That’s the view of the founder of a new political party which wants to re-establish Sydney as a 24-hour city.
“Australia will be judged on Sydney’s progress,” warned Tyson Koh, of the Keep Sydney Open party, which hopes to win seats in the Upper House at next year’s New South Wales state election.
“NSW is a nanny state, full stop. The regulations to have a drink or even have dinner are incredibly constricting,” he told news.com.au.
“And we’ve seen recently that police have given themselves the green light to deny concertgoers entry into a gig even if the drug dog’s indication is false.”
Mr Koh was referring to a controversial edict this week from NSW Police ahead of this weekend’s Above and Beyond festival that if a sniffer dog merely indicates to officers someone might have drugs that will be enough to have them barred entry, whether or not they have any.
“Music festivals were one of the last bastions of fun. We have gone a little mad in this city and something that needs to be fixed.”
Keep Sydney Open has a five point plan to resuscitate Sydney including improving transport, ignoring NIMBYs and tax breaks for night time venues.
Mr Koh said that despite Keep Sydney Open being born of a campaign against the city’s controversial lockout laws, the party wasn’t solely focused on CBD residents. He insisted the ramifications of over regulation spread far from the harbour.
“The flow on effect of the dead city centre flows far further than inner city Sydney,” he said. “Parramatta’s night-time economy is at a turning point and while it is becoming more cosmopolitan, the development in the area is going through the roof; so potentially the night-time economy could be stifled before it takes flight.
“People used to come from far and wide, from as far as Canberra, to enjoy what Sydney had to offer — they’re not doing that anymore.”
Mr Koh said the damage done to entertainment areas, such as Kings Cross, had given an opportunity for developers to swoop in and build bland blocks on top of what had once been thriving venues.
“The exit of night-life has created an opportunity for development and a greying of our city centre. We’re seeing huge stretches of land turned [over] to developers and that comes at the expense of soul.
“We look at pictures of mainland China’s cookie cutter apartment blocks that stretch for miles, yet that’s what we’re doing here because we’re allowing developers to do as they please.”
The Government has loosened the state’s lockout laws. Bottle shops can now up until 11pm, rather than 10.30, while music venues can remain open in the CBD for a further 30 minutes.
But the changes were too little, too late, said Mr Koh.
“Lockout laws have pushed entertainment out of the city centre which has created a vacuum for older people to move in which has pushed property prices up.
“Now the streets are empty as younger people are not coming into the city and older people are going to bed; it’s become a city of no one.”
Mr Koh said there were five things the Government should do to restore Sydney’s reputation.
MORE TRAINS AND BUSES
Transport, he said, was key to unlocking a city’s potential but it was neglected in Sydney: “Melbourne has 24-hour trains yet Sydney hasn’t and we see ourselves as the premier city — that doesn’t add up.”
PAY LESS ATTENTION TO NIMBYS
Small-minded residents, some of which in Sydney have been successful in shutting down live music in pubs for having the temerity to turn a speaker on midafternoon, should be listened to less, Mr Koh said.
“Our campaign has highlighted the importance of venues as social and cultural spaces, but they are currently left open to harassment from authorities and complaints from NIMBYs.”
APPOINT A NIGHT MAYOR
Similar to moves in London, New York and Amsterdam, a dedicated night-time economy office would look at rebuilding the city’s reputation.
TAX BREAKS FOR VENUES
“Tax offsets are an option for businesses and organisations that facilitate culture and live performance,” he said.
MAKE THE GOVERNMENT JUSTIFY CITY CHANGING DECISIONS
Mr Koh said Government planning policies were too tied up with “vested interests” and were less about the concerns of residents. Decision making could be made more transparent with changes to the NSW Lobbyist Code and more funding for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Ultimately, he said, if Sydney’s reputation as a vibrant city perished, so would Australia’s.
“People are rooting for Sydney because they know it’s the gateway for the country. Australia is judged on Sydney progress.”