News & Analysis

Perth entrepreneur stands to lose $2 million as City of Perth rejects his annual NYE event

- December 4, 2014 4 MIN READ

For the past eight years, Perth-based entrepreneur Saran Bajaj has been running the Origin New Years Eve Festival, an urban and underground club music event with a solid following. This year though, it seems Bajaj may end up losing what he claims is at least $2 million due to Perth City Council not giving the event the green light to go ahead at the proposed location at Wellington Square in East Perth.

Wellington Square has been used to host many events in the past including Parklife and Future Music Festival. However, this year Perth Council made a decision to vote ‘no’ regarding the Origin Festival, which already began selling tickets prior to official council approval – a practice which Bajaj says that everybody in the industry does. Startup Daily reached out to the Lord Mayor of Perth, Lisa Scaffidi to ask why, if an event had been held in the same spot for a number of years, it was rejected. We received the following statement from her Media Liaison Coordinator, Peter Jackson via the Lord Mayor:

Wellington Square is surrounded by high density residential development and does not provide much parking or easy proximity to public transport. This venue is simply not geared for really large events.

Previous events have proven to the City that the interface needs stronger management and has not been satisfactory in regards to the aftermath and other issues of clean up and anti-social behaviour that have ensued.

We have personally been engaged with our local community and are very aware of the angst around these events and it is clear that their growth is now rendering this site in particular as unsuitable.

The proposed Origin event is suggesting 12-15000 people for Wellington Square.  Previous events including Parklife were below the 10,000 mark (between 8-10).

The issue is exacerbated by the fact the promoter has sold tickets ahead of gaining an approval.  This is unfortunate but not in the Council’s control.

The City is more than generous with the sharing and use of its spaces for a wide variety of events and festivals but it has to occasionally draw the line when the impact is clearly not easily managed.

The noise regulations require us to undertake surveys of residents where events are going to be conducted that may exceed certain noise levels.  The results show that city residents are extremely tolerant of and even welcoming of a variety of events overall but issues like time frames and frequency are an issue as well as things like the potential of crowd impact.  This would all be applicable to this event at Wellington Square on NY Eve.

The first thing that made me raise an eyebrow at this response was the claim around there not being adequate public transport. I personally sighted the approvals and communications between Transperth and the production company putting on the event, and there seemed to be no problems with the finalised conditions around transport. Also, the Wellington Square site is walking distance from the train station. In the Transperth agreement, it states that the event would have to be finished by 1am, giving party-goers plenty of time to access various public transport services back to the city.

The other claim that the event had too many people in comparison to other events in the past, also seem to be a bit of a spin on the truth as a number of sources told Startup Daily that events held at the square like Parklife and Future Music Festival had more than that number in attendance, with two sources claiming that Future Music Festival had at least 15,000 in attendance.

The Origin New Year’s Eve festival uses a number of local technology startups and small businesses to put on the event. This includes Australian ticketing startup, Ticketbooth, and local production company Big Bang. Whilst the artists will need to be paid, as they were booked, most of these suppliers will technically be able to charge for their work as well. The situation Bajaj and his team are now in is awkward to say the least.

Without having been privy to the conversations that happened prior to a number of written communications between people involved in the current situation, Startup Daily cannot really comment as to what promises were made, or what one party or the other was led to believe about the upcoming event prior to the council vote. Our inability to do so has been exacerbated by a number of conflicting accounts from various sources on all sides of the fence.

To be fair to Perth Council, from a number of off-record conversations we had with a number of people close to the councillors, it does seem that alternative locations to hold the event were suggested such as Members Equity Stadium and Belmont Race Course. The Origin website, at the time of publication still states that the event will be taking place at Wellington Square. This in and of itself could potentially cause even further problems for Bajaj as advertising an event to be held a public venue without approval heads into legal realm that would make the current situation even worse.

This story is a developing one, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out as we move closer to the end of the month when the event is scheduled to take place. Though a number of claims have been made about other circumstances that may have lead to the council’s decision from various parties on all sides of the matter, people’s unwillingness to go on-record and share soft-copy communications meant that a lot of these claims remain unsubstantiated. There was also fear from many sources about possible repercussions that may affect themselves or their businesses within the community.

What is obvious though is that the situation is a messy one, and whether the event goes ahead or not, someone’s going to lose a lot of money.