NSW Police accused of “price gouging” music festivals

NSW Police accused of “price gouging” music festivals
Image: Greens’ MP and Drug Law Reform & Harm Reduction spokesperson, Cate Faehrmann, in front of Listen Out Music Festival in September. Image: Cate Faehrmann/Facebook

NSW Police have been accused of price gouging and potentially ruining the viability of music festivals in the state, after costs for the force exceed thousands of dollars in comparison to other states.

In NSW Parliament this week, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann revealed a music festival paid a $62,000 difference in policing fees in order to hold the event in NSW.

The disclosed music festival which travelled to three states paid $107,852 for NSW policing fees for 16,000 attendees. However, Victoria and Queensland only paid $45,000 for policing fees for 14,000 people.

“That price gouging is unique to NSW… The user pays policing is just ridiculous,” Faehrmann told parliament.

“In terms of the impact, it’s the same number of participants [and] triple the cost of policing,” Faehrmann continued.

Further costs for NSW Police

The price discrepancies were revealed in a submission from the Australian Festival Association (AFA). Speaking to the Guardian, AFA revealed there have been price hikes for NSW police patrolling, with one music festival being charged $67,000 for a crowd of 22,000 people.

For the same show in Queensland, the cost was $37,000 for a crowd of 20,000. In Victoria, the equivalent is only $7,500 for 30,000 people.

“There is no justification why NSW is so much higher, that NSW is an inherently unsafe place compared to Victoria or Queensland,” AFA’s managing director Mitch Wilson told the Guardian.

“The costs being so much higher means the breakeven point for the organiser is a lot higher for the New South Wales leg,” he continued.

Police and crowd health

Along with the rising costs, Faehrmann also noted the increase in sniffer dog use and police presence at festivals in NSW.

“[With NSW Police]… drug detection dogs and everything else that goes with them, we’re the only state that’s having MDMA deaths,” Faehrmann told parliament.


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“So you kind of need to wonder whether all of those things are linked, which the coronial inquest into music festival deaths found that they were.”

In October, two men died from a suspected drug overdose after attending the Knockout music festival.

Ahead of the music festival season, there have been calls for the government to implement other methods to reduce drug harm, including pill testing and peer support education.

Recently, Faehrmann called for the end of sniffer dog use and the subsequent strip searches, with of a number of Police searches not being properly managed.

Music Festivals Act Review

During Parliament, Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy John Graham spoke on the government’s awareness of the increase in costs for NSW music Festivals.

“As I understand it the decisions about the number of police are largely based on the risk assessment by police,” said Graham.

“I accept the police have got to do their job. My concern is the burden it’s putting on the viability of music festivals, the amount they are being charged.”

Speaking with City Hub, Graham confirms that a review of the Music Festivals Act 2019 “is underway and will be completed next year.”

Graham says the concern about music festival costs in NSW has been shared with the government, following feedback from the Review process.

“Any changes to festival regulation should support safety for festival-goers,” Graham continued.

“For the good of the festival sector, we need Liquor and Gaming, Health, Police and industry to all work together, that’s why the legislated festivals roundtable is so important.”

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