Mass Exodus: Byron Bay Bluesfest Threatens To Move To Queensland

Peter Noble, the director of Byron Bay Bluesfest, has issued an open letter threatening to relocate the 30-year-old event to Queensland if new licensing and safety regulations are rolled out.

Mr Noble said he has not been told how the new NSW festival liquor licensing regulations, which will come into effect from March 1, will impact his event.

The new regulations were announced just weeks ago, and vital information including the events that will require licences as well as the criteria used to assess the licence applications (which must be approved by a panel of unnamed experts), has not been revealed to festival organisers.

Dreamland Magazine has contacted Liquor & Gaming NSW for clarification but is still awaiting comment.

“I have never experienced such poorly thought-out, unbalanced legislation… Why do you seem to be hellbent on destroying our industry? I am requesting all major state events and tourism ministers to get in touch,” Mr Noble said.

Last December the NSW government released interim “Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction”.

Speaking of these guidelines, Mr Noble said:

“It represents their (Department of Health, Police, and Liquor and Gambling) concerns and those concerns should be discussed but my industry has never been asked to attend a meeting, to sit down, to work out something.”

In response to the potential relocation, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated Byron Bay Bluesfest will not be affected by the new licensing requirements, as they will only target “the high risk events where we’ve seen death or serious injury.”

“That festival has been going for 29 years, it’s a fantastic festival, it’s low risk so they don’t have anything to worry about… I don’t want anyone who’s holding a festival for a long time to be worried, this is not aimed at you,” she said.

Premier Berejiklian’s comments come just days after the Mountain Sounds festival – an event that has been held in NSW for six years with no major drug incidents – was forced to cancel when NSW Police demanded $200,000 for per per use policing a week before the event.

Popular underground festival Psyfari also cancelled it’s ten year anniversary festival this month, citing ever-increasing compliance costs as the reason for their departure from the scene.

Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones has suggested Byron Bay Bluesfest relocate to the Woodford Folk Festival site.

“We’d be more than happy to sit down with the organisers of the Byron Bay Bluesfest,” she said.

You can read Peter Noble’s open letter in full here:

“Bluesfest may well be celebrating our last festival in NSW should the sitting NSW Government proceed with its plans with its policies.

Even though we are Australia’s most highly-awarded festival both nationally and internationally – having won Best Major Event at the NSW Tourism Awards three years in a row; and in representing NSW we came in second in the Australian Tourism Awards (beating Victoria’s F1 Grand Prix) – we have been designated a ‘high risk event’.

This will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with a policy where we and every other event in this State have had zero opportunity to have any consultation or input into a policy where we will need to spend significantly more money to put on the event this year with zero notice.

The policy will see our full strength liquor approval denied, while a myriad of other costs may be levied costing us hundreds of thousand of dollars.

The NSW police regularly state that our policies are those of an industry leader in the supply of alcohol, field hospital, and crowd security and care. But, due to headlines in the media, our 30-year-old professional business is to be seriously damaged in a new policy imposed regarding festival presentation by a government who has rushed the judgement of our industry without full consultation of stake holders, or meetings with entertainment industry professionals.

I charge the Government with a systemic failure in fairness here, and implore all politicians from all parties to quickly become involved with what is a serious injustice.

We, like most events in this State, supply a significant level of culture – we don’t receive a cent from government even though we cause thousands of people to be employed – and bring tens of millions of dollars into NSW through Tourism.

In the recent study done by the NSW government into the arts, it was found NSW is doing it very tough and is significantly behind Victoria and Queensland. I ask the Premier, the Minister for the Arts, Tourism and Major Events and EVERY sitting politician: WHY?

Why do you seem to be hell-bent on destroying our industry? We provide culture to the people of this state, and Australia, through our good works. Most festivals haven’t had drug deaths and contribute greatly to our society through presenting well-run, professional, world-class events. Why have we been given zero recognition in this government’s actions?

It seems the new policies are poorly thought-out and through their implementation will decimate our industry should our government not see good sense.

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?

I am requesting all major state events Ministers to get in touch. We are ready to bring Australia’s favourite festival to your state as the leaders of NSW don’t want us, and in fact are legislating us out of business.

I have in my 50 years in presenting music NEVER EXPERIENCED such poorly thought out, unbalanced legislation. Surely a professional governing body could do better. It’s the Lockout Laws Version 2 for festivals.

This is NOT a vote winner in the upcoming election.

Thank you,

Peter Noble OAM
Presenter, Bluesfest and the Boomerang Indigenous Festival

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