Return To Rio | Credit: Supplied

Another NSW Festival Collapses, Citing A 529% Increase in Costs

2024 has claimed another music festival, with Return To Rio – an annual boutique dance music event running in the NSW Hawkesbury River suburb of Wiseman’s Ferry since 2013 – announcing it will no longer be going ahead this year due to skyrocketing costs.

Organisers are blaming the NSW Government, arguing that, since the 2019 introduction of the Festivals Act in NSW (commonly referred to as the Berejiklian regime’s war on music festivals) their operational costs have skyrocketed a mind-boggling 529% due to red tape surrounding mandatory police and medical requirements.

“Last year it was decided that our police and medical costs should increase by a whopping 529%”

Organisers of the family-run festival announced on social media earlier this week. Their full statement reads:

“After a lot of thought, and with very heavy hearts we’re sad to announce Return to Rio 2024 won’t be going ahead.

Since the introduction of the NSW Festival Act in 2019, almost every electronic music festival in NSW has been deemed ‘subject’ (or ‘high risk’). This means that NSW Police and Health have full control over how much a festival pays for policing and medical, as well as any other extra costs they deem necessary for harm minimisation (e.g. riot squads, police boats, interrogation areas, strip search facilities, CCTV…the list goes on). 

Return to Rio has an excellent record as a safe and well-run festival and has operated successfully for over a decade without any major incidents. But last year it was decided that our police and medical costs should increase by a whopping 529%. This, combined with the extra rules and regulations we have to adhere to, meant last year we incurred more than $300K in extra costs. For a small family-run business, this makes it almost impossible not to run at a loss. 

NSW Police is charging what’s reported as twelve times more than in VIC. And just to cover all these exorbitant extra costs we’d have to add at least $100 per ticket. With so many people struggling financially right now, passing these crazy-high fees onto you is not something we’re prepared to do.  

The sad reality is that in NSW electronic music is unfairly targeted. And if this continues, we’ll only be left with beige government-run events and commercial mega-corp festivals, while the smaller diverse and boutique events die out. 

The community, connection, and sense of belonging people report after attending a festival is more important now than ever. And we believe we all have the right to enjoy festivals as the rest of the world manages to do safely without this heavy-handedness. But sadly, it’s becoming impossible to keep doing what we do here in NSW. So, we’re stepping out of the game this year, in the hope that this madness stops, and common sense prevails. 

Return to Rio, since its humble beginnings in 2013, has prided itself on being Australia’s most fun and colourful fancy dress festival, soundtracked by local and international music talent including the likes of Carl Cox, The Martinez Brothers, De La Soul, Greg Wilson… Lee Burridge, Sneaky Sound System, Simon Caldwell, Late Nite Tuff Guy and more. 

We hope to be back bigger and better in 2025.” 

The collapse of Return To Rio follows the recent cancellation of major Australian festivals Splendour In The Grass and Groovin The Moo.

Further Reading

Submissions To NSW Inquiry Show Literally Everyone Thinks The Government’s Music Festival Rules Are Cooked, Except The Government

Here’s Why Splendour In The Grass 2024 Was Cancelled

Groovin The Moo 2024 Cancelled

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