The clock is ticking for Victorian events as government announces confusing COVID-19 Public Events Framework document

Felicia Mariani CEO of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council “Everyone [government and industry] is acutely aware that we need to move quickly. The need to get this resolved is becoming absolutely critical"

The long-awaited Victorian government’s recovery plan for events was announced earlier this week, but the accompanying regulations has left event organisers, scratching their heads and unclear which rules might apply to their events.

The 14-page document details a complex system for event organisers to follow that could lead to even the smallest business event requiring an application involving an initial review, two further panel reviews, assessment and then approval. The process could take up to six weeks and the event subject to spot compliance checks throughout its duration.

A Zoom meeting took place on Wednesday evening between government officials, who explained the document to 167 event senior industry figures, but it failed to provide further clarity for organisers.

Felicia Mariani CEO of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council participated and pointed out the limitations of the meeting’s virtual format. “The events industry is such a huge sector, it’s major events, regional festivals, meetings, conferences and more. You can’t accomplish much when you’ve got 167 people on a Zoom call. The meeting was at a high level and with people from all sectors, so it was very difficult to get down into the detail. There needs to be a deeper dive, broken down into smaller groups.”

“Everyone [government and industry] is acutely aware that we need to move quickly. The need to get this resolved is becoming absolutely critical. Every day we’re losing ground to our northern neighbours, who have more understanding and surety about how their events operate.”

Gab Robinson CEO of event supplier Harry the hirer said “We are encouraged by the announcement from the Victorian government allowing industry to slowly begin its rebuild. Now government must provide the industry with simple, accessible and understandable guidelines to give commercial confidence to those planning to invest in the running of events and exhibitions within Victoria.”

He also pointed out the need for urgency “The clock is ticking and if we are not careful event organisers will continue to take their events to other states.”

Matt Pearce Director of Talk2 Media, organisers of AIME which takes place from the 15th March said. “Victoria launched its Public Events Framework this week and it is clear that the state continues to take a cautious approach to any event where delegates will roam. Despite achieving Elimination status this week (28 days without a case), no event where people stand up will be considered until at least mid-January.”

“Despite numerous industry gatherings and consultation, which have demonstrated our ability to work with government on Business Events, we continue to be thrown in with sporting events and music festivals. All other states have recognised the difference, let’s hope Victoria joins the party, quickly.”

Peter Jones Managing Director of Peter Jones Special Events gave his take on the evening and the document. “What’s happening is that the government are lumping together all events of any description under the one set of guidelines, which is unworkable from an industry perspective.”

“Whether you are a fun run, local festival, business meeting or even the school fete, the criteria you need to work through to get a permit can go as far as the health officer and minister having to sign off. And that can take up to 6 weeks!

“The industry needs more clarity and certainty, otherwise our progress will be so slow and planning will eventually get bogged down in the approval process.”

Further discussions are expected.

Event organisers can download the Victorian COVID-19 Public Events Framework here.

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