaid.
Wanderlust’s three-year run at Novotel Twin Waters has ended in tears with none of the staff or suppliers receiving payment for the work done and services and materials supplied.
Novotel Twin Waters in a statement said it had been made aware of alleged instances of suppliers of the Wanderlust Festival not being paid.
“Novotel Twin Waters has had a relationship with the Wanderlust Festival for the past three years as the venue for the event,” the statement said.
“We are disappointed to learn of this situation but are unable to comment further on the commercial dealings between third-party suppliers and the festival organisers.”
The resort operator did not comment on whether or not it had received payment for its services.
According to people who have contacted the Sunshine Coast Daily, payment delays have been an issue for some time with one performer saying he had previously had to wait up to eight months for his money.
Kimberly Ferguson, of Beats Cartel that operates on the Sunshine Coast and at Burleigh Heads, said she would battle for the next 12 months after being left unpaid $10,660 for the printing and distribution of corflutes and signs throughout southeast Queensland.
She has paid her suppliers and is paying off money owed to her own staff.
Like many fellow creditors, she was furious to see John Halstead, the majority shareholder and director of the New Zealand-registered company that represents Wanderlust in Australia and NZ, post social media photos over Christmas and New Year of his family ski holiday to the United States.
Ms Ferguson said she knew something was wrong when Mr Halstead began sending emails, firstly blaming others for bills not being paid and then claiming people without authority had approved invoices even though he was copied into the email chains.
“He said he would get back to us by mid-December (which he didn’t),” she said.
“At the end of December, I contacted Wanderlust in the US and they told me they weren’t accountable.”
Ms Ferguson said she hadn’t realised the operation here was run by Mr Halstead’s own company Yoga Events Australia New Zealand Pty Ltd.
“I thought I was dealing with Wanderlust and no-one ever said anything different,” she said.
“I have no confidence I will be paid and I spoke with the liquidators in New Zealand who said creditors won’t see a cent.
“Sunshine Coast Council is looking to arrange support groups to answer questions for workers and suppliers. Tourism Events Queensland said there would be no money from its sponsorship to pay creditors.”
The father of a woman who worked at the last Twin Waters festival for 12 hours a day for four days said she been left without money she desperately needed.
Mr Halstead has not been contactable and has closed email accounts.
Sean Hoess, of the parent company Wanderlust USA, has posted a statement saying he “very much understand (sic) the reaction of the community, and the frustration and anger this has caused”.
“We, too, have been severely hurt by this, both in reputation and because YEANZ owes us more than $US100,000 that won’t be repaid,” he wrote.
“With four good years n the rear-view mirror, I can’t tell you how shocked I was to learn of YEANZ (Jonnie’s company) as well as the significant trail of debts it has left behind.”
Mr Hoess told New Zealand media that while it was not his legal obligation to pay the debts of Yoga Events, which was a separate company, he recognised they were incurred in the Wanderlust name and he would do his best to make amends.
“We are sorry to anyone that has been inconvenienced or hurt by this. All I can say is that we are doing our best to mitigate the circumstances.”
The parent company said it was doing all it could to ensure its Taupo event went ahead on March 8 with a new partner to not only honour those who had already bought tickets but also in recognition of money spent on plane tickets and accommodation.
Sunshine Coast Council has been contacted in relation to its sponsorship arrangements with the Twin Waters events.