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NSW Government ‘reviewing’ noxious Music Festival Guidelines

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By Julius Grafton.

After widespread industry uproar peaked on Monday with Bluesfest director Peter Noble’s threat that Bluesfest would relocate after this year, the NSW Government has pulled the ‘Interim Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction’ document offline ‘for review’.

Hastily created by several bureaucrats in the NSW Health Department, the ‘Guidelines’ were devised to ‘assist festival promoters’ ahead of new regulations that come into effect in March – the same month the NSW Government faces a tight election contest. The new regulations promise to make music festivals ‘safer’, following the tragic drug deaths of six people over the summer festival season.

After two people died attending Defqon.1, the NSW Premier declared she would not allow that festival to run again, and the process started with the ‘Interim Guidelines’. Within this 40 page document is a matrix of risk that bureaucrats would use to rate an event. It was structured as to make ANY musical event, indoors or outdoors, for 2,000 people un-affordable.

One can only imagine the call from NSW Health to the Premier’s Department. ‘Hello! We’ve done it! This document is insanely great! Except it was greatly insane, and its pulldown today could result in reductions of risk profiling; or better still a complete overhaul of whatever horrors await the industry when the actual regulations kick in.

Here is the matrix (apologies, these are screen shots and there are four of them):

Notice how the the big numbers are arranged?

The Location and Density ‘inside – Dense Crowd’ is any concert, anywhere.

So hows about Illicit Drugs, then? I rate that as ‘possible’ for many mundane events.

Finally, the money shot. The Ratings are numbered up to capture almost any event into the ‘High Risk’ category, and that had folk festival promoters such as the Illawarra Folk Festival saying their event, run by volunteers for many years, was now impossible to stage.

Aside from the ham-fisted ‘please the Premier’ haste leading to this idiotic document, the NSW Police have already leapt into action by ramping up the invisible ‘user pays’ system to declare that dramatically more Police are required at all outdoor events. Much controversy surrounded the cancellation of the Mountain Sounds festival on the Central Coast, but evidence says the Policing cost rise into six figures was the final straw.

The insecurity around all forthcoming music events in NSW is terrifying, we don’t see how any promoter will be sleeping well considering that artist contracts get signed and deposited very early and before announcements – and then the NSW Government applies variable criteria to strangle any event it thinks might be ‘unsafe’.

Business needs certainty. Promoters are generally music enthusiasts who risk their family money to bring on an event. The NSW Premier used words like ‘Greedy’ and ‘Fast bucks’ earlier this week. It is plain to me that the NSW Liberal Party think getting tough on music festivals is a vote winner. Let’s prove them wrong.

The damage is done. Bring on the election. Do not vote for the NSW Liberal Party in March.

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