Why are we shutting Sydney down while Melbourne thrives?

No fun: A Keep Sydney Open rally in 2016.
No fun: A Keep Sydney Open rally in 2016. Photo: Peter Rae

COMMENT

"I've been to cities that never close down," begins Peter Allen's unofficial national anthem. Why then, almost 40 years after those words were penned, are we shutting Sydney down?

During the 2000 Olympics, Sydney felt like one of the most dynamic places in the world to be in. Now, the lockout laws have undeniably thrown a wet blanket on our once vibrant night-time city. The question is: was it necessary?

Safety is paramount, we all accept that, but Sydney was one of the safest cities in the world with year-on-year reductions in assaults when the lockout laws were introduced. These successes were bolstered by adopting a more sophisticated drinking scene through small bars, and introducing ridesharing services to move people efficiently in and out of the city. We were on the right track before one of the biggest knee-jerk reactions in our state's history stifled the progress.

As with any scenario, the objective should be to achieve a win-win outcome. In this case that means having a city that's always buzzing while ensuring night owls are kept safe. Instead, many people have been put out of work and out of business, assaults have shifted to nearby precincts and underground parties are the new normal. Talk about kicking the can down the road.

Improving public transport, policing, planning laws, amenities and introducing incentive schemes will go a long way to achieving a safe and vibrant nightlife. The state government should also install a night-time economy officer, or "Night Mayor", as in other global cities. An understanding of the relationship between restaurants, bars, clubs and retail; the social benefits of music and the arts; and the importance of both night and day is helping these cities progress into the 21st century.

Melbourne is emerging as one of the world's greatest 24-hour destinations.

Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo, Barcelona, New York, Rio and Old London Town. You don't even need to spend a day on a plane to experience an exhilarating nightlife – Melbourne is emerging as one of the world's greatest 24-hour destinations.

Keep Sydney Open has studied our local situation and the experience of other cities inside-out. We have developed relationships with government, the multitude of stakeholders and the people of this city. Now we are looking to push our balanced approach to problem solving in NSW parliament by becoming a political party. After four years of lockouts, we're left with little option.

In the meantime, let's engage with our streets and make this city as electric as we know it can be. It's the best way we can support the thousands of venues, events, musicians, DJs, chefs, small businesses, taxi drivers and shift workers who still call Sydney home.

Tyson Koh is campaign director of Keep Sydney Open.