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Late Night in Kings Cross
Daniel Boud

Why was Sydney rated the tenth worst city in the world, and what can we do about it?

Nick Dent
Written by
Nick Dent

The recent Time Out Index, a survey of more than 34,000 people in 48 cities globally, came up with some doleful news for the way Sydney people view their town.

Asked to rate Sydney on eating, drinking, culture, nightlife, relationships, happiness and more, Sydneysiders gave their city an overall score that placed them 39th out of 49. That’s 10th worst in the world – compared to Melbourne’s placing of second best in the world.

Someone who has some strong feelings about this is Time Out Australia’s managing director, Mike Rodrigues, so we asked him for his thoughts.

Mike, you started Time Out Sydney 11 years ago. How does it feel when Time Out’s global survey ranks the city 39th out of 48?
When you’re a proud Sydneysider you believe your city’s the best in the world. The Time Out Index has been going for three years now, and it’s hard medicine to be ranked 16 out of 18 in 2017, 28 out of 32 in 2018, and now 39 out of 48. And this year, only 7 per cent of readers rated Sydney’s nightlife as ‘excellent’, which is the lowest rating of the 48 cities.  

Nightlife is something you care passionately about?
Yeah. We spend our days at work. Night time is free time – it’s where we can be ourselves. It’s where creativity lives. It’s where culture thrives. But in Sydney at the moment there is no clear vision for our night time economy from state government. There’s no commitment that the night matters. If there was, we would have a minister to look after it, to nurture it. In the absence of a night-time ministry what you’re left with is a regulatory regime and a government structure where the departments that impact the night time are largely focussed on the day. So it’s no wonder there’s a perception that Sydney’s nightlife isn’t flowering like it could.

With the election so close, your campaign, Unite for the Night, is inviting people to compare the parties’ night-time policies via an election Scorecard.
Lockout is only one contributing factor to the malaise that’s affecting Sydney’s nightlife. There needs to be a broader approach to fixing it. One I’ve touched on is the appointment of a night-time minister who has responsibility for making sure the night-time economy performs. The Deloitte Report showed that Sydney is forgoing $16 billion each year as a result of an underperforming night-time economy.

The Night Time Industries Association, of which I am chair, has a five-point policy ask of government. Amongst other things It includes the removal of lockout, removal of the liquor freeze, which is a restriction on changes to existing licences or approval of new licences in the affected areas. Noise complaints are not handled well in NSW; you have seven government departments that can have a say on noise, we’re asking for a one-stop shop. And we are asking for a $200 million fund for the creative industries to help reinvigorate the sector. The Victorians are spending $110 million, and we need to play catch up.

We notice you have included Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats on the scorecard. Surprisingly, they seem largely supportive of the night-time economy, but given that they actively oppose Mardi Gras, among other things, is it appropriate to give them the oxygen?  
The NTIA itself is non-partisan. We’re not saying vote one way or the other and there are any number of things people should consider when they vote, but we’re saying if you care about nightlife, this is what you should think about. What you can see from that scorecard is there is a broad coalition of political interests who are aligned on this, even the Christian Democrats! But also Keep Sydney Open, the Greens and the ALP. The Coalition? To a lesser degree.

The NTIA is saying: please government, the night time matters, can you look after it, can you revitalise it, can you make Sydney again a friendly place for creativity and culture to thrive at night, because we’re in regression right now – and the Time Out Index survey reflects that.

So what can people do if they are mortified by the Time Out Index result?
Firstly, you should vote. And if you care about nightlife you should go to the voters’ scorecard and check out what the parties are saying. Secondly, the NTIA is raising money for last-minute lobbying aiming to drop right up until the election, and there’s a crowd fund that people can get behind.

What will the money be spent on?
The NTIA will spend the money on social media that drives people into thinking about their election choices when it comes to nightlife. Some of it will be used for targeted lobbying and PR. So vote, crowd fund, and thirdly: tell your friends.

The Night Time Industries Association is a separate entity to Time Out Australia. Find out more at the NTIA website.

Find out what Sydneysiders really think about our city in the Time Out Index.

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