VETERAN Australian music promoter, and co-promoter of Laneway Festival, Michael Chugg has described NSW’s new licensing laws for music festivals as “berserk”, saying they will put smaller events out of business.
The comments come after the cancellation of the Central Coast’s Mountain Sounds festival, with organisers citing an increase in policing costs, and a public warning from Bluesfest founder Peter Noble saying he is considering withdrawing the festival from NSW due to the laws.
The laws will require all music festivals to apply for a licence, which will be reviewed by a panel of experts before being approved.
Events with “poor track records” will face greater oversight from government authorities.
On Tuesday Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the introduction of a new music festival licence in March was for the purpose of “high-risk events where we’ve seen people die or sustain serious injury” bringing up their standards.
But Mr Chugg said the new rules were tarring “all festivals with the same brush”.
“They are basically putting things like little folk festivals and community festivals into the same basket,” he said. “It’s just ridiculous. What they’re doing is over the top.”
Matt Johnston, the founder of the Hunter’s Dashville festivals, said the introduction of interim guidelines in December had already impacted his business.
This is the first year he has had to pay for a police presence at the Dashville Gum Ball, in April, despite it being classified as a “low-risk event” and “only just” exceeding the minimum requirement of 2000 ticket-holders for the guidelines to apply.
“In our instance we already had our tickets on sale, it’s just a shot in the pocket,” he said.
“Thankfully we’ve got a good track record and have had a pretty solid risk and emergency management plan from the get go, so hopefully we can continue to be considered ‘low risk’.”
While Mr Johnston said he was not “necessarily” opposed to event organisers wearing the cost of police presence, he said he did not agree with implications that festival organisers were responsible for drug overdoses and drug-related injuries.
“I see an attempt by the NSW government to reduce the cost of policing all these public events. It also feels like an ordinary attempt to combat a bigger social problem,” he said.
“Young people need to be aware and responsible for themselves. People have a choice. Life is about making choices and the best choices are informed ones.”
Organisers of upcoming Hunter festivals ‘The Drop’ and ‘Live at the Foreshore’ did not raise any concerns about the regulatory changes when contacted by the Newcastle Herald, saying the events were going ahead as planned.