NSW festivals get safety tick after Berejiklian’s ‘war on music’
A review of the new NSW Music Festivals Act – introduced in the wake of a series of drug deaths and clashes between the live sector and government – has had the desired effect.
“Of the nine high-risk music festivals held between 21 November 2019 and 30 April 2020, seven were inspected by [Liquor and Gambling NSW] Compliance officers,” the report found.
No breaches of the requirements under the Act were reported but the review made 16 findings and 16 recommendations on how to proceed and reduce red tape for promoters.
Among the findings was an issue the NSW live sector had fought against from the beginning – that safety management plans be submitted 90 days before the festival began.
Promoters argued that key information needed for the plan to be approved by authorities, like crowd attendance, for instance, would be difficult to confirm so far ahead.
The review proposed an online system to facilitate the feedback and approval process.
It also recommended that in terms of crowd numbers, promoters could estimate these early on, and then revise these 21 days before gates opened.
Another recommendation was that the term “high-risk” be dropped and replaced by “notifiable”, as promoters believed it “had an impact on their financing, insurance and sponsorship”.
This was something that the NSW Labor Opposition had pushed for when the Act was enacted, but which the government rejected.
High-risk events over the 2019-2020 season included Laneway, Ultra, Lost Paradise and FOMO.
While the review has cleared up the main issues that caused tension between the live sector and authorities, promoters now look even further at getting back into action in 2021.
Shadow minister for music John Graham made some recommendations to the government, like better planning systems for outdoor events, protocols for touring acts and financial aid.
“The fact that zero breaches have occurred since these regulations are proof that government and industry working together is the way to keep festivals safe,” Graham said.
“Once this government stopped its war on music, festivals have been safer. The central issue now is how to rebuild a sector devastated by the COVID crisis.”