24-Hour Economy Legislation (Vibrancy Reforms) Amendment Bill 2023
Lovers of live music and alfresco dining, workers, hospitality businesses and creative organisations driving these sectors, are set to benefit from new legislation designed to bring vibrancy back to NSW’s night-time economy.
Regulation around noise, planning and liquor licensing has been streamlined, updated and simplified through the NSW Government’s 24-Hour Economy Legislation (Vibrancy Reforms) Amendment Bill 2023. This means venues in NSW will have the opportunity to reach their full entertainment, economic and creative potential – especially at night.
The Vibrancy Reforms are a cross-government initiative developed in consultation with key agencies, industry, councils and stakeholders to bring sector regulation in line with contemporary going out behaviours, improve government processes and encourage more people to go out, closer to home.
There are 6 areas of change.
1. Sensible venue sound management
From mid-2024, the Vibrancy Reforms will designate Liquor & Gaming NSW as the lead regulator of entertainment sound-related complaints for all licensed premises. This will streamline the complaints process for everyone involved, and ensure rules and regulations are relaxed for hospitality venues.
To help Liquor & Gaming NSW effectively carry out this role, amendments have been made to relevant pieces of legislation. These amendments will ensure that entertainment sound emanating from licensed premises is solely managed through the Liquor Act 2007. This means that noise-related conditions of development consent and ‘offensive noise pollution’ laws will no longer apply when such matters are regulated by the Liquor Act 2007.
The Vibrancy Reforms will also increase the number of disturbance complaints about a licensed venue needed for a formal complaint to be considered. The number will increase from 3 to 5 (the complainants must be from different households). Complainants must also attempt to resolve disputes with the licensee before lodging a complaint.
The length of time a complainant has been living in the household (otherwise known as the “order of occupancy”) will become a central consideration in disturbance complaints. This will help to prevent when newcomers to a neighbourhood work to shut down or wind back the entertainment offerings and/or operating hours of established venues.
No change in the primary regulator is proposed for managing noise complaints in unlicensed venues.
Work is underway on guidelines to support the new noise management rules. Following consultation, implementation will be completed in 2024.
2. Vibrant, coordinated precincts
The reforms build on the success of the Enmore Road Special Entertainment Precinct, now rated one of the best going out districts in the world. The aim is to extend the success of this precinct model to other areas via an enhanced framework.
Special Entertainment Precincts support live entertainment, via extended trading hours for live music venues and favourable noise controls that provide operational certainty for venues, neighbouring residents and businesses.
This framework will also be strengthened by these measures:
- From mid-2024, clearer sound governance: Liquor & Gaming NSW will manage entertainment sound complaints for licensed venues and impose a higher threshold for these complaints, and councils will be empowered to set sound standards and manage unlicensed venues
- additional trading hour extensions for live music venues in Special Entertainment Precincts, including 2 hours on nights they offer live music, and 1 hour on other nights
- new powers for councils to automatically adjust trading hours on development consents to support diverse late-night offerings
- strengthening governance to support safety and collaboration.
To help create and support more night-time districts, the NSW Government will also provide a support service for councils interested in establishing a Special Entertainment Precinct.
People want safe and exciting places to enjoy a fun night out. By establishing and supporting going-out districts, the NSW Government is empowering councils and businesses to take advantage of this public demand and enhance their night-time offerings.
Well-planned going-out precincts also enable:
- easy and efficient delivery and regulation of late-night public transport and point-to-point services
- everyone to access a fun and safe night out
- certainty and opportunity for local business operators
- safety programs and street lighting.
There will also be new planning rules introduced in early 2024 empowering councils to protect their creative and cultural spaces and create new ones. Changes to planning policy are being developed to encourage commercial or residential developers to include performance or creative spaces. This will increase employment opportunities for creative workers and make these areas more vibrant.
3. An activated outdoors
The state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic showed how well Sydney can do alfresco.
Under the reforms, venues will be enabled to continue operating outdoor dining on private land without disruption over the busy summer period. Venue owners will also be able to continue to operate lawfully until any changes are introduced. The Department of Planning and Environment is expected to announce the new rules for outdoor dining on private land in the coming weeks.
The Department of Planning and Environment is also developing new rules for venues looking to increase their outdoor dining patron capacity.
In addition, councils are permanently empowered to approve temporary street closures for outdoor dining, performance and extension of foyer space. This means councils do not need to apply to Transport for NSW regarding unclassified roads. For classified roads, councils will still need agreement from Transport for NSW.
There are no changes to the rules for outdoor dining on public land such as roads and footpaths, which are permanent. To use these locations for outdoor dining, venues must apply directly to councils for an outdoor dining permit.
Councils will also be supported to make it easier for creative workers and community groups to stage pop-up events and festivals. This includes street closures and global pre-approvals for event sites. More advice on these changes will be issued in early 2024.
4. Empowering the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner to deliver a sustainable, thriving night-time economy
NSW is the first jurisdiction in the world to appoint a 24-Hour Economy Commissioner. Under the reforms, the Commissioner’s role will become a statutory appointment. This means the Commissioner’s remit will be expanded from Greater Sydney to all of NSW.
This change will recognise the importance of the role and solidify the night-time economy as a permanent priority for the NSW Government.
Having a permanent Commissioner will also ensure a single, coherent approach with an appropriate level of authority to resolve cross-government challenges relating to the night-time economy. The Commissioner will have the authority to provide oversight, coordination, and advocacy for a mix of diverse cultural, social and business activities and experience across the night-time economy. The Commissioner will also bring an evidence-based perspective on the function of the night-time economy across government agencies and provide advice and recommendations to the Minister.
