Australian Festival Association condemns new NSW festival regulations

Australian Festival Association condemns new NSW festival regulations

Music festival

It comes just after two NSW music festivals cancel.

The peak representative body for Australia’s music festivals, the Australian Festival Association, has called on the New South Wales state government to reconsider its latest attempt at cracking down on drug overdoses at music festivals.

Following the deaths of two festivalgoers in September 2018, a panel was brought together to address the issue. During the consultation, the AFA says only two festival organisers were invited and they were only allowed to give feedback for five minutes.

On Sunday January 20, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that all NSW music festivals would be required to apply for a newly created liquor license if they want to keep running. Each application would be assessed by an expert panel made up of police, ambulance staff and public servants. The AFA believes not enough consultation time was given before implementing the policy.

“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 statement read.

As an alternative, the AFA has suggested the new license be trialled first, alongside a larger body of resources around drug and alcohol literacy, including harm minimisation. Additionally, all fees for the new license remain the same as the currently existing special event license.

The statement from the AFA comes after two NSW music festivals, Mountain Sounds and Psyfari, were forced to cancel this year due to the unexpected costs of operating under the new regulations.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble has also penned a letter to the NSW state government threatening to move the festival to another state if conditions don’t change.

“[The new policies] will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with a policy where we and every other event in this state have had zero opportunity to have any consultation or input into a policy where we will need to spend significantly more money to put on the event this year with zero notice,” Noble said.

“I am saying now, Bluesfest will leave NSW. We have no choice it’s a matter of survival. Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?”

In a press interview, Berejiklian said the government shouldn’t be blamed for the increased costs of operating a festival.

“I don’t think it’s fair for organisers to blame anybody but themselves,” she said.

“If you can’t spend money making your event safer, well that’s a decision for you, but it’s not fair to blame the government.”

The AFA is hosting an industry forum later on this week to discuss the regulation and its ramifications on the festival industry.