Splendour in the Grass 2019
Image: Ian Laidlaw

NSW Government Abandons Controversial ‘High-Risk’ Categorisation For Music Festivals

Remember back in 2019 when the NSW Government deemed 14 music festivals ‘high risk’ because of an unforeseen tightening of liquor licensing laws in the state?

There was a warranted amount of backlash from multiple industry groups when the laws were first introduced, mostly because industry figures saw it as a knee-jerk reaction to the number of drug-related deaths at festivals that year that failed to actually address the underlying issues of over-policing and health. There were also no industry figures or bodies that were consulted whilst the legislation was being put into action.

The laws meant that festivals were required to submit a request ahead of time for a liquor license, much like a pub or club has to. They were also required to submit safety management plans that had to be approved by the government before the event could go ahead.

Yesterday during the Legislative Assembly sitting in Parliament, the NSW Government settled on some amendments to that legislation.

Where the legislation previously referred to events as “high-risk”, they are now referencing them as “subject”, which according to customer service minister Victor Dominello, this change will “reflect that these festivals are subject to the requirement to have an approved safety management plan”.

These “subject” festivals will also be given an extra 30 day window to submit a safety management plan, on the proviso that enough notice is given to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

“I am so proud of the legislation because it really does futureproof our state given the way trends are moving,” Dominello said in Parliament.

“Beyond that, it is critical that we support the arts, and live music is a cornerstone of that, particularly in New South Wales.”

As per NME, a review into the controversial legislation that was conducted last year came back with no breaches over the summer festival season that year.

“Of the nine high-risk music festivals held between 21 November 2019 and 30 April 2020, seven were inspected by [Liquor and Gambling NSW] Compliance officers,” the report said.

“No breaches of the requirements under the Act were reported.”

In a post to social media, the Australian Festival Association spoke on their advocacy for changing the legislations terminology.

They said they have been “advocating for this change since 2019 due to the reputational issues associated with those festivals that were identified.”
“This continues a welcome shift towards festivals in NSW, focusing on their economic and employment contribution while balancing patron safety. We look forward to this continuing as the industry recovers.”

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