NSW Government launches "neon grid" nighttime economy strategy to revive Sydney

NSW Government launches "neon grid" nighttime economy strategy to revive Sydney

Longer retail opening hours and reduced red tape for live performances and outdoor dining are part of a long list of actionable items set by the NSW Government today as part of a new 24-hour Economy Strategy for Greater Sydney.

Even before COVID-19, Sydneysiders had a very low perception of their city's vitality when it came to nighttime experiences with just 53 per cent thinking it had the best offering in the country. 

A higher percentage still felt Sydney's nightlife had been getting worse over the years, and even amongst creative industries professionals just 64 per cent thought the 24-hour offering was vibrant.

But the state government hopes to change that with its new strategy, formulated based on consultation with industry, councils and NSW government departments, with inspiration from other global cities such as New York, San Francisco, London and Amsterdam.

"To compete on the world stage and create jobs, we must have a fantastic after-dark experience and 24-hour amenities for all to enjoy," Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, said in the report.

"Deloitte Access Economics estimated that the value of Greater Sydney's night time economy in 2017 was $27.2 billion supporting 234,000 jobs with an estimated $16 billion in potential economic uplift and associated jobs creation.

At the start of 2020 the government took positive steps towards reviving Sydney's nightlife by lifting general lockout restrictions, as well as relaxing restrictions on 'last drinks' and other measures. 

"Both the recent roll-back of lock-out laws and the hibernation of many industries caused by COVID-19, have provided us with a unique opportunity to establish an effective governance framework and a plan to re-shape the structural changes required to develop a sustainable nighttime economy for Sydney," Minister Ayres said.

"The private sector has a key role to play in the promotion and coordination of the 24-hour economy. It is those who live the night-time economy that know it best, so an Industry Advisory Group has played an integral role in the strategy development process."

The Committee for Sydney is part of that advisory group, and has welcomed the report as "one of the most detailed and comprehensive nightlife plans ever compiled for a city".

"We know that bars, restaurants, retailers and cultural institutions have been hit hard in 2020. This strategy is part of how we help them bounce back," Committee for Sydney CEO Gabriel Metcalf said.

"It is one of the most detailed and comprehensive nightlife plans ever compiled for a city and a blueprint to regenerate Sydney's 24-hour economy as the city recovers from COVID.

Metcalf said Sydney was one of the most liveable cities in the world, and now was the time for it to become a 24-hour city.

"Whilst our night-time offer is great in many places, we should aspire to much more," Metcalf said.

"This is a way to showcase the best of Sydney: a young, fun, diverse, creative city that offers the best in culture, dining, retail and entertainment after dark."

The report outlined the following summary of recommendations:

Integrated planning & place-making

  • Appoint a Coordinator General for Greater Sydney's 24-hour Economy;
  • Establish a 'Neon Grid' across Greater Sydney to create single view of existing and potential 24-hour hubs;
  • Initiate a city-wide night-time hub certification program;
  • Establish 24-hour Economy Acceleration Program for Councils;
  • Streamline safety and inspection measures within night-time hubs;
  • Expand community and industry-led safety programs;
  • Develop and incentivise participation in precinct-based streetscape atmospheres and activations;
  • Enable and support the variable use of under-utilised public and private spaces and buildings to accommodate small-scale live performance, arts and culture events; and
  • Identify and preserve places of historic and cultural significance.

Diversification of night-time activities

  • Provide Councils with tools and resources to support better activity mix planning in their 24-hour Economy hubs;
  • Support and encourage businesses to diversify;
  • Extend opening hours across low impact retail businesses;
  • Further streamline liquor licensing to support venues;
  • Review live music and noise regulations to maintain opportunities for venues and musicians;
  • Simplify requirements and improve affordability for creating pop-ups and cultural events;
  • Relaxation of restrictions for food trucks and other types of pop-up activations;
  • Simplify requirements for creating cultural events in public spaces;
  • Extend and promote opening hours across major cultural institutions;
  • Support globally significant events (home-grown and international); and
  • Activate major sporting precincts with inclusive before and after activities.

Industry & cultural development

  • Develop nuanced sub-sector playbooks;
  • Establish ongoing business engagement forums;
  • Ensure affordable spaces for creative industries;
  • Embed the activation of 24-hour economy activity in the design of new NSW Government precincts; and
  • Retain and incubate talent in Sydney's night-time industries.

Mobility & improved connectivity

  • Extend late-night transport choice and safety;
  • Develop a mobility plan to make it easier to travel between 24-hour economy hubs;
  • Implement enhanced parking options for night-time hubs;
  • Ensure safe options for end-of-trip connections for workers and consumers of the night-time economy; and
  • Initiate an arts program to activate transport links

Changing the narrative

  • Activate local marketing and promotion of night-time industries via the Neon Grid;
  • Re-establish a unifying vision of Sydney as a vibrant global cultural destination;
  • Re-align public perception of health, safety and wellbeing within night-time hubs;
  • Develop distinct branding for key night-time hubs to communicate the unique value proposition of each; and
  • Make the Neon Grid a digital, centralised information platform for all of Greater Sydney's 24-hour hubs.
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