“A Fiasco”: NSW Music Festivals Have Slammed The Government’s “Higher Risk” Festivals List

They've described the process as "a farce".

festival cancellation gladys berejiklian

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A coalition of music festivals has slammed New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian over a newly released list of “higher risk” events, describing the policy as a “fiasco” and claiming that festival organisers were only notified of their high risk designation by late night SMS.

After months of controversy over live music regulations sparked by a number of drug-related deaths at music festivals in the state, the NSW government on Saturday released a list of 14 “higher risk” events that will be subject to tough new licencing regulations set to kick in on March 1.

According to Minister for Racing Paul Toole, the scope of the list was decided following consultation with music festival operators and other stakeholders. But the Australian Festival Association (AFA) has responded to these claims by describing the consultation process as “a farce”, one that it says “reached new heights last night when industry bodies received a copy of the Minister’s embargoed media release and the still incomplete regulations proposal after 10pm”.

“Despite numerous attempts to engage the Government on these issues, our offer to sit down and work through sensible steps to improve safety has fallen on deaf ears,” said the AFA in a press release on Saturday morning. “Instead, the Berejiklian Government has adopted a chaotic policy on the run approach to the issue of festival safety”.

“The process has lacked integrity and transparency — and there are just as many questions left unanswered by the government’s latest announcement,” the statement continued. “Organisers of festivals which have been named in the ‘high risk’ category were getting SMS messages and phone calls from late yesterday evening to let them know they were being subjected to these new regulations.”

According to the government, higher risk music festivals include those “where a serious drug related illness or death has occurred in the past three years or where the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has determined, having regard to expert advice from NSW Health and NSW Police, that there may be a significant risk of serious drug related illness or death”.

Festivals to receive a “higher risk” designation include FOMO, Defqon.1, Lost Paradise and Laneway. The AFA cited the inclusion of Laneway as particularly confusing, claiming that the festival “does not meet the government’s stated high-risk criteria”.

“It’s also not clear how new festivals will be assessed, what discretionary powers will be available and what risk assessment criteria will be applied,” said the AFA. “As it stands, any festival can be added to the high-risk category at any time.”

“If the Premier was serious about this issue, she would have sat down for proper consultation with us and talk to the experts – the festival organisers – instead of dictating regulations that will potentially drive festivals out of NSW.”

A spokesperson for the government told Junkee claims festival organisers were contacted about their risk designation via SMS are “incorrect”.

“The organisers of 14 festivals were contacted yesterday afternoon to inform them that their events were considered higher risk,” said the spokesperson. “Government officials spoke to 13 of the 14 identified festivals yesterday. One operator was sent an SMS requesting that they call Government officials after multiple attempts to call them by phone were unsuccessful.”

“The Government has been consulting with festival organisers for several months – following the Government’s public announcement regarding music festival safety in October 2018 – and has taken their feedback into account in finalising these arrangements,” they added.