The Australian summer season is still some months away, but the festivals industry is already feeling a warm glow thanks to a major shift on regulations in the state of New South Wales.
Promoters are lauding a “great outcome” from the NSW Legislative Council, which last week voted to disallow the Liquor Amendment (Music Festivals) Regulation 2019, a much-derided set of rules that was rushed through earlier this year.
After a spate of suspected drug-related deaths at NSW music festivals, premier Gladys Berejiklian launched a counterattack through licensing conditions which many opponents felt would crush boutique festivals.
Critics warned that the legislation, which came into effect on March 1, was poorly-crafted, heavy-handed, and created without proper consultation.
For some fests, the cost of compliance under the new conditions would run into the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” enough to kill-off a slew of shows, promoters warned, while the Australian Festival Association stated NSW could become the country’s “first music festival-free zone.”
Across Australia, live music fans were calling it a “war on festivals.”
A reprieve has come. Last Thursday, Shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy, the Australian Labor Party’s John Graham, moved to disallow the two new regulations affecting fests. A motion was then carried by the Upper House 21 votes to 18, which overturned Berejiklian’s efforts.
The broader music industry welcomed the u-turn as a “fresh start,” which should lead to greater consultation and collaboration with government on a new regulatory framework for music festivals.
“The government can now sit down with the industry for some constructive consultation on ways to improve patron safety at music festivals, including steps to reduce drug-related harm,” said Evelyn Richardson, CEO of trade body Live Performance Australia, in a statement issued jointly by LPA, the Australian Festival Association, APRAAMCOS, MusicNSW and PPCA
The disallowance motion had been recommended by the Legislative Council Regulation Committee in a report presented last month.
“From the outset, we have repeatedly expressed our strong desire to work collaboratively with government on our shared commitment to safer festivals,” adds Richardson.
“Genuine collaboration with industry representatives who have decades of experience in running safe and successful festivals is the best way to promote the safety of festival patrons, while also ensuring NSW continues to enjoy the economic and cultural benefits from a dynamic and diverse music festival industry.”