20 November, 2020


On the 17th of November a momentous change was enacted that will permanently alter the way arts and cultural activity is presented, supported and activated in NSW.

Over 600 outdated pieces of regulation were abolished with unprecedented bipartisan support. Regulation that had strangled, stifled and actively prohibited diverse cultural activity in NSW. Overnight we have gone from being the state with the most archaic regulation in Australia, to a state that now has some of the best regulation, cherry picked from other states across the country. The impact this will have on the way we all live our lives, present work and build viable career pathways will be mighty.

The Sydney Fringe has been a long-time advocate for regulatory reform for the performing arts and creative industries. Over the past six years we have directed four key pilot projects that were conceived from data collected during our festival each year, an annual snapshot of the independent arts sector of Sydney; where it is tracking and the issues it is facing. These four projects 2015 Temporary Theatre Pop-up Pilot, 2016 Off Broadway Project, 2018 HPG Festival Hub Project and 2019 Fringe HQ Project investigated the barriers our sector faced when activating temporary and permanent creative space, and subsequently made recommendations to Government on proposed solutions.

This work was published in An Anthology of Space 2015-2018: Activating unused and underutilised space for the performing arts and creative industries of NSW. This document has become one of the leading sector based data sources in advocating to Government for reform, and informed the evidence we have provided at three NSW Parliamentary Inquires:


  • Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No.6- Planning and Environment Inquiry into the Music and Arts
    Economy of New South Wales- 2018
  • Parliament of New South Wales Joint Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy- 2019
  • Public Accountability Committee NSW Government’s Management of the Cobid-19 Pandemic- 2020


We are incredibly proud to have played a role in contributing to this once in a life time reform, working alongside our colleagues at the Live Music Office and APRA AMCOS, and other peak bodies in the continued fight for an even playing field for night time businesses and cultural presenters.

These changes mark a significant shift in the NSW Government’s commitment to diverse cultural activity and our 24 hour economy. Imbedding the right and need for the provision of culture into planning instruments that in turn send the message to the broader community that cultural activity is a priority, it is welcome and encouraged.


Significant changes include:


  • The ability to establish cultural precincts based on the Queensland model, to protect live music and cultural event venues.
  • Planning principles from Victoria that remove the duplication between liquor and planning licencing, encouraging arts and cultural land use in the development of local environmental plans.
  • Low impact live music and cultural activity classified as exempt development from South Australia. Clearing the way for cultural activity to be presented in different building types.
  • Reduced fee loadings and extended trading for venues that host live music from the Northern Territory.
  • Support for live music, arts, tourism and cultural activity strengthened into the objectives of the Liquor Act in application and decision making processes from Western Australia.


Sydney now has a set of guidelines that actively encourages activity, enabling the people NSW to shape our cities based on our needs and big ideas, paving the way for a vibrant and safe night time economy.