“We owe it to young people” – NSW festivals face tougher regulations over safety concerns
There’ll be a new ‘music festival’ licence with Safety Management Plans tailored to the festival’s risk.
To make them safer, they’ll have to work closely with NSW Health to get approval, with a guide to be developed for health services and harm reduction services at music festivals
These are some of a number of recommendations offered in a report by the three-person experts panel appointed by premier Gladys Berejiklian after two deaths at last month’s Defqon.1 festival, where 700 of the 30,000 patrons needed medical attention.
The panel was made up of:
Mick Fuller APM, commissioner – NSW Police Force
Dr Kerry Chant, chief health officer – NSW Ministry of Health
Philip Crawford, chair – Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority
It acknowledged that festivals already have safety measures in place under different authorities.
At the core is the development approval, which can only be granted if a liquor license has been granted.
The problem, the panel says, is “There is no common mechanism to facilitate consideration and planning around drug risk management.
“Operational arrangements to mitigate drug risk are often addressed within other event plans, such as medical and security plans.”
The report makes the point:
“Currently, there is no regulatory requirement for event organisers to work with NSW Health.
“However, NSW Health has directly approached organisers planning to hold events on land managed by the Office of Environment and Heritage. NSW Health encourages these event-organisers to deliver harm reduction messages to attendees.”
The report also recommended:
- Strengthening drug and alcohol education, and providing more support for frontline health workers at music festivals.
- Strengthening laws to target drug suppliers by introducing a new offence that will hold drug dealers responsible for deaths they cause, and trialling on-the-spot fines for drug possession at music festivals.
Unfortunately, there is nothing about pill-testing facilities, and drug advocates have already pointed out that the government’s new initiatives will do little to stop deaths.
The NSW government has approved the panel’s recommendations.
The ministers whose portfolios cover the recommendations have already issued statements of consent.
Premier Berejiklian has confirmed that new laws will be created which make drug dealers held responsible for any deaths they cause.
It will also trial on-the-spot fines for people who are caught in possession of illegal drugs at music festivals, rather than issuing a court attendance notice.
“Music festivals are a significant part of NSW’s entertainment scene, and an important part of our economy – but we owe it to young people, and their parents and families, to make sure they are safe,” Berejiklian said.
“The new licensing regime we are introducing, combined with better regulatory coordination, will ensure that events with a poor track record and heightened risk will face greater oversight from the authorities.”
See the full report from the panel here.