Music ACT president David Caffrey has called the Government’s proposed changes to extend daytime noise limits “light-touch changes” and is concerned local musicians will be forced to pursue their careers away from Canberra.
The Government has announced it will extend noise limits on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 pm to midnight in Civic and other town centres and 11 pm in group centres such as Dickson, Erindale and Kingston, to allow venues to make noise longer into the evenings on weekends.
Mr Caffrey believes the Government’s proposed changes will not save live music in the nation’s capital.
“The steps that Labor presented on Wednesday (31 July) will not even allow a saxophone to play in the courtyard in New Acton,” Mr Caffrey said. “They are not going to save the music industry whatsoever. They are all light-touch changes.
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“If these changes happened eight years ago, we would say it was great progress but it has been 10 years and we haven’t seen any great progress.”
Currently, the night-time noise limit in the city and town centres is 50 decibels, which is the equivalent of an indoor conversation. Those restrictions mean venues can receive noise complaints, incurring a fine and even forcing some venues to close down.
Mr Caffrey is fearful that Geocon’s planned 11-storey, $120 million development in Garema Place could kill live music in the city.
“At the moment, apartments and hotels keep getting approved in the city and music venues are going to be marginalised, closed and shut down,” he said.
“ACT musicians will keep moving to Melbourne and other cities. We need our own vibrant music sector. We need confidence that we can open new venues in Garema Place and other parts of the city.
“The move to allow 50 decibels to go on ’til midnight still means music venues will be breaking the law even if they pass that small change. The laws are being broken at the moment but they are complaint-based and no one is complaining.
“As soon as you put a five-star hotel or an apartment building in a space that is already noisy, we will have complaints, the EPA can threaten $10,000 to $20,000 fines to the venues that are making the noise and after that, it is a criminal charge.”
When asked if he has started to lose hope after a decade of campaigning, Mr Caffrey said he still feels like the industry is moving in the right direction.
“Canberra has gone through a cultural turn, our musicians are strong, we are moving in the right direction and we are seeing bipartisan support between Greens and Liberals,” Mr Caffrey said. “That is huge and is really exciting.
“It shows that music is part of the soul and it’s not about political ideologies.”
ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury is adamant entertainment precincts in Garema Place, Lonsdale Street, Belconnen, Kingston, Mitchell and Watson are the answer.
“Entertainment precincts are areas where both the developers are required to build buildings that have better sound protection but also where residents have a very clear expectation of what they are moving into,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“We need to make sure there is room for our live music scene to flourish.
“I grew up as a young person in Canberra when this city had a reputation for being boring. We need to make sure that the venues exist so people can have live acts.
“Canberra used to be a pretty quiet place and we need to make sure we don’t go back to that. We have got plenty of input, now we just need to get on with it. We want real action, we want substantial action and we want action that will have a long-term impact.”