Leonie Schott
By Leonie Schott

The hardstyle scene of Australia’s state New South Wales has been in difficult times since the new licensing laws got introduced earlier this year. Defqon.1 Australia couldn’t take place due to these hard laws, but now it got announced that these regulations probably won’t continue to apply.

READ ALSO: Defqon.1 will not return to Austalia this year

In March, the government introduced new licensing laws for festivals listed as ‘High-risk festivals’. On this list are events where a serious drug-related illness or death has occurred in the past three years or where they think there may be a significant risk of happening something in the future. Due to these laws it’s very hard to make an event happen and hardstyle festivals are highly represented in this list. Defqon.1 couldn’t take place this year due to these regulations and Knockout had to move to another state.

Now, the NSW Upper House disallowed these controversial music festival laws. The parliament decided the government’s consultation with the music industry had been “inadequate” and furthermore, “the development and continual improvement of the NSW Health Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction is a positive step in addressing drug and alcohol-related issues at music festivals.”

Finding solutions, rather than making war against festivals

The next step is to get together a roundtable of all stakeholders, says John Graham, shadow minister for music and the night time economy to The Music Network: “The roundtable was unanimously called for by the Legislative Council Regulation Committee inquiry.” At this discussion, the government and the industry come together to find ways to improve patron safety at music festivals, including steps to reduce drug-related harm.

The actions of the government in the last months are seen as a “war on music festivals” by the hardstyle scene. The new license regulations made it too hard to make some events happen. You need several licenses which are hard to get and have to follow strict rules. Events need a long time to organize and if you won’t get the license, all your hard work and all the money invested, would be gone for nothing.

Furthermore, it’s difficult to find a venue which wants to hold a party listed as a ‘High-risk festival’. Things get spiral in this issue, as the scene itself can’t pull themselves out of this situation. Promoters fear patrons might be slow in buying tickets in case the event doesn’t go ahead, what makes it harder to hold events at all. Also, the toxic image of festivals impede finding corporate sponsors.

A chance for Defqon.1 to return to NSW?

A change in the laws, with a focus on harm reduction rather that bans and prohibition, gives the festival scene the chance to get rid of their toxic image and to come back to life. The Government of New South Wales may then start to appreciate the economic and cultural benefits from a pounding music festival industry. Therefor, venues may change their attitude against hardstyle festivals again.

May this open a door for events like Defqon.1 and Knockout to return to NSW? The non-profit association MusicNSW talks already about a “big win for festivals in NSW” and on Facebook, the Australian hard dance scene spreads hope for “the Aussie big D” to come back.

Footage taken from Facebook page Defqon.1

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