State could ban under 18s from festivals
MUSIC festivals allowing 16-year-olds in could be made 18-plus events and operators may have to "pick up the tab" for extra medical crews under strict new licensing laws in place from March.
Sunday's Rolling Loud festival had an entry age of 16 and saw hospitalisation and drug seizures similar to Saturday's 18-plus events, Electric Gardens and Hardcore Till I Die.
A new festival licensing system begins on March 1 and government sources said every festival would be scrutinised and "this may include restricting events to over-18s".
"The regime puts the onus on organisers to run safer events … in cases where under-18s are allowed, extra conditions may be imposed to improve safety," the source said.
NSW Health confirmed "several" revellers aged 16 and 17 were rushed to hospital from the three weekend festivals.
Others were caught trying to mule huge amounts of illicit drugs into the venues.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said taxpayers had spent around $500,000 over two weekend's on lifesaving measures at festivals, like on-site critical care doctors, "medical retrieval teams" and thousands of free bottles of water.
Mr Hazzard said a committee will decide exactly how the licensing system works but he wanted organisers to foot the bill for saving lives.
"The cost is something in the longer term I think should be moderated by those who go to it and enjoy the festivals via the organiser's ticket prices but that's a matter that will be resolved in the next few weeks," Mr Hazzard said.
Asked whether festival operators would be able to afford care, he said: "I think they can't afford not to have it and our young people can't afford not to have it."
Of the 25 people taken to hospital from the three festivals over the weekend, eight had to be placed in an induced coma and one remained on life support yesterday.
"Young people are continuing to take drugs and continuing to take them at such a level that we actually had to get 14 of them receiving extremely high level medical response that only medical retrieval teams can offer," Mr Hazzard said.
The only festival of the three to allow persons under 18, Rolling Loud had the greatest number of hospitalisation, with 11 - eight were hospitalised from Electric Gardens and six from Hardcore Till I Die.
One man from Hardcore Till I Die remained in an induced coma on Monday but his condition was stable.