Councils and Your Club

When should I start speaking to the council regarding an event?
What should we discuss at the initial meeting with council?
What should I do to ensure there are no communication issues?
How long do we need to allow for permission to be granted?
Who do we contact for the following?
How do I obtain a liquor license?
What license to we need to obtain to serve food?
What do we need to organise for roads and access?
What do we need to consider with noise management?
Risk Management, Security & OH&S
What insurance will we require?
How do we ask for event sponsorship from the council?
Simple strategies for successfully working with councils for your event

When should I start Speaking to the Council regarding an Event?

As soon as your club is thinking of running this type of event you should speak to the events team at your local Council/Shire.  Talking to Council is important because local Councils have significant experience, resources and very often funding which will be required to run your event successfully.

Before you start to plan the details of your event, speak to all people you need to get permission from. It is much easier to create an event that fits within the rules from the start rather than trying to change an event to fit the rules.

You will also build a better rapport with councils and other officials if you approach them before an event and discuss what you are planning. This allows them to discuss any concerns they may have and to offer suggested alternatives. It also shows that you understand the importance of their involvement in the planning and value their contribution.

If you just see having to work with the council and other planning authorities as a battle you need to get through, you will miss out on the valuable assistance that these people can provide through their extensive knowledge in events, especially in the planning stage.  Their role is to ensure that events are well planned, run safely and do not infringe on others in the community, so they actually fit with your objectives. Although sometimes the paperwork can seem cumbersome, analysing your event in detail such as this will assist in flagging potential issues.

When running a large community event such as an outdoor cinema movie night, many clubs forget to discuss the event with their local Council/Shire.
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What should we Discuss at the Initial Meeting with Council?

Topics which should be included as part of initial meeting agenda with council include:

    • Confirming tentative event definition, date, time and location
    • Discuss your expectations for crowd numbers and your clubs plans to deal with:
    • Traffic management to and from the event
    • Parking strategies (location and oversight)
    • Rubbish strategies (collection and removal before, during and after the event)
    • Toilet strategy (including number required and their maintenance during and after the event)
    • Alcohol management policy
    • Security

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 What should I do to Ensure there are no Communication Issues?

    • Keep in contact with all the above departments throughout the event creation process. Then, when it comes to getting approval there should not be any issues as they have been addressed along the way. Also, if something doesn’t happen as planned at the event, having the council on side as far as being aware of your diligence in organising the event is very helpful.
    • Keep a record of all your conversations with the above departments. Especially make note of which people from which department advised you to undertake certain actions, who from your group spoke to them and when and where this took place
    • Provide a list of contact details and areas of responsibility of club members to those you are working with in the above departments
    • Ideally all email correspondence should be sent from as few email addresses as possible. Remember, many of the people you will be dealing with have a lot of events they are involved with and they will often group their emails together, so having them originate from my one central point is preferable.
    •  If you have an email address with your clubs name in it, it is much more professional to use this and it allows the email recipient to immediately see who the email is from.
    • Always ensure that all relevant people are carbon copied (use the CC: field in your email) into the emails to keep everyone informed of changes and developments.
    • Internal club meetings should be held on a regular basis with all those involved in the event. Any correspondence with outside people involved in the event should be discussed to ensure everyone is up to date of what has been done, changes made and future elements that need to be addressed.
    • Ensure that club members all understand what the event is and that those involved in speaking to officials are all united in the plan. It causes concern to government departments when they receive several different “visions” of an event from members of the same club. It will make them consider that you may not be united in your plan as a club and are not organised. This is a red flag when they are considering granting permits and an issue that can easily be avoided. 

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How long do we need to allow for Permission to be Granted?

