NSW announces events fund to ease COVID disruption

The Perrottet Government’s Event Saver Fund will enable organisers to pay staff and suppliers and recover costs caused by COVID chaos.
A guitar player stands with one foot on a foldback speaker as he plays.

Major events and festivals in NSW that are cancelled or significantly disrupted by COVID public health orders will henceforth be able to apply for relief funding from the NSW Government.

The $43 million Event Saver Fund, launched on Monday, will provide the state’s major event organisers with financial security and certainty, according to Premier Dominic Perrottet.

‘Major events are a key economic driver that create thousands of jobs across the state. The Event Saver Fund will ensure that organisers aren’t left high and dry as we work through this latest phase of the pandemic and sends a strong signal that the Government is here to support business,’ the Premier said.

Who can apply?

Events held between Wednesday 15 December 2021 and Saturday 31 December 2022 and which are either cancelled outright or significantly disrupted as a result of COVID public health orders, will be eligible for the fund.

Application is via a two-stage process, with the first phase involving an Expression of Interest from affected parties.

Only one claim can be made per eligible event, and claims are capped at $10 million. Funds are earmarked for out of pocket suppliers/creditors including performers, artists and other contractors, who are expected to receive payment within 14 days of a grant being received.

Read: Insurance plea from music sector during Omicron

To be applicable, events and festivals must meet the definition of a Major Event i.e. be a single day event that operates for at least three hours, a multi-day event that runs for at least two days, or a long-term event running for five days or more.

Government entities and entities that are substantially funded by Government (whether State, Federal or Local Government) and organisers/promoters of professional sporting events are not eligible for support from the Event Saver Fund.

Full guidelines are available online through Create NSW.

Supporting tourism and the arts

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the Event Saver Fund recognised the important impact major events have on driving tourism as well as on the broader NSW economy.

‘Festivals and major events are huge drawcards and they have been significantly disrupted by the latest Omicron wave of COVID-19,’ Kean said.

‘It is vital we provide them the support they need when their event is impacted by a Public Health Order. That is exactly what this funding commitment does.’

Newly appointed Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin noted while the pandemic has had a devastating effect on artists’ ability to perform live, Monday’s announcement showed the Government’s strong commitment to the sector.

‘Major events provide tremendous social benefits to the community, bringing us together to enjoy live performances,’ he said.

‘As we look to rebound from the effects of the past two years, this funding will help support local jobs and ensure major event organisers can plan with confidence to safely deliver their events in 2022/23.’

The sector responds

The new fund has been warmly met – though with some caveats – by the NSW arts sector.

Sydney Fringe Festival Director and CEO Kerri Glasscock told ArtsHub: ‘This is incredibly welcome news for an important part of the sector and adds to the significant support the NSW Government has provided over the past two years. This most recent wave has essentially once again shut down our sector with cancellations and loss of employment across the board.

‘While this [fund] is a key piece of the puzzle I encourage Government to also support small-medium scale events that may not meet the “Major Event” criteria, but which are essential employers and important activators of the COVID recovery for our cities and regions. Venues and artists are also still doing it tough and will need support to get through the next few months.

‘While there is hope that the Omicron wave will rapidly decline in the coming weeks the impacts will take much longer to recover from,’ Glasscock said.

Music copyright collective APRA AMCOS also welcomed the Event Saver Fund, describing it as a ‘crucial first step’ in supporting the NSW live music industry.

‘The music industry has been devastated once again by the COVID-19 pandemic and new health orders banning singing and dancing in NSW have effectively shut down our industry once again,’ said Dean Ormston, CEO, APRA AMCOS.

‘The announcement by the NSW Government to establish an Event Saver Fund is an important first step in ensuring that the live music industry in NSW can survive this latest wave.

‘However, we urge the NSW Government to also provide direct support to the artists, sole traders and small to medium businesses through a wage subsidy program, crisis support through Support Act and micro-business grants,’ Ormston said.

With APRA AMCOS data showing that live music activity in December, the traditional peak season for the industry, was at 6% of the pre-COVID period, Ormston urged the NSW Government to establish better protocols around health orders that directly affect the live music industry.

‘Approaching the third year of the pandemic, we urgently need the NSW Department of Health to develop more sophisticated guidelines including vaccine mandates and mask wearing instead of the blunt instrument of “no singing and no dancing” restrictions,’ he said.

‘It is ridiculous that live music patrons can sing and dance at a pub or festival in Wodonga or Coolangatta but can’t a few kilometres away in Albury or Tweed Heads.’

An event interruption insurance scheme was announced in Victoria in November last year. Pleas for the Federal Government to introduce a similar scheme have fallen on deaf ears to date.

Learn more about the Event Saver Fund.

Richard Watts OAM is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, a Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend, and was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize in 2020. In 2021 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Green Room Awards Association. Most recently, Richard received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in June 2024. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts