Inquiry into NSW festival licensing regime likely as Defqon.1 quits Australia

The NSW Government’s controversial new festival licensing regime is set to be the subject of a state inquiry after a push by Labor and strong industry concerns.

Following a string of drug related deaths at music festivals last year, the NSW Government announced a new checklist of requirements would have to be met for 14 ‘high risk’ music festivals if they were to go ahead.

The announcement was met by growing alarm from the music festival industry that felt the new regulations were a knee-jerk response to media headlines and rushed through without consultation.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Music John Graham said the new regulations could lead to a third of festivals leaving NSW and maintains he has the numbers in the NSW Upper House to pass a motion to hold an inquiry into the licensing scheme.

“It will drive a discussion between the music festival industry and the government ministers who are responsible in New South Wales,” he told the ABC.

“Unbelievably, that just has simply not happened…. Up until now, despite how important those issues are, the ministers and the industry have not sat down to sort this through.”

Defqon.1 dance festival has cancelled this year’s event after failing to secure a venue.

Graham said he’ll move a motion in the NSW Upper House to strike out the licensing scheme altogether following the inquiry.

“I now believe there’s support for both an inquiry and also support for striking out those regulations,” he said.

The NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, whose portfolio includes music festivals, said in a statement that the government “wants music festivals to thrive”.

“But serious drug related illnesses and deaths have demonstrated that we need to help make a small number of festivals safer,” he said.

The latest festival to call time after the new regulations were announced is the much maligned Defqon.1 dance festival, which has just announced it is “postponed indefinitely”.

Two people died of drug related causes at the 2018 iteration of the dance music event, promting NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare she “will do everything we can to shut this down”.

“[I] never want to see this event held in Sydney or New South Wales ever again,” she said at the time.

News of the closure was posted on Facebook.

“Unfortunately the Sydney International Regatta Centre and its affiliates have withdrawn their support for the event. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to secure a suitable replacement venue for the event to take place this September,” the post read.