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Music Festivals Must Now Follow a Strict New Licensing Regime to Operate in NSW

It's the NSW Government's latest plan to make them safer.
By Libby Curran
January 25, 2019
By Libby Curran
January 25, 2019

As advocates across the country continue to campaign for the introduction of pill testing, the staunchly opposed NSW Government has stuck firm and is about to introduce an alternative: tough new licensing regulations for local music festivals.

The new music festival liquor licence, which comes into effect from Friday March 1, follows advice from the government's expert panel on music festival safety, which was assembled in September after two young people died of suspected drug overdoses at Defqon 1.

Among a stack of recommendations outlined in their Keeping People Safe At Music Festivals report, the panelists advised changing the way the state's music festival liquor licence applications are assessed, and NSW's lawmakers have jumped on board.

It means that soon, organisers of music festivals will need to apply for a special standalone liquor licence for every event they hold. Each licence is subject to careful consideration based on the festival's perceived 'risk profile' and will need to get the thumbs up from a team of experts representing the likes of NSW Health, Liquor and Gaming NSW and the NSW Police Force.

Risk factors to be scrutinised include things like the event's target age group, anticipated weather conditions, duration and finish time, proximity to a health facility, and any major issues flagged with the event's organisers or landholder in the three years prior.

While details of the new system are being finalised, the government has offered a set of guidelines to be used by organisers in the interim. These include things like the inclusion of dedicated 'chill out zones' on site, with low noise, low light and access to free water and basic health supplies.

"Festival organisers need to ensure their events have safety management plans in place," a spokesperson for NSW's Minister for Racing Paul Toole told Concrete Playground. "Most operators have been cooperative with the new interim arrangements and have done a great job working with each Government agency to meet each condition. Already we are seeing more chill-out-zones, more paramedics and police in attendance, and more water stations being readily available."

While NSW's Liberal Government is opposed to pill testing, Opposition Leader Michael Daley has said he will explore the option, and pledges to hold a "drug summit", if elected in March. Many medical groups, including the Australian Medical Association and NSW Nurses & Midwives, and politicians have recently come out in support of pill testing.

Standalone music festival licences will be manditory for all NSW music festivals from March 1. For more information about the licence and guidelines for the interim, head to the Liquor & Gaming NSW website.

Images: Bec Taylor.

Published on January 25, 2019 by Libby Curran

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