One of Sydney's most hotly anticipated New Year's Eve events was shelved at the last minute following major management failures and security oversights.
An investigation by Fairfax Media can reveal that, far from falling victim to technical difficulties or public transport issues as previously claimed, the event at Wet'n'Wild was cancelled six hours before its starting time after the venue failed to provide an adequate crowd safety management plan to police.
As Village Roadshow and promoters One Cube prepared to lock horns in a legal blame game on Tuesday, a senior NSW Police source confirmed a ''risk assessment'' had identified ''deep concerns'' about event staffing and security.
Pretence: The message to Unimet Security staff, prompting them to act as though they didn't know who Brad Kisbee was. Photo: Supplied
Fair Trading investigators were also assessing information on the Prospect theme park's security supervisor Brad Kisbee, who played a role in a tender process that last October saw a lucrative on site contract awarded to Unimet Security, a company with which he had been involved for several years.
On Friday, Mr Kisbee said he was ''unable to say'' whether he had declared any ties when he helped Wet'n'Wild appoint contractors.
''It's irrelevant,'' he said. ''Yes, I was involved in the interview process and final meetings. But I can assure you, I had no say on the actual selections.''
In the countdown to the opening of the ''world's best water theme park'', Village Roadshow held interviews for a security supervisor capable of providing the ''best possible guest experience''. Mr Kisbee, a former Blacktown Westfield security supervisor, was appointed.
A tender invitation was also advertised by Village Roadshow for a security company, with appropriate expertise, to provide all-hours services across the theme park.
The scope of the tender included roaming patrols, VIP hosting and managing crowds of between ''15,000 to 20,000'' people. Although Unimet's traditional work involved static guard work at pubs and dog patrols in western Sydney and Wollongong, it bid for the tender.
One prominent security company owner, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ''I know of at least 30 companies, including a few big ones, who submitted a detailed tender for this.''
He said a fortnight after the October 11 closing date, he received a letter signed by Wet'n'Wild operations manager Bianca Sammut advising him the application was unsuccessful.
Mr Kisbee confirmed that, in the days that followed, he helped interview, and gave his ''opinions'' on, the five shortlisted companies. This included Unimet, which was awarded a contract with Reddawn, a company with which Unimet regularly shared jobs and staff.
''There have been several formal complaints lodged to authorities about the process,'' one bidder said.
''When this fellow's [Mr Kisbee] name surfaced as being the security manager at Wet'n'Wild and then it emerged who had won the contract … it became the talk of the industry.''
With contracts signed, Unimet appointed an operations manager, Darren Barrett, to assist in the transition of staff to the theme park.
In a message to employees on November 24, the eve of their induction training, Mr Barrett stated: ''Meet at the entry gate … it is highly important that they remember this is the first time that you are meeting the W&W security manager Mr Brad Kisbee. NO one has met him prior to the induction. Please respond to this message to ensure you have received and understood the above.''
A Unimet source confirmed eight staff attended the following day and ''pretended'' never to have met Mr Kisbee. ''It's been a farce ever since,'' he said. ''Unimet has never had the resources to cope with the contract it received … and several staff left under the pressure.''
On Friday, Unimet director Natalie Eggenhuizen initially claimed Mr Kisbee had no connection with the company. But when told Fairfax Media had a Unimet business card displaying his name and current phone number, she said: ''He is not a silent partner … he was a consultant some time ago.''
Of the message sent by Mr Barrett, who could not be reached by Fairfax Media, she said: ''I'm not Darren but I always tell staff that when you're meeting someone for the first time … to always be on your best behaviour.''
Village Roadshow spokesman Darrin Davies said final decisions were made by the general manager and operations manager of the park after ''a thorough and competitive tender process'' that included ''third party independent advice''.
He said Unimet was not appointed as part of the original tender process but in ''a secondary security role''.
Mr Kisbee said: ''Village Roadshow has told me not to speak further. But when my contract is up in April, I'll give the full story.''
Nearly 9000 ticket holders paid between $110 and $200 to attend the cancelled New Year's Eve party.