Music

“Preposterous”: Laneway Organisers Hit Back At Being Labelled A “High Risk” Event

"If Laneway can be categorised as high risk, then there is a risk that all contemporary music festivals could be categorised in the same way," event organisers explained in a statement.

Laneway Gladys Berejiklian

The Gladys Berejiklian-led NSW government has spent the last month mired in a string of controversies, all while trying — with varying degrees of success — to appease the music festivals that they want to appease, and demonise the ones that they don’t.

The issue the government has struggled with is exactly how — in relation to their new festival risk assessment guidelines — to differentiate between events like Bluesfest, which cater to an older, richer audience, and festivals designed specifically for a younger market, like Laneway and Defqon.

After all, most metrics used to classify an electronic rave in the bush as extremely risky would lump older-skewing festivals like Bluesfest and Meredith Folk Festival into the same category. Berejiklian discovered this herself during a public back-and-forth with Bluesfest director Peter Noble, one that demonstrated she had limited understanding of the self-assessment matrix her own government distributed.

In the end, Berejiklian and her government simply decided themselves which festivals were high risk, abandoning the matrix and refusing to let affected festivals into the process that categorised them as so. Now, two festivals, one deemed high risk and one abruptly given a low risk status, have hit back at the government’s measures.

The organisers of Laneway, one of the 14 festivals deemed high risk, released a statement that emphasised the risk the new measures pose to the festival.

“It’s preposterous that Laneway is categorised as high risk,” founder Danny Rogers wrote in a statement to media today. “We are regularly praised for expert operations by the local police, health departments and councillors and attending media. This [high risk] classification — which was assigned without reference to any assessment guidelines — means that the festival will be subject to as yet unknown regulation by the Department of Liquor and Gaming,” the statement reads.

“It has the potential to cause untold brand and reputational damage and the festival is considering its legal position in relation to this.”

Rogers sees the move as indicative of the future of the NSW Government’s attitude towards festivals, and warns that even those currently categorised as low risk could suffer the same fate.

“If Laneway can be categorised as high risk without any reference to the Government’s own poorly-defined criteria, then there is a risk that all contemporary music festivals could be categorised in the same way,” Rogers explains.

In a separate statement, the organisers of Farmer & The Owl festival, which has been deemed low risk, have similarly slammed the government’s measures.

According to their statement, a mere three weeks out from the event, the government contacted organisers to tell them their “current license approval is no longer valid.”

Then, the organisers were told that Farmer & The Owl was a high risk event, but were not given any explanation as to why, or heads up concerning how their event might be impacted.

Then, “one week out” from the event, the organisers received an email, late on a Friday night. According to the email, Farmer & The Owl was no longer high risk — but again, the organisers were given no explanation as to why the decision had been made.

Ultimately, the two statements give an insight into how the Berejiklian government has handled their war on festivals — which is to say messily, and with barely any input from festivals, punters, or even the majority of experts.