Peak Body & Artists Slam NSW Govt's Festival License: 'Rushed & Without Consideration'

12 February 2019 | 9:23 am | Neil Griffiths

It comes after Mountain Sounds called off its 2019 event just one week out.

Pressure is mounting on the NSW government to revise its new music festival license, with both industry figures and artists slamming the decision. 

Just days after Mountain Sounds festival called off its 2019 event scheduled for this weekend, Bluesfest director Peter Noble took aim at the government and even suggested the popular Byron Bay event may have to move out of the state

The recently-founded Australian Festival Association (made up by some of the Australian music industry's leading figures and festival promoters) have today issued a statement on the matter.

"The introduction of the new Festival License and Interim Health Guidelines has been too rushed and without enough consultation or consideration given to the impacts on the industry as a whole or the operational capacity each government branch has to implement these changes," the AFA's statement reads.

"Most significant changes to an industry like this would require a Regulatory Impact Statement to assess the real economic impact on an important cultural sector.

"Music festivals which are affected by these changes have an estimated combined audience of over 750,000 patrons and contribute millions of dollars to rural, regional and urban communities in NSW. Last minute conditions, increased user pays police costs and liquor licenses that are issued less than 24 hours before an event have contributed to an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for many event organisers."

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The AFA has also listed a number of recommendations for the government to "ensure the safety of people across NSW":

  • Roll out the Music Festival License as a trial, to ensure that the definition of a music festival can be applied evenly, that the risk matrix being used to assess events can be reviewed and so the real impact of these changes can be assessed for all genres of music festivals
  • Maintain the fees for the Music Festival License in line with current Special Event licenses, to ensure the fee doesn’t result in a competitive advantage being given to concerts and other events
  • Roll out a comprehensive online portal which provides harm minimisation training for event staff, patrons and young people across NSW, to address the society-wide issue of drug use which resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Australians in 2018
  • Open an offsite drug safety checking & education facility, to trial pill testing in a controlled environment that gives people access to a harm minimisation service with appropriate health intervention at any time, not just at music festivals
  • To ensure that emergency service costs borne by events are negotiated well ahead of time, and are consistent across NSW events

The Live Music Office's John Wardle has confirmed to The Music that it has written to NSW Minister for Lands, Forestry, Liquor, Gaming & Racing, Paul Toole, to "express our concerns as to the impact of music festival licensing in NSW".

“Live music events are recognised as providing major cultural and economic contributions to regional NSW in particular, and many events have been shaped by collaborative partnerships with councils, organisers and the local community," Wardle said.

"These have built localised risk management capacity whilst also ensuring events are attractive to patrons and viable commercially for organisers and artists."

It comes after Aussie heavyweights Peking Duk and Northlane both issued statements on Monday, calling for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her government to be voted out in next month's state election.

"Gladys get your head out of the sand, your policies and viewpoints need a reality check," Peking Duk said in a statement posted to Facebook. 

"We don’t force roads to close because of road fatalities, we don’t ban alcohol due to (much higher) deaths from alcohol, we don’t shut down casino’s because of the trauma and grief they cause to the addicted. So why are you targeting music festivals like this? Why are you targeting the events that give so much back to the community?"

Northlane added in their own statement, "Not only are young people still dying, Gladys Berejiklian and co are now dismantling an entire industry.

"Live music has a positive affect on the mental health of patrons, it creates tourism, employs thousands and generates a staggering amount of wealth for our economy despite very little governmental support. If this issue is important to you, take it to the polls in March and vote them out."