A new report which reviews the restrictions placed on music festivals by the NSW government shows little minimization in the number of serious drug-related presentations at music festivals, questioning the efficacy of the new laws.
To give you some background, following a series of drug-related deaths at music festivals in the summer of 2018 to 2019 the NSW Berejiklian government implemented a series of costly regulations such as increased licencing and policing causing many festivals to cancel their events for good. This included the cancellation of Mountain Sounds and Psyfari festivals which caused an uproar in the music festival community with many calling it Glady’s “war on festivals”.
In November 2019 the NSW government introduced the Music Festivals Act 2019 which was “introduced to ensure additional oversight of high-risk festivals, and provide support to these festivals, to achieve the shared aim of safer events in NSW,” according to this new report that has been released.
The Music Festivals Act 2019 required “high risk” festivals to prepare a Safety Management Plan (SMP) to be approved before the event takes place, complete an incident register, and hold briefings for health service providers. In the Safety Management Plan festivals are required to implement harm reduction areas, safety zones, and other measures to ensure harm minimization for patrons at festivals.
So after uprooting the music festival community in NSW by rushing into place new rules and making it almost impossible to hold a festival with the increased costs, regulations, and requirements, the government has concluded that their regulations weren’t all that effective in minimizing the number of drug-related incidences…wasn’t that the whole point? I can see many in the music community seething in their seats right now.
The information in the report was found by the NSW Ministry of Health gathered from nine “high risk” festivals that took place between November 2019 and April 2020 with three being cancelled by the bushfires or the Coronavirus pandemic. The report does stress that there were limited festivals during this time due to the pandemic therefore, “the review found it was too early to draw any definitive conclusions”.
Despite the limited number of festivals the information still shows that the number of serious drug-related presentations either remained the same or lessened. It’s clear that the new regulations and requirements haven’t made a considerable difference to incidences involving drugs.
It’s unclear whether this report will make any difference to the music festival landscape in NSW as the information is compelling but somewhat unreliable due to the pandemic that has wiped out many festivals this year.
“Continuing to gather data over a longer time…would provide more robust evidence in relation to the effectiveness of SMPs,” reads the report.
The report doesn’t change the common feeling in the music community that these new regulations and requirements are both damaging to music festivals and the future of live events in the state. Following the announcement of the new laws and regulations in NSW, many festivals and musicians spoke out about the decision highlighting the adverse effects it would have on the industry.
“I am saying now, Bluesfest will leave NSW. We have no choice; it’s a matter of survival. Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?” said Bluesfest Byron Bay Festival Director Peter Noble.
Here’s what Aussie legends Peking Duk had to say,
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Dear Australia, It breaks our heart to say the NSW Government has well and truly crossed the line. Now it’s truly personal, they’ve decided to bin something extremely special to us. Something loved dearly by almost every person on the entire Central Coast of NSW and abroad. By introducing a $200,000 “police and safety” fee, an extortionate 1250% increase in which last year was only $16,000 just ONE WEEK out from the festival doors open, NSW Gov. has decided to kill @mountainsoundsfestival . 😪 @gladysb says she wants festivals to continue and to grow, how exactly do they grow with a $184,000 increase in police costs? Forcing festivals to pay these costs even though out of 15,000 attendees last year there were only 49 drug detections. 49. There were no drug deaths, no drug violcence, nothing to justify an increase in police costs. If you don’t care for enjoyment of people at least appreciate the economic impact of this. Hundreds of festivals workers livelihoods are gone now, from the people behind the scenes setting it up, artists and punters who had booked flights, accommodation etc all the way to the faces you see at Nan’s taco shack and dad’s hat stall. Gladys get your head out of the sand, your policies and viewpoints need a reality check. We don’t force roads to close because of road fatalities, we don’t ban alcohol due to (much higher) deaths from alcohol, we don’t shut down casino’s because of the trauma and grief they cause to the addicted. So why are you targeting music festivals like this? Why are you targeting the events that give so much back to the community? If music, creativity, culture, economy and enjoyment of life itself is important to you, then please on March 23rd DO NOT vote Liberal. They started with killing our venues and now they are setting fire to our festivals. When there’s no music left it’ll be too late to say something. Vote. Gladys & Liberal. Out.
AFA board member and Fuzzy Events Managing Director Adelle Robinson also claimed that the regulations were “too rushed and without enough consultation or consideration given to the impacts on the industry as a whole or the operational capacity each government branch has to implement these changes.”
The report is good news though for those in the community that can finally say “I told you so” to Gladys and her “war on festivals”, however it still highlights uncertainties in the industry. Hopefully one day the government will work more closely with music festivals to produce a more informed and inclusive solution to drug-related incidences at festivals.
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