NSW ‘war on festivals’ goes nuclear as Bluesfest threatens to move interstate

The NSW Government’s recent festival legislation is looking decidedly rushed as a string of high profile music festivals have either cancelled this year’s event or threatened to move interstate.

The latest broadside at the government’s knee jerk response to a string of drug related deaths at music festivals has been fired by Bluesfest’s Festival director Peter Noble, who has warned this year would be likely the last he held the festival in the State.

In a letter to the NSW government Peter Noble said his event is now likely classified as “high risk” and disqualified him from being able to sell full strength beer or alcohol.

Peter Noble is threatening to take Bluesfest interstate after new regulations.

“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 into a policy where we will need to spend significantly more money to put on the event this year with zero notice,” he said.

“Our 30-year-old professional business is to be seriously damaged in a new policy imposed regarding festival presentation by a government who has rushed the judgment of our industry without full consultation of stake holders, or meetings with entertainment industry professionals.

“I charge the Government with a systemic failure in fairness here, and implore all politicians from all parties to quickly become involved with what is a serious injustice.”

Leaked documents have shown that music festivals in NSW will be subject to tough, costly new legislation that are set to be introduced on March 1.

Music festival organisers in the State will be hit with a “user pay” bill for mandatory police, medical and ambulance presence at their events. “Unless the festival agrees to the police bill, they will be denied their festival license,” one leaked slide read.

The new changes will see festival organisers now defined by a “risk matrix”, which categorises different festivals and exposes them to different types of mandatory charges for services deemed necessary to the new licenses, which could cost festival organisers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Organisers will have to apply for the license no less than 90 days out from the event. The license can be cancelled at any point.

The new regulations will force festival organisers to provide “extensive detail on all operation components of their festival including security and harm minimisation”.

To fund the new regulations, an additional fee was proposed to cover the administration costs of somewhere between 60 cents and 2 dollars per ticket sold. Any music event with a capacity over 2000 people with multiple music acts, occurring over a five-hour period will be subject to the new laws.

However, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has today claimed Bluesfest would be unaffected.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on the backfoot after announcing new music festival regulations.

“Our changes from March are for the high risk events where we’ve seen death or serious injury,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“That festival has been going for 29 years, it’s a fantastic festival, it’s low risk so they don’t have anything to worry about … I don’t want anyone who’s holding a festival for a long time to be worried, this is not aimed at you.”

Noble said that he was still considering moving the event to Queensland or Victoria.

“Both the states of Queensland and Victoria do not have these guidelines or anything even approaching them,” he said. “In fact, they invest in music and the live arts. NSW needs to come an awful way along to start doing the same thing to the levels of the states surrounding them are doing. They’re falling behind, and yet they’re patting themselves on the back at the same time.”