User Charges Policy

Whole-of-government policy for the application of user charges for major and special events

Executive summary

In response to concerns from the event industry, not-for-profit sector and Government agencies, the Government requested a review of agencies' user charges policies for major and special events and the development of whole-of-Government guidelines.

The review considered submissions from the event industry, not-for-profit sector and Government agencies in the development of the whole-of-Government guidelines. The policy provides a flexible strategic framework that will assist both the event industry and Government in determining the impact and application of user charges for major and special events.

The policy provides Government with discretion to waive or reduce user charges in recognition of an event's economic, social, cultural or sporting benefits to the State. It also addresses industry concerns in relation to consistency, transparency and pricing.

Along with the guidelines the policy ensures the adoption of a consistent user charges policy by agencies providing event services, including appropriate support for smaller events conducted by charitable and incorporated non-profit community organisations.

Director General, 2003

1. Purpose

The policy outlines whole-of-Government guidelines for the application of user charges for major and special events.

2. Scope of the policy

A number of agencies involved in the management of major and special events have user charges policies where event organisers are charged for venue access and the various services for the staging of major and special events.

This policy is primarily concerned with the services provided to major and special events by the NSW Police Force, Roads and Maritime Services /Transport Management Centre (traffic services only) and NSW Ambulance.

The policy only applies to user charges and does not limit the application of any other agency policies in relation to the management and operation of major and special events.

Agencies responsible for managing venues and/or the strategic road network (e.g. hire of the Harbour Bridge) will continue to apply venue hire/licence fees to manage industry demand for their assets.

Individual agencies including Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, Sydney Opera House, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney Olympic Park Authority and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority will continue to set fees having regard to their supply/demand considerations.

3. Why user charges for major and special events?

Major and special events often require significant Government resources over and above what would normally be allocated by an agency in providing a public service. Examples include police officers inside sporting venues, an ambulance on site at the horse races and road closures for fun runs.

A user charge* is defined as a payment to a producer (in this case an agency) for the acquisition of a particular good or service of direct benefit to the payee. In the examples above event organisers/promoters and select members of the community directly benefit from the public services supplied as opposed to the general community.

The imposition of an appropriate charge for these services assists Government in achieving an efficient, effective and equitable use of scarce public resources.

However, it is acknowledged that major and special events can bring significant and unique benefits to the people of NSW. In these circumstances it may be appropriate to support an event through the waiving or reduction of these charges.

For major and special events it should be noted that Roads and Maritime Services' user charges includes the reimbursement of statutory charges related to road closures which the RMS manages on behalf of the event organiser.

4. How the policy works

Classification of events

The whole-of-Government approach to the application of user charges is based on a classification system. The system has five broad event categories, which are determined by criteria such as economic and business benefits, social and cultural benefits, event impact, event logistics and coordination, event commerce and relevance to Government policy.

The categories are as follows:

Category A Mega Events—one-off events with an international audience that provide substantial economic and social benefits to the state. These events are logistically complex and have significant impacts on surrounding areas and the strategic road and transport networks. Extensive Government coordination is required.

Category B Hallmark Events—one-off or recurring events that enhance awareness, appeal and profitability of a destination at a particular time. These events typically have an international and/or national audience and provide significant economic and social benefits. They would involve fairly complex logistics and have high impacts of a medium to short term duration on surrounding areas and the strategic road and transport networks. Government coordination involving a number of agencies is required.

Category C Commemorative/Ceremonial Events—one-off or recurring events that celebrate or commemorate significant events/achievements in the nation's/state's history. Whilst economic benefits are minimal they provide significant social and cultural benefits. Impacts on the surrounding area and strategic road and transport networks is of a moderate to high level, event logistics is of a complex nature and requires the involvement of a number of Government agencies.

Category D Major Cultural/Sporting Events—one-off or recurring events that generally attract more than 20 000 people and/or have a major impact on the traffic and transport network.
Category E Minor Cultural/Sporting Events—one-off or recurring events that generally attract less than 20 000 people and/or have an impact on the traffic and transport network.

5. Whole-of-Government assessment

Events that fall into Categories A, B or C may be assessed on a whole-of-Government basis.

The Strategic Communications and Events branch within the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet is responsible for the assessment and classification of events.