5. Streamlined, contemporary licensing
A common-sense approach to risk will be adopted for liquor regulation. This will streamline processes for planning and licensing.
One major change will be the consultation process to apply for a liquor licence. From mid-2024, a new streamlined approach to community impact statement requirements will reduce duplication and costs, and address risks and other potential effects. This change will also empower the community to provide meaningful feedback directly to decision-makers.
From December 2023, venues will also be offered meaningful incentives to feature live music and performances. This is aimed at driving employment opportunities for creative workers and entertainment options for audiences. These incentives include:
- increasing the extended trading for live music and performance venues on nights they offer live music, from the current 1 hour to 2 hours
- maintaining the temporary 80 per cent discount for live music and performance venues
- expanding the types of venues that can access extended trading for special events.
Other initiatives include standardised trading periods during the week and making it easier for more venues to take part in major events like VIVID and key sporting tournaments.
Blanket approaches to risk have also been removed in favour of more targeted measures for licensed venues. This aims to encourage compliance rather than merely penalising non-compliance.
For detailed information on the liquor licensing reforms, please refer to the Liquor & Gaming NSW website.
6. Improving the night-time for workers
From healthcare and security, to retail, transport and freight, night-time workers provide essential services for us all. They also play a critical role in supporting a rich night-time offering in the hospitality sector and creative ecosystem.
The 24-Hour Economy Commissioner will collaborate across the NSW Government to implement a plan to make the night-time economy more rewarding, safe, flexible and accessible for those who don’t work 9 to 5.
There is a commitment to refresh the 24-Hour Economy Strategy in 2024 and embed night-time work as a key consideration.
The 24-Hour Economy Legislation Amendment (Vibrancy Reforms) Bill 2023 and the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner Bill 2023 passed through NSW Parliament on 30 November 2023.
Some of the changes will be implemented from mid-December 2023. Other changes will be implemented through a staged process.
See the graphic below for further details.
Download a high-res version of the Vibrancy Reforms Timeline
NSW is an amazing place to live. However, it is important to ensure our state can meet its full entertainment, economic and creative potential – especially after hours.
That’s why we responded to feedback calling for a review of our current regulation across our night-time economy.
In recent years, there has been a decline in the number, viability and growth of venues, and entertainment and performance spaces.
Outside the Sydney CBD, just 18% of people say they have access to quality arts and cultural events in their local areas. Only 23% say they have good quality live music.1
Sydney is also missing out on $16 billion a year, because our night-time economy has been limited by slow and overlapping regulations.2
Reforms in 2020 and 2021 reduced some of regulatory challenges for the venues and creative organisations, and this package provides further reform.
1 Source: Department of Customer Service survey – understanding sentiment on the night-time economy
2 Deloitte Imagine Sydney: Play, 2019
The reforms will benefit many people and groups in NSW, including:
The relaxed rules will support councils to enable live performances, outdoor events and temporary street closures, as well as helping to connect them with businesses and creative communities. Councils will enjoy more sensible rules for venue sound management, permanent relaxing of rules for outdoor dining and incentives for opening new cultural spaces.
Businesses and venues
Businesses and venues will have greater opportunities to open and diversify. These businesses will also be supported to expand and provide more opportunities for people to enjoy arts, culture and live events through more trading hours and opportunities for venues to take part in special events. Venues will enjoy more sensible rules for venue sound management and more stability in their operations.
Creative organisations and performers
Additional performance spaces, cultural events and a thriving live music scene will support jobs growth and help ensure NSW remains an important hub for the creative community.
Communities and the going-out public
Residents, visitors and tourists will also reap the rewards of a thriving and diversified night-life. This will enrich the social fabric of NSW and stimulate our economy. The going-out public will also enjoy more freedom, with options to move between venues in safe and vibrant areas including Special Entertainment Precincts.
The NSW Government wants to create an environment that encourages venue operators to launch, grow and expand their businesses by:
- removing perceived unnecessary regulation
- streamlining approval processes
- incentivising live performance
- adopting a common-sense approach to noise and sound complaints.
The reforms will support venue operators by giving them the tools to succeed. Support provided to local councils can enable live performances by working closely with businesses and the creative community. By opening up the state, this supports a thriving, accessible, safe, diverse and exciting nightlife.
Through these reforms, regional communities will be supported to increase live music and performance by removing certain regulations and providing incentives to venues and councils.
While most of the reforms to sound and licensing regulation will apply across NSW, others are optional for councils and venues to adopt based on their own needs and communities. This includes Special Entertainment Precincts, planning incentives and outdoor activation.
These reforms have been designed with community safety front of mind.
Going-out behaviours have changed dramatically in recent years. One change is that more people are looking for a night that involves live entertainment.
The reforms include harm minimisation measures such as:
- maintaining the standard 6-hour closure period for licensed venues
- restricting the use of gaming machines during special event extended trading hours
- empowering Liquor & Gaming NSW and Police to improve venue compliance and good behaviour
- restricting minors without a responsible adult from accessing bottle shops or liquor sales areas of supermarkets
- making it easier for Liquor & Gaming NSW to suspend or revoke someone’s responsible service of alcohol (RSA) in high-risk situations
- preventing patrons from using credit cards for gaming machines.
Liquor & Gaming NSW and NSW Police will continue to collaborate and share information on operations to identify any changes in going-out behaviours. The NSW Government will also closely monitor the implementation of the reforms including measuring impacts on public health and antisocial behaviour.
For more information on the NSW Vibrancy Reforms please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org