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The City of Sydney wants you to redraw the nightlife map

The new map needs to last for up to 10 years

Protestors stand in front of purple background

In 2007, Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister, and Morris Iemma was Premier of New South Wales. It was the year Britney Spears shaved her head and Paris Hilton went to jail. First year students beginning university in 2018 would have been just six years old. That was the year the current map of Sydney’s nightlife was drawn.

How do you redraw a ten-year-old map to suit the needs of 200,000 residents and over 600,000 daily visitors?

This is the question facing the City of Sydney Council.

The City of Sydney Late Night Trading Premises Development Control Plan 2007 is a 32 page document that details how and why applications for businesses to trade late at night will be assessed by the council. It sets out “a hierarchy of three late night trading areas”: Late-Night Management Areas, City Living Areas, and Local Centre Areas.

A new plan is now being prepared, and it is ‘Open For Consultation’. The City is looking to democratically represent the current and future needs of its constituents and visitors—because the new map potentially has to last another ten years.

The key word is democratic. The City understands that people who are inclined to an early night are more likely to be writing to the Council applauding strict regulations, while a significant number of young people don’t understand what the Council does, or even that it exists. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The new plan has one main objective: to serve as the ‘playbook’ for venues in Sydney, ensuring the same rules apply to everyone, and that this regulatory framework protects both Sydney’s nightlife as well as its residential amenity.

It’s a critically important plan—not only for maintaining some semblance of ‘culture’ in the city, but also to its economy, with the entire nighttime business economy generating more than $15.1 billion in revenue in 2009, representing 28.4 per cent of all jobs.

Since its creation 11 years ago, the largest change to the shape of the map has been lockout laws. The 2012 death of Thomas Kelly and 2013 death of Daniel Christie, both in the same location in Kings Cross, spurred the NSW government to enact change. As part of a raft of measures, a 1:30am lockout and 3am ‘last drinks’ rule was introduced to venues within the ‘CBD entertainment precinct’.

There has been direct political action against these laws. Keep Sydney Open, which advocates for expanded, more diverse, and safer nightlife, has drawn tens of thousands to rallies and is preparing for a NSW upper house campaign in the 2019 state election.

The City of Sydney Council responded to this public momentum with their OPEN Sydney: Future Directions for Sydney at Night. Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2030. It’s a five-part plan “for the development of Sydney’s nighttime economy over the next 20 years”.

The crux of the Development Control Plan is the map. The map dictates which areas of Sydney will allow restaurants to open until midnight, late-night cafes available for a hot cocoa catch up, or pubs with a 3am last call. It will reflect the changes Sydney’s areas have gone through—some of which are busier, some of which have changed in character, and others which are home to new venues and residents.

If writing a formal letter to the local government strikes you as boring, you are the reason Sydney’s nightlife will remain in its current state. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The council has recognised that young people are more likely to engage with what is in front of them, and has responded by using a website and app to collect responses.

All of the information is available on the council’s sydneyyoursay.com.au website, but the gist is that they need as many young people who understand Sydney’s nightlife to come into their metaphorical office and help redraw the map. The consultation period to stand up for Sydney’s nightlife ends on 30 March. There’s an online survey, there are group discussion guides, and the app has potential prizes for people who submit responses. Hell, even go into their real office and help them redraw it.