Operators of the Illawarra Folk Festival fear new regulations for music festivals may threaten the viability of their volunteer-run event.
Folk Club president Russell Hannah and committee member Rod Cork last week attended a meeting with other festival organisers and representatives from different government agencies. The pair also met privately with NSW Liquor and Gaming (who is responsible for enforcing the new regulation).
Mr Cork told the Illawarra Mercury authorities refused to divulge the wording of the new regulation which would come into force across the state on March 1, though acknowledged they “explained how it would work”.
He claimed there was no consultation with a broader group of festival organisers before the decision to enforce the new regulation was made, only with one promoter Fuzzy who presents dance music events aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds.
“Depending on how our festivals are assessed, we may be forced to pay big money for a significant police and ambulance presence and hire a lot of extra equipment, which would make them financially nonviable,” Mr Cork said.
The new rules mean organisers would have to conduct a risk assessment – similar to that already done with local councils – to determine the safety measures needed.
Despite being told by authorities the folk festival would be classed as “low risk”, Mr Cork said the assessment would classify them as High or Extreme due to the number of patrons, the length of the festival and that they offered camping.
“You can’t rely on verbal assurances, but it also calls into question the whole ... process,” he said.
At the weekend organisers of the Mountain Sounds Festival on the Central Coast cancelled their event scheduled for next weekend, blaming what they called “the government’s war on festivals” that was creating “excessive costs, additional licensing conditions and the enforcement of a stricter timeline”.
It is the second NSW music festival to be cancelled in the past week, after the Psyfari music festival canned its September event amid the publicity surrounding festival drug use and deaths.
The Mercury put a number of questions to NSW Liquor and Gaming regarding Mr Cork’s concerns.
In response, a government spokeswoman said community safety was their highest priority and noted the new licencing regime was to address safety, not just drugs.
“There is an expectation from attendees, their families and their friends that events are managed safely,” she said.
“The implementation of the recommendations involves a new music festival licensing regime which will impose license conditions on music festival organisers that are consistent with a festival’s risk levels, including consideration of the organiser’s track record.”