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Dancing in the streets? Nope, too much red tape

By Kim Fischer - 7 September 2015 2

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Spring is finally here, which means the silly season is fast approaching. As we emerge from hibernation to enjoy the warmer weather and sunshine, I’m looking forward to enjoying some community and outdoor events without three layers of woollies.

If you want to hold any kind of event that is open to the public in Canberra, the ACT government provides a 41 page planning booklet covering everything from lodging details of your event with eight different agencies to planning for accessibility and environmental controls.

Insurance is a must as well, no matter how small or apparently risk-free your event may be. If you are hiring a hall or room, you will either need to ensure you are covered by the public liability insurance held by the venue provider, or obtain your own.

With that level of rigmarole, is it any wonder that people are reluctant to initiate community events?

Back in 2011, Andrew Leigh encouraged people to hold Christmas street parties in their own neighbourhoods to build “social capital”.

As part of Canberra centenary celebrations the ACT government funded Parties at the Shops, which aims to instil “a sense of community pride, appreciation of Canberra’s local art and cultural talents, and closer ties between Canberra’s business and arts communities”. This program is still going strong in 2015 with recent events held in Scullin, Downer, and Ainslie among others. The ACT Government also maintains an events fund to encourage more people to make the effort to run events.

The challenges for ensuring public health and safety are complex.

In 2013, changes to the Food Act 2001 required that all food operations, including community fundraising BBQs, would be required to appoint a “food safety supervisor”. After an outcry, a limited exemption for stalls operating less than five times a year was put in place.

These changes were recently extended, with non-profit organisations using volunteer staff now designated as exempt from the Act unless they are operating at a declared event such as the Multicultural Festival.

That year the ACT government also suggested they might have to charge traffic control fees for a Forrest home using its Christmas light display to raise money for SIDS charities. In the end no fees were charged, but the policy is still in force.

These acts were motivated by safety and not because the events themselves were unwanted.

But in the end, it’s as much a question of the perceived attitude of the government as the red tape involved. For example, the Mooney Valley City Council provides friendly and accessible event planning guides and fact sheets that send a welcoming message to those wanting to run events. They even have a dedicated form to streamline temporary road closures for street parties, including the provision of road closure kits.

The ACT government’s recently-launched Access Canberra site promises coordinated approvals assistance for events, which is a very promising step forward.

They should consider maintaining a central list of community rooms and facilities available for hire on Access Canberra, and providing a simple, online process that allows groups to book and use any of these facilities. It should also be easier to hold street parties and get the necessary equipment and traffic control support from TAMS.

Would you like the ACT government to make it easier to have street parties and community events?

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(Photo: National Multicultural Festival by Sophia Carlini)

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2 Responses to
Dancing in the streets? Nope, too much red tape
AccessCBR 11:48 am 11 Sep 15

This opinion piece said that Canberra should be an easier place to hold a community event.

And you know what? It was right.

We should be a city that encourages public life to happen in public places. We should be a city that finds three ways to help things happen, not five reasons they can’t. We should be a city that has a time and place for every member of our community to share everything we have to offer.

The good news is we have a government agency and a person to help make that happen. That agency is Access Canberra, and that person is me.

Late last year the Chief Minister created Access Canberra to bring all of the regulatory arms of government together into a single place, and did so for a single purpose – to make sure government is an institution that helps get things done, not an institution that stands in the way.

This year we created a dedicated Events Approval team that gives event organisers hands-on help to get their event off the ground. The team is the single point of contact for organisers, the one door you need to knock on to get the answers and approvals you need.

We’ve already helped 67 event organisers get all the approvals they need for their particular events, and we’re helping another 95 individuals and organisations right now.

With every event we facilitate, we learn more about what the community needs, and how we can make the approvals process work for them. We’re making approvals easier. We’re cutting red tape. We’re eliminating roadblocks.

If you’ve got event you want to get started, come knock on our door. We’re here to deliver.

Check out the Access Canberra website http://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au or call through on 13 22 81.

TheYRA 11:32 am 08 Sep 15

The YRA was very appreciative of the government support when we hosted the Yarralumla Party at the Shops in the Centenary Year. We hosted 460 for a sit down dinner in the street and we did have dancing in the streets.
While we agree with wanting to make it easier to have street parties and community events, we also realize the importance of minimizing the impact on nearby residents and businesses. There were quite a few complaints from patrons of the shops when we closed off the street to traffic in 2013, and there will always be people who are inconvenienced by such events even if the government makes it easier.

The YRA plans to host another Party at the Shops in Yarralumla in 2016 and will be announcing further details in the near future.

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