    • Approach your council and relevant authorities as early as possible in your event planning. The process for event approval can take several months and you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you have done all the work but don’t know if you will have permission to run the event through in time.
    • When you are given a time window, always plan on the process to take the longest time and then a bit more. For example, if you are advised permission will take 6-8 weeks, allow yourself at least 8 weeks, preferable 10 weeks and ideally 12 weeks. The later will allow time for changes to be made if required and questions to be asked and answered. Don’t just hope that it will come in on 6 weeks because the council are not obligated to rush it through if you have been told that it could take up to 8 weeks and it could end up a stressful and messy situation.

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 Who do we contact for the following?

 First Contact

First point of contact should always be the council. They will be able to advise you on other groups that you need to work with to get different permits and permissions

Who do we Contact for the use Grounds?

Most sporting grounds will be managed by your local council and permits for their use will need to go through them. Parks may be managed by the council or by your state based park agency. Council is once again your first point of contact here and they will be able to tell you who you need to speak to if the park is state managed. Sometimes the management of a park may be outsourced to a private company such as Citywide. In this instance permission is normally granted by the owning body such as the council, but the details are worked out with the management company. Other venues may have a management committee that you will also need to work with.

Who do we Contact for Planning?

The event management plan that is required by most councils will be a great asset when you are undertaking your planning for the event. It will list all the elements you need to address. Below are some examples of event management plans required by specific councils. Even if they are not for your region, they will show all the elements you will need to address as part of your event.

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How do I obtain a Liquor License?

It is important that you speak to the council and/or grounds owner before applying for a liquor license to find out what restrictions are in place. Some councils do not allow alcohol to be served at events that have juniors involved. You will generally require approval by the council and/or grounds owner before applying for a liquor license.

The grounds you are hiring may come with a liquor license and it may be easier and/or less costly to work with the group that is authorised to utilise the existing license.

Liquor licences are granted by state based agencies. Different states have different requirements. Some have specific licences for community, others have one-off licences that cover all different both community and for profit.

Adding alcohol can significantly increase the cost of your event, especially as you might be required to fence of alcohol areas dependent on your event and your state agency requirements. It can also increase your insurance costs and you may be required to have staff undertake training to serve alcohol responsibly.

Contact your relevant state agency below to find out what is required for your event and how you can apply for a license.
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What License to we need to obtain to Serve Food?

  • Often community groups do not require a license when holding once off events but this needs to be confirmed with your council and also your state based health authority.
  • However even if you do not require a license, you will still need to ensure that you are following the relevant health act for storing, cooking and serving food. It is imperative that all involved in the food process are fully aware of these rules.
  • If you want to reduce the risk of serving food and if you believe that event attendees will be only seeking snacks and drinks, prepacked prepared food might be a suitable alternative.

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What do we need to organise for Roads and Access?

The level of detail required here will be dependent on the size of your event and if you require roads to be closed. You will be advised as to what is required by the council so your first point of contact should be them.


Even if your event does not close roads off, you will still need to work out where people will park and how traffic will get in and out of the parking area. If the parking is located on a busy road and many people will be undertaking right hand turns to get in and out of the car park, this will need to be managed as traffic may need to be halted.  It is important to remember that you will need to ensure that people with restricted movement/disabilities will need special consideration when planning parking. Volunteers to direct traffic into parking areas may be required and will need to be trained and outfitted in appropriate high visibility safety clothing. For road management you may be required to have qualified staff directing traffic

Emergency Vehicle Access

Unrestricted and quick access is to be available for emergency vehicles at all times. These areas need to be signed and/or have someone monitoring them to ensure they are not blocked at any time. This will generally be part of the plan that your council will require. If you are working with St Johns Ambulance or a similar group for your first aid, they will be able to assist with this planning

Traffic Impact including Road Closures

If your event will have an impact on traffic, you may need to develop a Traffic Management Plan.

