News August 6, 2019

Canberra pushes for entertainment precincts to save music venues

Canberra pushes for entertainment precincts to save music venues
Image: Hopscotch Bar / Official Website

The ACT Liberals’ Mark Parton has successfully introduced a motion in the Legislative Assembly calling for the ACT government to introduce entertainment precincts in Canberra.

The three major parties in the Assembly – the Libs, Greens and Labor – agreed with the motion’s additional requests to allow flexible noise levels in these areas, introduce order of occupancy laws (which would protect venues from complaints by new neighbours) and increase the level of “standards and requirements for noise insulation and abatement for new buildings in designated precincts.”

The government must provide a plan by October 31 and start delivering by June 2020.

At the end of July, both Parton and the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury had been critical when the government announced it was introducing a suite of reforms “to protect Canberra’s nightlife and live music scene” as the number of apartment-dwellers rise in inner-city areas.

The government revealed on July 31 that it would extend noise limits on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to midnight in the city and town centres and 11pm ingroup centres such as Dickson, Erindale and Kingston.

Minister for planning and land management Mick Gentleman said, “This will allow venues to make amplified noise longer into the evenings on weekends.”

It will also extend daytime noise limits, and task the National Capital Design Review Panel to consider acoustic amenity when it reviews mixed-use developments.

However the response from the ACT live music sector and its political supporters was that it was more urgent to consider precincts, and noise level decisions could sometimes be farcical.

MusicACT president David Caffery cited the Tipsy Bull restaurant in Braddon, claiming that the noise from neighbouring bar Hopscotch (which was there before it opened) was upsetting its customers.

The Tipsy Bull lost the dispute.

Caferty also mentioned a jazz event in New Acton deciding to close rather than risk a $11,000 fine when neighbours out on their balconies three floors up complained, and a hotel on Akuna Street successfully managing to close one music venue and restrict the amount of gigs for another.

Parton warned, “ Under the current regime, live music will eventually cease to be in Canberra,” adding that the city’s nightlife is “increasingly under threat from out-of-date noise restrictions being applied across business districts and town centres.”

The Greens’ Shane Rattenbury, who has been pushing for entertainment precincts for ten years, points at Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley as an example where the future of live music was assured “without exposing residents or businesses to unreasonable or unexpected levels of noise.”

MusicACT, in association with the Live Music Office, has come up with a proposal of zones “for an active and peaceful Canberra”.

These included “shared zones”, “entertainment zones” and “festival zones”, the later where large events could be held in picturesque locations.

The live sector argues these will better protect late-night venues, allow higher noise limits, and ensure that residents and developers have a greater sense of what is expected of them.

Obviously, the punters are equally nervous about the future of some venues.

In late June, when MusicACT called a rally to protest restrictive noise laws, triggered off by Geocon’s 11-storey, 215-room $120 million development in Bunda Street, the size of the turnout was unexpected.

Fans jammed out Garema Place to make their feelings known, as well as checking out live sets from SAFIA, Hands Like Houses, Citizen Kay, Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers and YOUNG MONKS.

Canberra is not the only place seeing precincts as the future of live music.

The Sunshine Coast is also pushing for them.

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