By Dianne Knott | 9 Nov 2020

NSW Government’s recently released 24 Hour Economy Strategy is set to revamp night life and activate city streets, just in time for a COVID Safe Summer.

The Strategy is designed to do much more than just reinvigorate the Sydney CBD. The introduction of a ‘neon grid,’ connecting Sydney’s night-time economy hubs, will enable government and industry to strategically map growth across the CBD and into suburban centres.

Councils stand to gain, with the introduction of a funding pool to support Council led plans, known as the 24 hour Economy Acceleration Program. We have identified the following five easy steps for Councils to ensure they are in prime position to access this fund.

The NSW Government’s Alfresco Dining Pilot, launched this month in The Rocks precinct, allows premises to apply for an outdoor dining licence without planning approval – provided they are registered as a COVID Safe business and use digital sign-in methods, such as QR codes.

With the 12 month pilot soon to be extended to the City of Sydney and the rest of the state, Councils have a role in identifying popular dining areas in their local centres and streets, supporting businesses to register as COVID Safe and apply for the pilot.

Councils can follow the lead of Wollongong Council (and other Councils) which have accelerated live events by pre-approving outdoor sites for music, performance, and other activities.

Councils have an immediate opportunity through their Local Strategic Planning Statements and current local environmental plan reviews to identify areas for night-time activation. Wollongong’s approach provides a pathway to create new night-time hubs and incorporate these into Councils’ strategic and statutory planning initiatives.

The creative use of existing buildings for night-time uses – think commercial office lobbies used after-hours as art galleries or small bars – provides an additional night-time canvas for Councils.

Liverpool City Council has successfully delivered this approach with the ‘Love our Livo Events’, which has brought new people to areas of the city with unique night-time events. Councils can identify what makes their area unique and work with building owners to enable the use of spaces at night.

Safe and reliable transport is essential to support the night-time economy. Councils can take a lead from Inner West Council, which has relaxed night-time parking restrictions on Norton Street Leichhardt after 6pm, to encourage people back to the once-thriving dining precinct. When visitors are more comfortable visiting the area, transport options including on-demand or courtesy bus options can be established with community collaboration, including liquor accords.  

Way-finding and connectivity for important last mile transit will also support the creation of a multi-centre ‘neon grid’ across Greater Sydney.

The vision of the Strategy is to create an inviting atmosphere, supported by story-telling and community-building across Greater Sydney. With people currently spending more time at home and around their neighbourhoods, this strategy provides ideas and inspiration for Councils to think creatively and promote local activities based on the diverse interests, backgrounds and aspirations of residents.

There are opportunities for all Councils to leverage the 24 Hour Economy Strategy, thinking creatively about how relevant initiatives can be integrated into place strategies, and the strategic and statutory planning process. Now is the time to boost the night-time economy, not just for post COVID-19 recovery, but also for thriving, diverse and connected communities.  

Dianne Knott View Profile