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NSW government names “higher risk” music festivals

14 music festivals in NSW have received the highest risk rating under new licensing regulations, sparking fears for the future of the Australian state’s live music scene

By Anna Grace on 26 Feb 2019

NSW higher risk festivals

St Jerome's Laneway festival

image © Dan Boud

The government of New South Wales has released a list of 14 festivals that will be affected by controversial new licensing regulations, which come into force on Friday 1 March.

Music festivals including Electric Gardens, St Jerome’s Laneway festival, FOMO and Lost Paradise have received the highest risk category from the NSW government. The events are required to supply a safety management plan in order to receive a license from the independent liquor and gaming authority.

Any event that has reported a drug-related death or illness in the past three years has automatically been included on the “higher risk” list.

NSW minister for liquor, gaming and racing Paul Toole says that festivals that successfully improve their safety practices will be removed from the list.

“This does not mean that an event is not going to take place,” comments Toole, “but they [the listed events] will need to provide some clarity for the safety management plans in relation to how they’re going to be safe.”

The NSW government introduced new licensing regulations for music festivals 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.

Music industry professionals and the Australian Music Association (AFA) have expressed concerns that festivals will be forced to cancel events, or relocate outside the state, due to the extra costs levied under the regulations.

“The festival sector is saying this: they are worried that up to a third of festivals could leave New South Wales if we don’t get this right”

“The festival sector is saying this: they are worried that up to a third of festivals could leave New South Wales if we don’t get this right,” says NSW shadow minister for music and night time economy, John Graham.

Earlier this month, the founder of Byron Bay Bluesfest, Peter Noble, spoke out against the regulations that “will decimate our industry,” following Bluesfest’s listing as “high risk”. Noble threatened to move the famous festival out of the state if revisions were not made.

“Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?”,  Noble asked in an open letter.

So far, NSW festivals including Psyfari and Mountain Sounds have cancelled their events, citing “impossible” licensing and security costs imposed by the new policy. Mountain Sounds has gone into liquidation following the cancellation, after five years in operation.

Fans, musicians and festival operators gathered together in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Thursday evening for the Don’t Kill Live Music rally, to protest against the new laws.

“This is still a mess,” says shadow minister Graham. “Many of the details about how festivals will be assessed for risk are missing, many of the guidelines sitting behind these regulations are still not there, and we’re a week away from the government implementing this.”


The full list of affected festivals are below:

Days Like This – Victoria Park, Camperdown, 2019

Transmission – Sydney Showground, 2019

Up Down – Newcastle Foreshore, Newcastle, 2019

Defqon.1 – Sydney International Regatta Centre, 2019

Subsonic – Riverwood Downs, Monkerai, 2019

This That – Wickham Park, Newcastle, 2019

Knockout Games of Destiny – Sydney Showground, 2019

Lost Paradise – Glenworth Valley, 2019

FOMO – Parramatta Park, 2020

Electric Gardens – Centennial Park, 2020

HTID – Sydney Showground, 2020

Rolling Loud – Sydney Showground, 2020

St Jerome’s Laneway – Callan Park, Rozelle, 2020

Ultra – Parramatta Park, 2020


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