Sydney events funding under scrutiny after Destination NSW contracts released

The NSW opposition has called for an independent review of funding for arts and cultural events following a report by The Sydney Morning Herald that Destination NSW received free tickets and corporate hospitality to major Sydney arts and cultural events as part of its contracts with event organisers.

The Sydney Festival, Sydney Opera House The Art Gallery of NSW were among the event organisers obliged to provide tickets and corporate hospitality, according to the report.

Walt Secord, Labor’s treasury and arts spokesman, said: “[T]axpayers’ dollars have to be targeted at events that are well attended, enhance our cultural landscape and support jobs in the tourist and arts sectors.”

The details of the contracts between Destination NSW and event organisers were released after a four-year battle with the agency who wanted to keep information related to spending on major events such as Vivid, the Sydney Festival, musicals and art exhibitions confidential.

Destination NSW said it follows “a rigorous event assessment process” when making event investment decisions which considers the ability of the event to drive international, interstate and intrastate visitation and the dollar return on investment.

As part of some agreements with event organisers, Destination NSW does receive tickets that are valued at the figures provided by the event organiser, which may be given out by as part of the organiser’s own marketing and promotional campaigns.

The NSW government recently announced a $35 million cut to DNSW’s annual budget from $176 million to $141 million.

But Destination NSW has defended its overall performance in attracting visitors, describing it as “immensely successful”.

Destination NSW invested just over $37 million to secure, incubate or retain the 18 events referenced [in the SMH report], which delivered around $280 million in visitor spend, equating to a $7.50 return to the NSW economy for every dollar spent.

*An earlier version of this article stated Destination NSW is facing referral to the Ombudsman over its ticketing policy which is not correct.