Bright lights, big city but poor policy hampering life after dark in Sydney, say researchers


Date: 17/09/2009

Despite the neon spotlight of public attention on Sydney's troubled nightlife problems still persist. Cultural researchers hope an ambitious new survey of residents, workers and visitors will better inform policy-making and breathe sustainable life into the city after dark.

Nathaniel Bavinton, from the University of Western Sydney's Centre for Cultural Research (CCR), questions the quality of the existing evidence guiding much of Sydney's night-time policies.

"There's a preponderance of top-down approaches in policy making. Many of the decision-makers are removed from the actual experiences of going out in Sydney after dark", Mr Bavinton says.

Mr Bavinton and colleagues in CCR have commenced surveying the views of a wide variety of people directly connected to Sydney after dark to provide better information for policy-makers.

"Striking the right balance between stimulating a vibrant Sydney nightlife and controlling consequent social problems is difficult when many of those who are actually involved are talked about, but not directly consulted," Mr Bavinton says.

"Unfortunately, it often seems that the rich variety of nightlife people and experiences in a city such as Sydney is reduced to ugly caricatures and stereotyped sound bites."

In recent months, the night-time economy in Sydney has been beset by problems, says Mr Bavinton.

"There are tensions over matters like liquor license concentration, the availability of small bars, the 'cultural centrality' of consuming alcohol, the 'right to party' and the need for inner city residents to have a good night's sleep," he says.

"The moratorium on new liquor licenses in several of Sydney's world famous nightlife precincts indicates that there's a dearth of imaginative after-dark policies," Mr Bavinton says.

Professor David Rowe, from the UWS CCR and a member of the research team, believes ad hoc strategies, such as the moratorium, can only buy time while new proposals are considered and policies developed.

"The online survey seeks the perspectives of people actually out and about participating in Sydney's nightlife precincts, and attempts to build up a more complex picture than the familiar one involving licensees, police, governments and residents," Professor Rowe says.

"We hope that by encouraging many Sydney nightlife participants to complete our online survey, we can provide a more accurate and realistic understanding of people's nightlife preferences, places and needs. In this way, we can play a part in shaping urban cultural policy and planning that can promote a good time all round", Professor Rowe says.

The online survey is available at: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/128829/city-after-dark

The survey is part of a research project called, "The City After Dark: The Governance and Live Experience of Urban Night-Time Culture", funded by the Australian Research Council.

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