A protest in response to the new music festival regulations set to be introduced by the NSW government in March will be held in Hyde Park at 6pm on Thursday, February 21. An interim set of guidelines was released in December 2018.
“The state government has declared war on music and culture in NSW, proclaiming that music, and music festivals, are high-risk activities,” said the organisers of the rally on Facebook.
They say the knee-jerk regulations are overbearing, don’t take businesses into consideration, and will result in exorbitant police bills. They also say the new laws show very little recognition for the significant positive impact live music has on communities. Organisers are concerned the regulations will force live music out of the state.
The Berejiklian government announced the initiatives after a number of drug-related deaths at music festivals over the summer. The rules, which will formally come into effect in March, are intended to make the events safer. Operators will be required to apply for a liquor licence for each event; applications will then be considered by a panel that includes health, police, and liquor authorities.
“We feel that if a government is going to introduce such dramatic new changes then proper due diligence needs to be done into understanding the effects (social, economic) on industry, on jobs and on public resources (police, paramedics etc),” one of the rally's organisers, Ben Tillman, told Broadsheet.
“And, of course, most importantly, what these proposed changes will do in terms of achieving the common goal of safety and harm minimisation, as this has currently not been done."
The rally comes after Byron Bay Bluesfest founder Peter Noble wrote an open letter earlier this week decrying the restrictive new regulations.
In the letter, Noble said the new rules have prompted him to consider moving the festival from NSW (where it’s been held for the past 29 years) to another state because of the burden of the additional costs, which he estimates will come to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The new regulations might also prevent the festival from serving full-strength liquor.
Noble says Bluesfest has been deemed a “high-risk” event under the new restrictions, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian has denied this classification, telling media on Tuesday, “[Bluesfest] has been going for 29 years, it’s a fantastic festival, it’s low risk so they don’t have anything to worry about, and I want to make that clear.
“The changes that come in from March are to do with those high-risk events where we’ve seen death or serious injury, and that’s where we expect people to raise their standards.”
Bluesfest organisers disagree, saying that under the new classifications the event will accrue enough points to be deemed “high-risk”, mainly due to the number of attendees (more than 50,000) and because it is a music festival.
Organisers of Central Coast festival Mountain Sounds say they have fallen victim to the new regulations too. They cancelled this weekend’s festival, citing a $200,000 bill they received to cover the extra police presence required under the interim policy. But in a report published by the ABC, “a spokesperson for NSW Police Minister Troy Grant said the event was plagued by ‘mismanagement’ and that its logistics were ‘inadequate and incomplete’.”
Organisers of the rally want the government to form a roundtable to review the new rules impacting live music and to work with festival organisers to develop a transparent standard for policing and medical services.
“We are for a solution that is proactive in the minimisation of harm. Not in the introduction of a poorly thought through method of regulation, for the purposes of media hype, re-election campaigns and economic gain,” says Tillman.
At the moment, 3,300 people on Facebook have stated their intention to attend the rally, with another 6,500 declaring their interest. If you’re unable to attend, there’s also a petition to demand the NSW Government “stops killing live music”. So far, more than 23,000 people have signed the petition.
The Don’t Kill Live Music rally will be held in Hyde Park from 6pm on Thursday, February 21.