A meeting may be held with the following for this purpose

  • State roads authority (eg: Vicroads, RTA etc)
  • Police
  • Department of Transport
  • The relevant council Asset Manager
  • Council Traffic Engineering Department
  • The traffic management contractor (if required)

If your event uses the road and is located in a larger town or suburb, you may find your council requires you to employ a Traffic Management Company to write the Traffic Management Plan

If you do need to employ a Traffic Management Company they will undertake the following

  • Develop a Traffic Management Plan,
  • Implement and manage the road closure, and
  • Provide insurance cover for the treatments to the traffic during the road closure.

All traffic management costs including planning, implementation and communications are generally the responsibility of the event organiser (eg; the club)
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What do we need to Consider with Noise Management?

When planning your event, noise management is an important consideration. Unhappy neighbours can result in a negative view of your event. It may result also in bad press coverage, issues in gaining permits for future events and a general unpopular view of your club in the community.

Elements to review include:

  • What times will the event run?
  • What area is the event held in? For example, is it in a quiet residential area, a remote park or a busy urban area? These all require different approaches when looking at noise management
  • If there will be public address systems or stages, what orientation are they are can there setup to reduce noise pollution
  • Can the level of noise be reduced as the event gets later? Low frequencies can particularly penetrate nearby residential houses.

If your event will have the potential for creating considerably noise, it is advised that a noise management plan for the event should be developed in conjunction with an acoustic engineer. A professional will be aware of how to control sound and its direction to reduce impact.
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Risk Management, Security & OH&S

Safety at your event is extremely important and all possible scenarios need to be taken in to account when looking at reducing risk.

Many considerations will need to be undertaken when deciding what level of security and OH&S is suitable for your event. Considerations include:

  • Is there alcohol be served at your event
  • Will there be people under 18 years old at your event?
  • How many people will be attending your event?
  • Will there be risk elements in the environment such as water/heights etc?
  • Will your event be held at night?
  • Is this event restricted to invitees or is it open to the general public?
  • Is your event to be held in a public area that other groups/people may be using?
  • Will your event include sporting activities?
  • Is your event in a remote area?
  • Will you be having First Aid representatives such as St John ambulance onsite?
  • Will you be having security personal at the event
  • Will the event be fenced off?

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What Insurance will we Require?

Public Liability Covers your organisation for legal liability in regards to claims concerning compensation for property damage, personal injury or advertising injury. If you already have public liability this can be extended to cover your event.

Personal Accident insurance to cover your volunteers.

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How do we ask for Event Sponsorship from the Council?

  • Enquire if Council would be prepared to sponsor the event. Remember sponsorship does not just have to be cash but it can be in kind through the provision of Council services you would otherwise have to play for (e.g provision of rubbish bins, toilets etc)
  • Would Council promote the event through Council’s own marketing (e.g. Council website, newsletters, etc)

Even if council is unable to support financially, they may be able to advise you of grants that are available to assist with your event. Grant agencies need to ensure the people they give grant money to will run an event. If you have council support this will greatly assist your credibility. A letter of support from the council would also be very beneficial

Local Council Support – Facilities

  • Acquisition or access
  • Maintenance and improvement of council facilities used by clubs
  • Redevelopment

Council Support – Grants

  • Your local council may have event grants that you can apply for. You will need to plan well ahead if you wish to apply for a grant as often the application is well ahead of the proposed event date. They are normally run on an annual basis and competition can be strong.

Other Grants

There may be other grants available through either state or federal agencies that may suit your event. If your event has a specific focus you may also find privately/nonprofit group grants may be available.

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Simple Strategies for Successfully working with Councils for your Event

  1. Plan, plan, plan. As they say “Fail to plan and you plan to fail”. You might be lucky and pull off the event with poor planning, but why create such as stressful environment when it is unnecessary. And many from the council will be aware of your lack of planning and may not grant permission so easily next time.
  2. Keep everyone informed and then issues can be dealt with when they arise, not at the last minute.
  3. See your council as partners and develop a relationship, it is easier and more fun for everyone involved.
  4. Allow plenty of time for permits to be granted and then you will have time to enjoy your event.

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