The Australian Festival Association has blasted the Berejiklian government for its latest “licensing fiasco”, after 14 festival organisers received late-night text messages, informing them that their events had been classified as “high risk”.

Last night, the NSW state government revealed a list of 14 “high risk” festivals, which will have to adhere to a new licensing scheme from March 1. Laneway is one of the festivals that has been named in this category, along with Defqon.1FOMO and others.

NSW Racing Minister Peter Toole said that “high risk” festivals are those at which serious drug-related illness or death has occurred in the past three years, or those at which it has been determined there is a “significant risk” of illness or death.

In a statement this morning, the Australian Festival Association slammed the state government for failing to adequately consult with the live music industry, and for the lack of “integrity and transparency” in the way the process has been administered.

“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,” the AFA said. “Instead, the Berejiklian government has adopted a chaotic policy on the run approach to the issue of festival safety.”

“The government’s consultation process on this issue has been a farce – and it 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.”

The AFA says that important information such as risk assessment guidelines and reference documents has still not been made available to organisers, and that they were not granted the courtesy of a discussion about the new rules, or a right of reply.

Festivals can be removed from or added to the list on a seemingly discretionary basis, and there is particular confusion as to why Laneway has been categorised as high-risk, given that it “does not meet the government’s stated high-risk criteria.”

The statement concluded:

“We can’t have any confidence in a government which issues new policy announcements to the media first and by SMS – it’s an insult to the professionalism of our industry and the commitment of festival organisers to delivering high-quality and safe events which are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people each year.”

Earlier today, 9 News published a full list of the 14 festivals which have been deemed as high-risk by the Berejiklian government. These are:

  • Up Down – Newcastle Foreshore, Newcastle – March 2019
  • Defqon.1 – Sydney International Regatta Centre, Castlereagh – September 2019
  • Subsonic – Riverwood Downs, Monkerai – November 2019
  • This That – Wickham Park, Newcastle – November 2019
  • Knockout Games of Destiny – Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park – December 2019
  • Lost Paradise – Glenworth Valley – December 2019
  • FOMO – Parramatta Park, Parramatta – January 2020
  • Electric Gardens – Centennial Park – January 2020
  • HTID – Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park – January 2020
  • Rolling Loud – Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park – January 2020
  • Laneway – Callan Park, Rozelle – February 2020
  • Ultra – Parramatta Park, Parramatta – February 2020

Events found to be “high-risk” will be required to pay a $650 licensing fee, although at this stage, it’s not clear what other licensing conditions will be imposed.

UPDATE: We spoke with a promoter via the Australian Festival Organisation to ask how the changes may affect future festivals, an were told that it’s still difficult to say with any certainty, as the regulations are still in draft form and no supporting documents have been handed out.

We were told that there is a “possibility” of more festivals being forced to cancel due to stricter licensing conditions. “Without seeing a final version of the guidelines or any information around how festivals are going to be classified as high-risk, we are uncertain,” the promoter told us. “As it stands any festival can be added to the high-risk list at any time.”

Image: AAP / Julian Andrews