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Bluesfest threatens to leave NSW in policy dispute

New licensing policy will “decimate our industry” says Bluesfest founder Peter Noble, following the cancellation of several NSW festivals

By Anna Grace on 11 Feb 2019

Bluesfest licensing

Peter Noble at Bluesfest HQ

image © Dane Beesley

The founder of Byron Bay Bluesfest, Peter Noble, is one of several music industry professionals to speak out against the New South Wales government over heightened licensing and security costs for music festivals.

“I am saying now, Bluesfest will leave NSW. We have no choice it’s a matter of survival. Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?” writes Bluesfest founder, Noble.

The NSW government introduced new licensing regulations for music festivals last month, following a string of suspected drug-related deaths at festivals in the state. The regulations place more responsibility on festival organisers to ensure the safety of patrons and incur many additional licensing and security costs.

The government continues to refuse to introduce drug testing at festivals in the state, despite calls from the Australian Festival Association and family and friends of the deceased.

The Byron Bay Bluesfest, set to take place from 18 to 22 April, this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, in what is tipped to be the festival’s “best year ever”.

Noble states that the event’s designation of ‘high risk’ under the new legislation signifies the revocation of the festival’s full-strength liquor license and “a myriad of other costs”, totalling “hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

Noble describes the policy as “poorly thought-out, unbalanced legislation”, and states the government has implemented new laws “without full consultation of stake holders, or meetings with entertainment industry professionals.”

“Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?”

“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,” writes Noble.

In the past week, NSW music festivals Mountain Sounds and Psyfari have cancelled their events, citing “impossible” licensing and security costs imposed by the new government policy.

Mountain Sounds, which announced the cancellation a week before the event was scheduled to take place, accuses the government of “fear-mongering, bullying and oppressing the youth”, in what it refers to as a “war on festivals”.

“We were told we would have to pay an additional upfront amount of approximately $200,000 for 45 user pay police on a 24 hour cycle. This came one week out from the festival and blindsided us as we were quoted for 11 user pay police on the 18th of January,” reads the organisers’ statement.


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