There are fears music festivals across NSW could be “wiped out”, with claims there is no scientific backing for new regulations coming into play.
Yours and Owls, Fairgrounds, Farmer and the Owl, Frontier Touring, Ticketmaster and Hockey Dad are just some of the signatories calling on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to reverse the decision.
The new changes to licencing are still being finalised despite coming into effect on March 1, though the new conditions could impose tens of thousands of dollars in extra safety measures.
Industry leaders were told by authorities at a “Q and A” meeting last week they would need to comply with the proposed requirements before they have been made into laws.
Organisers of both Yours and Owls and the Illawarra Folk Festival claim for nearly all questions asked during the meeting authorities had no response.
“They said they’d take our submission on board and ‘thank-you for the comment’ – that was their line for 3.5 hours, it was pretty pathetic,” co-founder of Yours and Owls Ben Tillman said.
The regulations would affect any festival with more than 2000 patrons, multiple music acts and which runs for more than five hours. The Illawarra Folk Festival has already signaled this may kill their 34-year-old volunteer-run event.
On Tuesday the Premier insisted the new guidelines were created in response to a series of drug-related deaths at music festivals in the state.
"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," Ms Berejiklian said.
"I don’t want anyone who’s been holding a festival for a long time to be worried, this isn’t aimed at you, this is aimed at those people at high-risk festivals that in the past haven’t done the right thing.”
Mr Tillman told the Mercury the industry’s biggest concern was no research was conducted into how the regulation would impact the industry and there was no transparency. He also noted it would be policed by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) despite some festivals not serving alcohol.
“If this goes through and all the festivals fall over in NSW that’s going to impact a national economy,” he said. “It’s going to put thousands of people out of a job, international artists are no longer going to be able to viably tour Australia because there’s no valid NSW [festival to play].”
Each festival’s perceived risk will be scaled according to a point system matrix. However according to the proposed matrix a community run event like the Illawarra Folk Festival or a Hillsong religious event would be in the same High/Extreme risk category as an electronic dance music festival targeted to 18-25-year-olds.
Mr Tillman said authorities were questioned about this at last week’s meeting, and their response was they would have the ability to change any festival’s risk rating to suit.
“It’s opening up a huge hole for corruption,” he said.
The “risk” will determine what safety measures will need to be enforced. In the case of the Illawarra Folk Festival they would be required to have a NSW Ambulance on site for the entire four days (at a cost of $550 per hour), plus two nurses and a specialist doctor. Cost was an obvious concern as was taking medical resources away from the public.
Festival organisers also voiced concern over past dealings with ILGA being very “last minute” and feared they would be told to bring in costly safety measures days out from an event, meaning they could not adequately budget for.
It comes as the award-winning Byron Bay Bluesfest threatened the NSW government in an open letter, that he would move the festival interstate if the regulations did come into effect.
"Bluesfest may well be celebrating our last festival in NSW should the sitting NSW government proceed with its plans," he wrote in the letter.
"Even though we are Australia's most highly-awarded festival both nationally and internationally, having won Best Major Event at the NSW Tourism Awards three years in a row ... and in representing NSW we came in second in the Australian Tourism Awards ... Beating Victoria's F1 Grand Prix ... we have been designated a 'high-risk event'.
"This will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with a policy where we and every other event in this state have had zero opportunity to have any consultation or input."
A public rally is being held at Hyde Park in Sydney on Thursday February 21 at 6pm with festival organisers (including Yours and Owls), artists, touring agents, promoters and music fans to be in attendance.
To sign the Don’t Kill The Music petition CLICK HERE