The fact an event falls within category A, B or C does not automatically mean Government would sanction either the waiving or reduction of agency user charges. Rather it provides the framework by which Government can determine whether or not it wishes to support an event through the waiving of user charges.

Each event will be assessed on its merits. In exempting or reducing user charges, the Government aims to assist event organisers who manage events of significant cultural, economic, social and/or historical value to the people of NSW.

6. Individual agency assessment

For all other events, including Categories D and E, agencies will continue to determine the application of user charges.

Many agency policies also contain provisions for user charges to be waived or reduced. However, currently circumstances can arise where an event is eligible for an exemption under one agency policy but not another.

To ensure consistency across agencies the following assessment criteria for user charges to be waived or reduced is included in all agency policies.

Full exemption

A 100 per cent exemption for user charges is applicable when an event meets both the organisation and event criteria as follows:

Organisation criteria

The body organising the event is authorised to collect donations under the Charitable Collections Act 1991 or it is an incorporated non-profit community organisation; and

Has insufficient reserves or resources to meet the costs.

Event criteria

The event is free of charge to spectators; and

The event is conducted solely for the benefit of a charitable or community organisation and not conducted in whole or in part for the commercial gain or profit of the organiser or commercial sponsor.

Partial exemption

A 50 per cent exemption for user charges is applicable when:

The applicant meets the organisational criteria but not the event criteria; or

The applicant meets the event criteria but not the organisational criteria; or

The event is sponsored (cash and/or in-kind support) by a Government agency and the event may not be economically viable if full charges are levied.

7. Responsibility of event organisers

It is the responsibility of event organisers to familiarise themselves with the "Whole-of-Government Policy for the Application of User Charges for Major and Special Events" and individual agency user charges policies.

Whole-of-Government assessment

To be assessed for a waiver or reduction in user charges under event categories A, B or C an event organiser must complete an application that includes:

A demonstration of how the event meets the criteria identified in either Category A, B or C.

A finance plan of the proposed event. The plan is to cover event organisation and administration costs, event management fees and income streams including, but not limited to, participant entry fees, sponsorships (cash and/or in kind) and any broadcast or rights fees.

Any historical financial information regarding the event.

Any other information in support of the application including economic impact studies or information pertaining to similar events.

Applications are the responsibility of the event organiser and should be submitted at least six months prior to the event and sent to:

The Secretary 
NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet 
GPO Box 5341 
SYDNEY NSW 2000

For application forms and further information regarding this process, please contact the Strategic Communications and Events branch in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet on 9228 4756.

Agency assessment

For all other events, including Category D and E, event organisers are required to deal directly with agencies.

If requesting a full or partial exemption from user charges under an individual agency policy, event organisers as a minimum are required to provide information demonstrating how the organisation and/or event meets the criteria listed in agency user charges policies.

In particular, event organisers are to submit a finance plan of the proposed event. The plan is to cover event organisation and administration costs and income streams including, but not limited to, participant entry fees, sponsorships (cash and/or in kind) and any broadcast or rights fees.

For further information regarding agency submission requirements please contact the following:

NSW Police Force

Corporate Services Unit 
Phone: (02) 8835 9309

Transport Management Centre

Principal Manager - Major Events 
Major Events Branch
Transport Management Centre
Transport for NSW
Phone: (02) 8396 1400

NSW Ambulance

State Planning Unit
Phone - (02) 9779 3833
Email - eventplanning@ambulance.nsw.gov.au 
Web - www.ambulance.nsw.gov.au

8. Pricing policy

Services provided to the event industry are based on avoidable cost.

Avoidable costs are those costs that would be avoided by an agency if the good or service were not provided. The event industry is not being charged for overhead costs that would have been incurred anyway in running the non-commercial activities of an agency.

9. Sponsorship of major and special events

The waiving or reduction of user charges for major and special events effectively represents the Government providing sponsorship to the event.

It is appropriate that Government's support for an event is recognised by the event organiser. The Department of Premier and Cabinet will liaise with event organisers regarding the recognition of Government support, including use of logos.

10. Further information

For further information on the policy please contact the Strategic Communications and Events, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet on 02 9228 4756.

See Schedule 1 for examples of events and categories.