Event organisers fear the NSW government’s new regulations for festivals could create so much red tape the festival scene may become stifled.
From March, organisers will have to apply for a specific liquor licence similar to those for pubs and clubs, and have their application approved by a panel of experts.
The licensing plans are yet to be finalised, but interim measures already in place include "chill out zones" staffed with doctors, nurses and paramedics.
Organisers must also provide free water stations.
Cobargo Folk Festival executive director Zena Armstrong said the NSW government needed to revisit the new licensing arrangements to ensure well-run community music and arts festivals in regional areas were not caught up in a process that was really intended to protect young people from drug-related harm at the bigger, more commercial festivals.
“Many regional community festivals, including classical music, jazz and folk, would not be able to bear the added financial burden that these new regulations could impose,” she said.
“In many cases, the compliance requirements – pre-deploying ambulances on site, for example – would be out of step with the actual risk.
“We are sure that common sense will prevail.”
Sam Martin, festival coordinator for Candelo Village Festival, said he understood the need for regulation and took licensing responsibilities seriously, but thought more bureaucracy and regulation for events made them less sustainable to run.
“You can have all the safety management plans in the world, but there’s always going to be the potential for a situation that’s unprecedented,” he said.
“If we’re putting bureaucratic-type processes in place for volunteers who are inundated with work already, then perhaps we will see less events in the future, which would be a sad thing for the community.”
He said the government needed to have an understanding between two types of festivals: for-profit events to make money and not-for-profit community events held in the interest of bringing the community together, which was the village festival’s model as it was a family-oriented event.
The major concern for executive director of Four Winds David Francis also was categorising all music festivals as the same.
“Lumping all festivals into one basket is kind of problematic,” he said.
He was concerned that what was suitable for a large rave music festival could be imposed on one like the Four Winds Festival, despite them having different elements.
You can have all the safety management plans in the world, but there’s always going to be the potential for a situation that’s unprecedented.Sam Martin
Funhouse Studio founder Cayce Hill said when she learnt about the regulations she felt sorry for anyone who had ambitions to hold a festival or enter the event industry.
“It just felt like they’re trying to kill this industry,” she said.
“It feels like they’re trying to put up more red tape to make it harder for people to organise festivals.”
Ms Hill, who has run events in the Bega Valley and in Melbourne, said the new regulations threatened jail or fines for organisers who ran an event authorities deemed unsafe.
“Why are they scaring event organisers? It’s actually quite threatening,” she said.
She questioned how much an organiser could do and how much responsibility they should have for a person choosing to take drugs at an event they run.
Also, she added if less music festivals run the industry that relies on events would cease to exist, such as businesses that rent out PAs.
The Cobargo Folk Festival is on March 1-3, the Four Winds Festival runs from April 18-21 and the Candelo Village Festival returns on April 26-28.