User charges policy

Executive summary

The NSW Government has conducted a review of agencies' user charges policies for major and special events, and developed whole-of-government guidelines.

The review considered submissions from the event industry, not-for-profit sector and government agencies.

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.

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 that manage major and special events have user charges policies where event organisers are charged for venue access and various services to stage major and special events.

This policy is primarily concerned with the services provided to major and special events by:

  • NSW Police Force
  • Roads and Maritime Services/Transport Management Centre (traffic services only)
  • NSW Ambulance.

The policy only applies to user charges and other agency policies may apply 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 Property NSW will continue to set fees.

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 as a public service. Examples include:

  • police officers inside sporting venues
  • an ambulance on site at the horse races
  • road closures for fun runs.

A user charge is a payment to an agency for a particular good or service that benefit the payee directly. In the examples above, event organisers/promoters and select members of the community – not the general community – directly benefit from the public services supplied,.

The government can ensure an efficient, effective and fair use of public resources by applying a charge for these services.

However, the government acknowledges 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 by waiving or reducing these charges.

For major and special events, Roads and Maritime Services' user charges include the reimbursement of statutory charges for road closures, which the RMS manages on behalf of the event organiser.

4. How the policy works

The whole-of-government approach to applying 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
  • relevance to government policy.

Event categories

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. While 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 (categories A, B and C)

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

 The Department of Premier and Cabinet's Communications and Engagement branch assesses and classifies events.

The classification helps the government determine whether or not to support an event by waiving user charges.

Each event will be assessed on its merits.

By exempting or reducing user charges, the government aims to help event organisers who manage events of significant cultural, economic, social and/or historical value to the people of NSW.

The government will not automatically sanction waiving or reducing user charges if an event falls within category A, B or C. 

For all other events, including Categories D and E, agencies will continue to determine if user charges apply.

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.
  • The organisation has insufficient reserves or resources to meet the costs.

Event criteria

  • The event is free of charge to spectators.
  • 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 event meets one or more of this criteria:

  • The applicant meets the organisational criteria but not the event criteria.
  • The applicant meets the event criteria but not the organisational criteria.
  • 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 this policy 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, covering 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.

The event organiser should be submit an application at least six months before the event to:

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

For application forms and further information regarding this process, contact the Communications and Engagement branch in the Department of Premier and Cabinet on 9513 2009.

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 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 should cover event organisation, 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, contact:

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 - [email protected] 

8. Pricing policy

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

Avoidable costs are 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

When the government waives or reduces user charges for major and special events, it effectively represents government sponsorship of the event.

The event organiser should acknowledge the government's support. The Department of Premier and Cabinet will liaise with event organisers regarding acknowledgement of government support, including use of logos.