Byron Bluesfest director Peter Noble has threatened to move the iconic festival interstate if the Berejiklian government refuses to withdraw its draconian new festival policy.
The policy came about in response to two drug-related deaths at Defqon.1 in Sydney in September last year.
But Bluesfest, which annually attracts tens of thousands of mostly middle-aged visitors to Byron, has been deemed a ‘high-risk’ event by the state government despite never having had a drug problem.
Mr Noble warns the ‘poorly thought-through new policy’ is set to ‘decimate the industry’ and cost hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.
‘Tens of millions of dollars, a lot of it spent rurally, will no longer be generated,’ he said.
Under the new rules, festivals would be required to fork out for the cost of policing ‘at whatever price they levy’, Mr Noble said, and would only be able to sell mid-strength alcohol.
He estimates the cost to the festival and the impact on income would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The latest in the Berejiklian government’s swathe of nanny-state rules is set to ‘destroy the industry in NSW’, he said.
Just days ago, Mountain Sounds festival was forced to cancel, citing ‘impossible’ conditions. Yet another event, PSYFARI, was abandoned last week.
In an open letter sent out yesterday, Mr Noble wrote, ‘I ask the premier, ministers for the arts, tourism and major events, and EVERY sitting politician, why do you seem to be hell bent on destroying our industry?’
‘Why have we been given zero recognition in this government’s actions?
‘Our 30-year-old business is to be seriously damaged in a new policy imposed… by a government who has rushed to judgement of our industry without full consultation of stakeholders or meetings with entertainment industry professionals.
‘I charge the government with a systemic failure in fairness and implore all politicians from all parties to quickly become involved with what is a serious injustice.
‘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.
‘Should our government not see good sense, then 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.’
And, in case the NSW government doesn’t get the message, Mr Noble said he was ‘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’.
Labor’s candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh, told Echonetdaily it was ‘absolutely astonishing’ that Bluesfest had been declared a ‘high-risk festival’.
‘Labor, for the first time, has a [shadow] minister for music and the night-time economy. We are passionate about supporting live music right across NSW, particularly on the North Coast, which is the centre of the festival scene in Australia’, he said.
‘It is astonishing and bewildering that they would put an iconic festival like Bluesfest at risk by these outrageous impositions and additional costs on their operation.’
Greens’ crisis meeting
Lismore Greens candidate Sue Higginson said she spoke to Mr Noble ‘who is in LA for the Grammys where a guy of his calibre in this industry would be’.
‘He is in disbelief about the unreasonable approach the government has taken. He wasn’t even invited to be around the table,’ she said, adding, ‘this government has no idea about what is important to regional NSW nor the rest of NSW for that matter’.
‘This absurd policy approach will, in fact, put many North Coast festivals in jeopardy.
‘My Greens colleague Cate Faehrmann has called a War on Festivals crisis meeting, inviting festival promoters and key industry figures to NSW Parliament on Monday, February 18.
‘She will be inviting MPs from other parties to also attend. Hopefully, together they can work out a plan to stop this war on arts and culture and the jobs that it brings – particularly for our region,’ Ms Higginson said