The Central Coast was set to welcome 5,500 festival-goers to its Mountain Sounds Festival (MSF) this weekend, in what would have been its sixth successful year.
However, on Saturday MSF organisers announced that the show would not go on.
In a blistering statement published on the MSF Facebook page, organisers claimed the festival had fallen victim to the state government’s ‘war on festivals’, leaving them with ‘no option’ but to cancel the event after the imposition of excessive costs and additional licensing conditions.
The announcement lamented that organisers were ‘blindsided’ by additional restrictions and financial obligations that were imposed on the festival just 7 days out from the event.
On the 18th of January, organisers were quoted for 11 ‘user-pay’ police to attend the festival. On February 7 organisers were informed that the quote had increased to 45 police, creating an additional cost of $200,000.
The news came one week after MSF announced that it had been forced to downsize its site and cull 20 acts from its line-up due to ‘a combination of licensing and security costs’.
The news on Saturday was the final straw. Organisers said it was simply ‘unrealistic’ to go ahead with the festival as it was no longer financially viable.
New festival licensing laws for NSW were announced in January 2019. They will be imposed from March 1 2019.
Under the new laws, any pre-existing licences held by current music festival premises will be subject to suspension. Organisers will have to prepare a comprehensive safety management plan and submit an application for a specific liquor licence at least 30 days before an event.
Even once a licence is granted, organisers will be subject to further conditions, including a site walk-through with local police and NSW Ambulance.
The reforms align with the recommendations from the government’s Keeping People Safe at Music Festivals report, released last year.
The MSF is the latest event to feel the pressure from the NSW police and government.
In November last year, Good Things Festival announced that ‘unprecedented opposition from NSW police and government’ forced it to abandon its plan to allow under 18s to attend the festival. However, the rules were different for Melbourne and Brisbane attendees, whose festivals allowed under 18s to attend the event. NSW Police quoted the venue nearly five times more than what was quoted in Melbourne by Victorian Police.
Earlier this year, Rabbits Eat Lettuce announced that they were moving their festival to Queensland after NSW Police lodged an action against them in the Supreme Court.
Just yesterday Byron Bay Bluesfest Director Peter Noble published an open letter to NSW Government threatening to move the festival to another state. Mr Noble labelled the new policies that have been imposed on the festival (which was set to celebrate its 30th year) as a ‘systematic failure in fairness’.
Festivals continue to be a controversial topic for the state government, who have also been fiercely criticised for their stance on pill testing.
MOUNTAIN SOUNDS CANCELLED Here’s what Premier Gladys Berejiklian had to say about organisers pulling the plug.Posted by ABC Central Coast on Sunday, 10 February 2019
A spokesperson for NSW Police said MSF management had failed to supply important information in its previous meetings, and that a number of breaches had been revealed upon review of the information originally provided.
MSF promoters refuted the comment, labelling it ‘completely incorrect’.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was forced to respond to the backlash. In response to critical questions from reporters, she delivered a clear message to festival organisers, stating ‘if you can’t spend money making your event safer that’s a decision for you, but it’s not fair to blame the government’.
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