Councils and industry frustrated by lack of consultation on laws to make music festivals safer

NSW won’t achieve sensible regulation that keeps the music playing and festivalgoers safe unless the government works with councils, organisers and the music industry, the local government sector said today.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott was speaking after regulations surrounding festivals – thrown out by the Upper House with a recommendation the government consult with councils and industry – were re-introduced to Parliament virtually unchanged.

Cr Scott said it was disappointing that no real progress had been made, despite the rapidly approaching summer festival season, and that councils had not been given any meaningful opportunities to bring input into the redevelopment of proposed regulations.

“The new regulations were introduced with the best of intentions following a series of drug-related deaths at festival – and make no mistake, LGNSW and councils across the state fully back any efforts to protect festivalgoers and keep music festivals safe,” she said.

“But the first round of changes created a labyrinth of complexity for councils and organisers and were so onerous they threatened the future of local events altogether.

“An Upper House committee last month recommended government, councils and industry get together to create more effective rules, and LGNSW and industry were keen to work in partnership with the state government to come up with meaningful solutions.

“Unfortunately that consultation process appears to have been bypassed in the rush to a quick fix.”

Cr Scott said music festivals attracted up to six million people and injected an estimated $335 million into local communities annually.

But the industry was threatening to move events interstate because of the flow on effects of regulations that made organising events a logistical nightmare.

“Organisers have been telling our councils the regulations made it too difficult to run festivals in their areas,” she said.

“For example, Bluesfest Byron Bay organisers said implementation of the new policies would decimate the industry and they would leave the State if the laws were enacted.

“One council lost an electronic music festival to Queensland, while another told festival organisers they were no longer allowing events in their area due to the new rules.”

The Upper House rejected the laws following recommendations from a Legislative Council Regulation Committee report last month and recommended consultation in drafting new regulations.

But Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello reintroduced a new Music Festivals Bill 2019 virtually unchanged and with no consultation.

“I cannot understand why the government has not taken the time to sit down with industry representatives and LGNSW since our goal is the same – sensible regulations that guide councils and organisers for safe and sustainable festival events,” she said.

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