© Phil BaconScenes from the 2015 Byron Bay Bluesfest.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has responded to a threat from the director of the award-winning Byron Bay Bluesfest to move the event interstate, insisting costly new guidelines aimed at "high risk" music festivals do not apply to it.
The festival's director Peter Noble issued an open letter to the NSW government on Monday, declaring that if new guidelines go ahead, Bluesfest would have no choice but to leave the state.
"Bluesfest may well be celebrating our last festival in NSW should the sitting NSW government proceed with its plans," he wrote in the letter.
"Even though we are Australia's most highly-awarded festival both nationally and internationally, having won Best Major Event at the NSW Tourism Awards three years in a row ... and in representing NSW we came in second in the Australian Tourism Awards ... Beating Victoria's F1 Grand Prix ... we have been designated a 'high-risk event'.
"This will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with a policy where we and every other event in this state have had zero opportunity to have any consultation or input."
Speaking with the Herald on Tuesday, Mr Noble said his phone had been running hot all day, and that he was still considering moving the event to Queensland or Victoria.
"Both the states of Queensland and Victoria do not have these guidelines or anything even approaching them. In fact, they invest in music and the live arts. NSW needs to come an awful way along to start doing the same thing to the levels of the states surrounding them are doing. They're falling behind, and yet they're patting themselves on the back at the same time," he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Premier insisted Bluesfest was not the target of the new interim guidelines created in response to a series of drug-related deaths at music festivals in the state, and that organisers of the "fantastic festival" had nothing to worry about.
"That festival has been going for 29 years, it's a fantastic festival, it's low risk so they don't have anything to worry about, and I want to make that clear," Ms Berejiklian said.
"The changes that come in from March are to do with those high-risk events where we've seen death, or serious injury and that's where we expect people to raise their standards.
"I don't want anyone who's been holding a festival for a long time to be worried, this isn't aimed at you, this is aimed at those people at high-risk festivals that in the past haven't done the right thing." © Sahlan HayesByron Bay Bluesfest director Peter Noble.
However, the government's own document outlining the new risk assessment guidelines via a points system (whereby 70 points indicates "high risk" and 110 points and above indicates "extreme risk") suggests otherwise.
Bluesfest chief operating officer Steve Romer said according to the criteria provided by the government, after adding up the risk points from just four categories - out of a total of 18 - the festival had already hit the number of points indicating "extreme risk".
The festival's size (more than 50,000 patrons), the fact that it is a music festival, that it takes place over multiple days, and that it has on-site camping, immediately places Bluesfest over 110 points.
The Premier's declaration that Bluesfest is "low risk" raises questions about how the government's risk assessment guidelines apply to other festivals.
Mr Romer said he was "thrilled" that the Premier had back-tracked and indicated Bluesfest would not be caught up in the new rules that he said were the result of a "rushed review".
"I think the government just needed to press pause, consult with leaders of the industry. The consultation really wasn't there. That's why we've landed where we are now.
"I'm pleased we're here, that we're being listened to. We're leaders and professionals in our industry, and it's a very valuable industry to the state economy as well as the Australian economy."