A street performance licence is an agreement between the Council and licence holder allowing them to perform in public places when they comply with licence conditions. The conditions aim to keep people safe and minimise disruption to traffic and pedestrians, while encouraging our vibrant street culture.
Street performance (or busking) is a musical, dramatic or other performance, in a public place, where performers accept money from the public. It may include circus skills, playing musical instruments, dancing, singing, clowning, juggling, speeches, poetry, storytelling, living statue or similar acts.
All street performance licences are free. A licence can be issued to an individual or a group, but it cannot be transferred to another performer. Standard licences are valid for 6 months and special performance licences are valid for three months.
Street performers are responsible for any personal injury or property damage claims made against them. We encourage you to have your own public liability insurance. Street performers are not protected by the Council’s public liability insurance.
Conditions apply to all street performers performing in a public place, unless you're employed for an approved event.
- Have a current Wellington City Council street performance licence.
- Keep noise lower than reasonable background noise when heard from more than 30 metres (horizontal or vertical) from where the performance is taking place.
- Move if you are asked by the owner of the premises that you are performing outside.
- Not block doorways during business hours; or footpaths, bus stops or fire escapes at any time.
- Make sure there is wheelchair access around your performance area.
- Display, or make available to Council staff or any member of the public, your street performance licence when performing.
- Limit your performance to a maximum of 90 minutes, including setting up and packing down your equipment.
- You can receive voluntary donations but you cannot approach individuals for money.
- To get a special street performance licence, you must comply with the standard licence conditions - to check this, contact the Street Activities Coordinator at email@example.com or 04 499 4444.
- The Council can withdraw a special street performance licence if any of the street performance licence conditions or special licence conditions are not met. If your licence is withdrawn, you can reapply 6 months after the withdrawal date.
- If the Council receives repetitive complaints about music that is too loud, abusive language, or abusive behaviour towards the public, the busker will be advised that their licence will be cancelled for 6 months.
- If bad behaviour continues, the Police will be contacted and the busker will be reported for causing a public nuisance.
Apply for a standard licence
Your licence will be emailed to you and you can print it or keep it on your smartphone to show people when you perform.
Performers aged under 12 need permission from a parent or caregiver to apply for a licence. We recommend an adult supervises young street performers when performing.
Performers who are not using sound, dangerous materials or objects and who have been employed for a scheduled street event, approved or organised by the Council do not need a street performance licence for that event. This includes protests, community festivals and commercial promotions.
Apply for a special licence
To keep the public safe and make sure businesses are not disturbed, you need a special licence for performances using fire, dangerous materials, objects, or loud sounds. Special street performance licences are issued to individual street performers – not groups. Each performer in a group must have a current special street performance licence if they use dangerous materials, objects or sound.
A special street performance licence is valid for 3 months from the issue date. If you renew your special street performance licence within 1 year of expiry, you don’t need another peer review.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 04 499 4444.
Once we've reviewed your special licence application, we will send you names of peer reviewers. Street performers using dangerous materials, tools or fire must be endorsed by an experienced, Council-approved local performer. Their job is to assess your:
- awareness and practice of basic safety principles
- awareness of the risks of working with fire or other dangerous objects
- commitment to minimising those risks at all times.
When we receive your application, we will send you peer reviewer’s contact details so you can arrange a review time. There may be a cost for the peer reviewer’s time. The peer reviewer will discuss or watch your act, checking against the above criteria. They will email us the results of the review and if they are confident of your safety practices, we will email you your special street performance licence.
If you don’t pass the peer review, you can’t use dangerous materials, tools or fire in a performance in Wellington. You can reapply after 6 months. Remember, a peer review can’t guarantee an act is 100 per cent safe.
Performers using dangerous materials or objects must be skilled and experienced in using those materials. They must also understand and commit to safety for the public, themselves, and the environment.
All dangerous objects used in a performance must be blunt so they cannot pierce human skin if direct pressure is applied.
- tell the Street Activities Coordinator where you are planning to perform a fire act
- not hold a fire act in an enclosed area, including narrow streets, eg Cuba Mall, Lambton Quay, Manners Street
- have a fire blanket or fire extinguisher visible and accessible throughout the performance
- define the performance area with a visible boundary of at least 2 metres between performer and the audience, using either a roped or chained-off area
- only perform a fire act within the boundary area that separates you from the audience
- avoid dripping, tipping or flicking fuel onto vegetation, people or property
- clean up any drip stains on ground surfaces before leaving the area.
Kerosene is the only flammable liquid permitted for use in street performances. Store and transport kerosene in portable, unbreakable, closed containers with a maximum 5-litre capacity. For example, a plastic squeeze bottle for accurate fuel application. Clearly label containers Kerosene: poison.
If there’s a fire ban in the city, you may not perform a fire act.
If you are performing in the city centre, the Council will advise the Senior Fire Risk Management Officer.
Circle acts last 20–40 minutes and encourage people to stop and watch or participate.
Dangerous materials include flammable materials and chemicals, fire, fireworks, smoke, flares, heated elements, or anything giving off heat or toxicity that could harm or damage people or the environment.
Dangerous objects include whips, knives, spears, swords, spikes, chainsaws, mechanical devices and sharp objects of any kind that could harm the public or performers.
A loud sound performance uses an amplifier over 4 amps, musical instruments (eg bagpipes) or other noise-making objects (such as tools, fireworks, chainsaws, sticks or motors), loud voices or more than four voices.
Public places are those managed by Wellington City Council or Council-controlled organisations where street performances are allowed. They include streets, footpaths, pedestrian malls, squares, parks and the waterfront.
A quiet performance has no amplification, musical instruments or noise-making objects. It can involve up to four voices together if the tone is conversational.
Reasonable background noise is assessed by Wellington City Council’s noise control officers. They measure the sound volume of a street performance and consider the location, time, day of week, weather and traffic conditions and other activities in the area.
A sound performance uses an amplifier under 6 amps, musical instruments (not bagpipes), and voices of fewer than four people.
A walk-by performance doesn’t have a distinct beginning or end and does not need the public to stop and watch. It can last longer than a circle act.