Is New South Wales' crackdown on festival deaths over the top?

The new rules haven't even come into effect yet but they're already causing chaos.

The new rules for NSW music festivals in the wake of drug overdose deaths don’t come into effect until Friday March 1, but they’re already causing chaos. Rabbits Eat Lettuce has moved to Queensland and Bluesfest has threatened to move too. Psyfari cancelled and now the ever-popular Mountain Sounds has also had to fold. The live music sector is pleading for a round table discussion to come up with solutions, but it’s talking to a brick wall. The new rules include a liquor licence for festivals that has to be reapplied for every year and must be approved by a panel comprised of NSW Health, Police, Ambulance and Liquor and Gaming. There must be chill out zones, doctors and paramedics on hand and free water stations. Heavy police presence is a given. All of these measures are costly, with one promoter suggesting ticket prices could hike up to $500. 

Psyfari said: “We are unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when festivals are the new scapegoat of a failed government and their failed war on drugs. While the attack on music festivals is more public than ever before, this has been a battle we’ve been fighting for years, at times behind closed doors. The fight is usually with those who have never attended such an event and truly don’t understand what it’s all about, yet they’ve shown no mercy in wiping these events out in order to make a political point. Either they don’t seem to understand the desire for freedom and the desire to be part of a community, or they do understand and feel threatened by this.”

Mountain Sounds, the Central Coast festival that initially downsized before eventually cancelling, released this statement after axing its first acts: “Due to current increased pressure around safety, licensing and security we have had to modify our site, staging and infrastructure so the event can go ahead.”

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Mountain Sounds 2019 Has Been Cancelled. For More Information, Please Refer To The Official Statement On Our Facebook Page. Love, Team MSF x

A post shared by Mountain Sounds Festival (@mountainsoundsfestival) on Feb 9, 2019 at 11:02pm PST

Rabbits Eat Lettuce moved after NSW Police lodged action in the Supreme Court to argue a Land & Environment Court decision last year, which ruled in the festival’s favour. After already spending $100,000 on legal costs, REL didn’t have the resources to fight it. They said, “ The current political state of play in NSW is not conducive to the festival industry and we feel that to ensure we can provide the best event and experience possible, moving to QLD for at least the time being is the best decision for all involved.”

Peter Noble of Bluesfest also attacked the NSW government for its “poorly thought through new policy” which he predicted “is going to decimate our industry. Hundred, if not thousands of jobs will be lost ... Tens of millions of dollars ... a lot of it spent rurally … will no longer be generated. An industry wiped out through incredibly draconian ... poorly thought out legislation.”