Rebuilding Sydney’s night-time economy

14 August, 2019 by Andy Young

In the first of a series of reports TheShout is bringing some of the submissions and testimonies given to the Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy and reveals some of the plans suggested to help re-invigorate Sydney’s night life.

Michael Rose is the Chairman of the Committee for Sydney, an independent think tank and champion for the whole of Sydney, which aims to provide thought leadership across a number of areas. Rose told the Committee that his organisation has compiled a number of reports which compared Sydney to other cities around the world. He said that while Sydney has scored well, its standing is starting to slip.

Advertisement

“In our benchmarking reports that we do every year we look at global surveys of cities around the world,” Rose said.

“It turns out that Sydney is the third most surveyed city in the world, after London and Paris. We take those surveys and we subject them to pretty rigorous analysis to make sure that they are valid surveys. We look at Sydney’s benchmarked performance against a group of like cities around the world, cities for which we compete for investment, tourism and talent, similar cities to ours.

“What our benchmark survey shows is that Sydney scores extremely well in nearly every area of its performance. It is regarded as one of the world’s most liveable cities and as a good destination for investment and a good place for visitors to visit and it generally preforms very strongly.

“However, over the past several years we have begun to see Sydney slipping in both its liveability scores and in its visitor appeal and that is due to a number of factors. And what we are talking about is relative performance. One factor is that other cities are improving, so a competitive environment is becoming more competitive. One thing is that the surveys tend to look at cities more as systems than as bundles of assets. So it is how a city performs which people are assessing. The third is that we believe that the city’s visitor appeal has been adversely impacted by a perception around whether Sydney is a fun place to be, particularly at night.

“It is not the only issue that we think is affecting Sydney’s performance but it is certainly one that we thought was a clear signal and which we decided to investigate, which is why we then did our report into the night-time economy.

“What that report shows is that when you compare Sydney to other cities around the world a relatively small proportion of our overall economic activity sits in the night. So there are lots of cities in the world where there is much more activity at night, which equates to economic activity at night. We also found that in most cities that we compare ourselves to, which includes Melbourne, you have a more diverse range of activity at night.

“Sydney actually spends almost as much as Melbourne at night—maybe even a bit more—but it spends it all at the supermarket. We have, we believe, some clear signals that Sydney’s night-time economy has been adversely impacted by a discussion which is around a relatively narrow part of the night-time economy.”

A COORDINATED APPROACH

Rose also told the Committee that the current lack of a coordinated approach is damaging the city and said other cities had benefitted from the appointment of someone responsible for the night time economy.

“Our view is that particularly in relation to the night-time economy there is a lack of coordination across government and local government in relation to all those different levers that affect how a place might operate at night.

“We also formed the view that there was so much overlapping regulation that for businesses that want to operate at night there is a particularly difficult regulatory regime to navigate. Our suggestion was to be much more coordinated in the approach to the regulation of the night-time economy and that really requires two things.

“The first is for government to be really clear about what it wants to achieve from the night-time economy in terms of economy impact, amenity for citizens, safety or whatever other characteristics the Government wants to find, first, to be quite clear and, second, to align regulatory activity with that vision and as much as possible coordinate that activity. And if that can be coordinated by a single person that is, we think, highly desirable. And for that single person to have the necessary authority, we think that single person should be near the centre of government.

“So it could be someone with the authority of the Department of Premier and Cabinet or a Minister but it does need to be someone who is the ultimate point person with decisions around the night time economy.”

GIVING BUSINESS AWAY

The Committee also heard from Michael Johnson, the CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia NSW, who said the city’s international standing was being damaged by the package of “lockout laws” introduced in 2014.

“TAA is very much focused on the future development and growth of the accommodation sector in this state,” Mr Johnson told the Committee.

“We seek to ensure NSW remains the premier state when it comes to tourism. As a state we frequently top the charts in the international and domestic visitor surveys, however, reports from our members suggest our reputation is being damaged by the so-called ‘lockout laws’ and their impact on the night-time economy.

“There is real concern in the accommodation sector over the impact of these measures. We directly compete with other states and countries and the poor reputation of our night-time economy means we are simply giving business away.

“By implementing strict measures in 2014 Sydney’s reputation as a global city has been compromised – this needs to change.”

Mr Johnson made the following recommendations:

  • Increase public transport options at night
  • Enhance late-night trading and diversify offerings
  • Remove the regulations on the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross
  • Increase visible security
  • Run additional education campaigns
  • Establish a task-force responsible for NTE enhancement

“We have the opportunity, if we all work together, to get it right.”

TheShout will bring more from the Select Committee in coming newsletters.