Wollongong's music and food scene has been used as a case study to help politicians overhaul regulations for the entertainment industry under new Vibrancy Reforms.
The NSW Government announced the reforms will streamline some regulatory frameworks to permanently relax rules around outdoor dining, encourage live music at restaurants, make it difficult for one angry neighbour to try and shut down a music venue over "noise", and overall boost the night-time economy.
Co-owner of La La La's Nathan Stratton welcomed the reforms, especially in light of past struggles for his venue to be allowed al fresco areas.
"[The COVID-19 pandemic] showed us that we can actually throw the rule books away and make things happen," Mr Stratton told the Mercury.
"The turnaround leading up to COVID, trying to get approval to have a couple of tables outside, was ridiculous. Essentially we never got it, but it was COVID that saw it rolled out for everybody."
The government has announced changes to six key areas: sensible sound management; vibrant, coordinated precincts; activated outdoors, making it easier for outdoor dining; licensing; improving the night-time sector for workers; and, empowering the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner to deliver a sustainable, thriving night-time economy across the state - including Shellharbour and Kiama.
We especially need to change the rules for sound and noise complaints that allow a single neighbour to make serial complaints to close a long running venue they have just moved in next to.- MP John Graham
Mr Stratton said at present the information was a bit "vague" and would like to see more clarity for businesses around the new reforms, such as whether to allow people to stand in an al fresco setting which is currently not allowed for his venue.
Member for Wollongong and Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully said Wollongong City Council has been proactive in fostering the night-time economy, with the city used as a case study for "pointers".
Mr Scully believed the "standout" opportunity now for Wollongong would be making outdoor dining "permanent and easy" for businesses. He said some reforms could come into effect by New Year's Eve (depending on when they pass through state parliament) while others would be early next year.
"Ultimately it's about bringing vibrancy back to town centers, whether that be Wagga Wagga or Wollongong or somewhere else like Western Sydney," Mr Scully said.
Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy John Graham said he hoped the law changes would see people heading out for a late-night meal after a show or dancing in the streets at a festival.
"We need to change the rules in the planning and liquor laws to save the music and cultural venues we have, and to build more," he said.
"We need to change the rules around outdoor and street activation so that music, culture and entertainment can spill outdoors.
"We especially need to change the rules for sound and noise complaints that allow a single neighbour to make serial complaints to close a long-running venue they have just moved in next to."
1. Sensible venue sound management
A single noise complainant will no longer be able to shut down a venue.
Liquor and Gaming NSW becomes the lead regulator of formal entertainment sound-related complaints for licensed premises, removing complex and highly subjective noise tests.
2. Vibrant, coordinated precincts
The success of the Enmore Road Special Entertainment Precint, now rated one of the best going out districts in the world, will be expanded to other areas via a new framework for councils that makes it easier for them to deliver vibrant, safe going-out destinations supported by adequate and reliable transport and good lighting.
3. An activated outdoors
The reforms will permanently relax the rules for outdoor dining allowing venues to make the most of their outdoor space with a quicker, light-touch application process.
Councils will also be supported to ease the way for creatives and community groups to stage pop-up events and festivals, including street closures and global pre-approvals for event sites.
4. Empowering the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner to deliver a sustainable, thriving night-time economy
NSW is the first jurisdiction in the world to appoint a 24-Hour Economy Commissioner, and the role will now be made a statutory appointment with an expanded remit beyond Greater Sydney, to include Newcastle, Wollongong and the Central Coast to make this a permanent priority for the government.
The statutory appoinment solidifies the night-time economy's standing within government and allows the Commissioner to work across government to ensure these reforms benefit a range of industries across the sector.
The Commisioner will continue to be responsible for ensuring that as these reforms are implemented, fun doesn't come at the expense of a safe night out.
A common-sense approach to risk will be adopted in relation to liquor regulation, removing outdated rules, and beginning work to streamline planning and licensing processes.
More efficient consultation will make it easier for venues to open and diversify, and for communities to have their say, plus meaningful incentives for venues to feature live music and performances will drive new employment opportunities for creatives and entertainment options for audiences.
6. Improving the night-time sector for workers
The amenity of the city shouldn't be reduced because of the hours people work. The 24-Hour Economy Commissioner will develop a plan to make our state a better place to work for those who don't work 9 to 5.
Existing legislation will be amended to support the NSW Government's Vibrancy Reforms, including the Liquor Act 2007, the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, the Local Government Act 1993, and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
A new Bill will be introduced for the statutory appointment of the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner.
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