NSW PREMIERE SET TO RUIN CULTURE IN REGIONAL NSW
It is not just the major festivals of NSW that will bear the impact of this legislation, Premier Berejiklian is handing a blank cheque for bureaucrats in Sydney to decide what happens for much loved local festivals like the Deniliquin Ute Muster, Strawberry Fields and really any gathering with more than 2,000 people and music playing for more than five hours. The Premier is limiting regional Australia’s access to music, culture and employment opportunities.
This new legislation totally disregards the already rigorous planning processes of local councils, and the critical input of local residents, local Police, local Ambulance and local RFS in those processes.
We believe the voice of the local community is the most important in deciding what events happen locally and on what terms.
This legislation has been rushed through on the premise of patron safety, but the requirements are far less sophisticated than what festivals are already doing or what local councils and emergency services require. Shouldn’t we also be waiting to hear the expert opinion of the yearlong coronial inquest into safety at festivals due in early November?
From what we have seen so far, this bill is more likely to threaten regional events than save a single life. This means millions of dollars of drought proof income leaving these communities, in the middle of the worst drought in living memory.
After seeing multiple regional events like Mountain Sounds and Blue Mountains Music Festival cancelled earlier this year due to NSW regulations, we are deeply concerned.
Strawberry Fields Festival is a major financial contributor to the local economy, with modelling conducted identified that in 2017 the festival contributed:
. Total output of $1.3 million in Berrigan Shire and $2.6 million in the Greater Boarder region;
. Estimated total income (wages and salaries) of $329,500 in Berrigan Shire and $637,600 in the Greater Boarder region;
. Approximately 7.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) employment positions in Berrigan Shire and 13.6 FTEs in the Greater Boarder region; and
. An estimated contribution to GRP of $632,200 in Berrigan Shire and $1.3 million in the Greater Boarder region. The total value-added impact of Strawberry Fields 2017 represents approximately 0.2% of the total GRP for Berrigan Shire ($346.7 million in 2016/17).
In 2018 the capacity of the event grew by 1500. As a result the direct local expenditure by event organisers was $310,900 in the Berrigan Shire (increase of, and a further $209,200 in the Great Boarder region.
Strawberry Fields also funds a Community Grants scheme which donates ~$50,000 annually to local causes. Under this scheme we sponsored a free drought relief concert in May 2019 in partnership with the Berrigan Shire called “Blues on the River”. This event was not just a fantastic free day out with some blues bands but also connected farmers and drought affected families to crucial support services. We also raised $3,000 for MHA Foodshare – a program which delivers groceries to drought affected families.
The remainder of the community grant fund was distributed in grants to local applicants. The 2019 grant winners and their causes can be viewed here: https://www.strawberry-fields.com.au/grants
CALL TO ACTION
Since the NSW Government introduced new festival laws a year ago our industry have been calling for a permanent roundtable to be setup with the government.
They refused to sit down and consult with us when they wrote the laws that are before Parliament this week. Call or email your local MP and tell them to legislate a Music Festival Roundtable.
You can find your MP here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members/pages/electorates.aspx
Summary of Issues:
– Legislation has been rushed through without ANY consultation with the festival industry (a $1BN industry) and shows zero understanding of the way festivals operate today and how sophisticated the industry really is in planning.
– Total duplication of planning processes at taxpayer cost – hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds will be spent administering this scheme, which is a haphazard duplication of the already robust and lengthy Development Application process events already have to complete with their local Councils, local residents, and local emergency services
– Disregards efforts, processes and opinions of local community – ignores all of the planning/consultation effort of local Councils, local emergency services in planning and moves ultimate decision making power to bureaucrats in Sydney who have no understanding of the local context.
– Total lack of oversight, appeals pathways, or clearly timed deliverables within the planning process – events which already have planning permits in place and local stakeholders on side can now be told weeks or days out from event that they have new conditions or must apply for new plans. Creates huge uncertainty for events which normally start planning and budgeting 12 months in advance.
– Does not improve patron safety in any way. The “Safety Management Plan” required by the legislation pales in comparison to what festivals already have in place – our planning for Strawberry Field which is very small compared to the likes of Splendour in the Grass has over 15 operational safety plans incorporating hundreds of pages of planning and months of consultation with local emergency stakeholders.
– Poorly defined terms give huge scope of power to Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) to decide operating terms for events. At Strawberry Fields we do not even sell alcohol – is ILGA really the correct body to oversee us?
– Has not incorporated the report of the NSW Coroner to be delivered in November. Taxpayers have funded this independent investigation for months, incorporating health experts, policy experts, emergency services, the families and friends of those who have passed away, the festival promoters themselves, with the fundamental goal of coming up with measures to improve safety and an idea of what might have gone wrong. Why is this legislation being rushed through before those findings have been delivered?
– 2020 could be the last year for much loved festivals in NSW and the major income they bring to regional communities. Please see exclusive report in Sydney Morning Herald today > https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/splendour-in-the-grass-falls-festival-threaten-to-leave-nsw-over-lack-of-government-consultation-20191021-p532rc.html
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