The Events and Exhibitions Industry identifies inconsistencies in the government’s definitions and calls for the persons limit to be changed in the next Public Health Order due at the end of September and there is legal precedence see below !
Paddy’s Market, shopping centres and sporting events can now host over 150 people in their venues, as long as they adhere to the COVID safe guidelines of social distance etc, yet, exhibitions and events in large scale venues such as the ICC Sydney, can still not get an exemption above the 150 persons rule. This doesn’t make sense and seems to be discriminatory to the events and exhibitions industry.
The health order by the New South Wales Government issued on 25th August, 2020, permits only one person per 4 square metres of space in a premise or a maximum of 150 persons for corporate events. This is commercially unviable for Exhibitions. The health order provides for exemptions, however exhibitions have been denied to run in major venues, such as the ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour, as their exemption has been refused. And adding to the confusion the other major exhibition centre at Sydney Olympic Park has a different cap of 500!
In the full year 2018/19, ICC Sydney generated just under $900M in accommodation, transport, hospitality and entertainment, shopping etc. from people attending events. Add to that lost revenues plus monies generated from events at Sydney Olympic Park and other exhibition facilities in the city and regional locations – the impact on associated businesses is HUGE.
Why is this so? When the space is so large and the numbers of people and environment can be controlled much more than venues like shopping centres, Bunnings and the markets. The Events & Exhibitions industry would like the Government to review the 150 pax cap on events & exhibitions in the public health order update that is due out at the end of September.
In the NSW Gazette, the events and exhibitions industry has been bundled into the same group as festivals and special events, which is a completely different. It seems that the Health Minister, The Premier, The Chief Medical Officer and the Health Department don’t know the difference between a controlled environment versus a loose festival environment.
The government needs to look industry by industry at the capping of people rules to ensure it makes sense, as the QLD government have done, where the exhibitions industry does not have the blanket 150-person rule.
“We are willing to run a test event for the chief medical advisors and ministers (similar to what was done in the UK), which changed the perception of what an exhibition in a controlled environment looks like and how it functions,” said Gary Fitz-Roy, MD of Expertise Events, a family-owned events business based in Sydney.
In QLD, every industry was provided with industry specific guidelines to assist their industry in obtaining COVID Safe approval. No such industry specific guidelines have been provided in NSW, with Exhibitions being left in the dark as to what the NSW government wants. The current Health Orders don’t even mention exhibitions. So, are we unrestricted? No one will tell us! Are we regarded as a corporate event, conference, festival, special event? The QLD model is up and running and we need to see the same thing happening in NSW.
The New South Wales Government would be well aware of the Brett Cattle Company case that a government minister’s power to make orders must be suitable, necessary and proportional, irrespective of how wide the power may seem. The current approach to Exhibitions is nothing short of reckless to the needs of our industry. It is either reckless because there is no clear exhibition specific guideline, or it is reckless because the government is trying to lump us into the broad category of corporate events. Such a lazy ‘lumping in’ approach is not good enough when people’s livelihoods are so affected.
If the latest health order does apply to Exhibitions, then a 150-person limit is no longer suitable, necessary or proportional and completely tramples on the industry’s common law right to carry on business, especially as no such limit applies in QLD.
QLD’s position is clear, they have recognised that the Exhibition Industry is capable of putting in place effective Exhibition specific safeguards without a blanket 150 person limit, and understand the role exhibitions play to the economy.
For the survival of the exhibition industry, the NSW Government needs to provide and accept that exhibitions cannot be grouped as the same as conferences, festivals, music events, general events and a clear definition needs to be established.