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May 9, 2021

Splendour site – the argument against

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In the first of two articles about the five-year campaign by Splendour in the Grass to obtain permission to run the event at Yelgun, Echonetdaily’s Luis Feliu examines the case against. Tomorrow, we look at the timeline that has brought us to this point.

A potential crime wave and a social and environmental disaster is how several speakers at the upcoming NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) public hearings have described the controversial plan for a permanent music-festival site at Yelgun on the Tweed-Byron shire border.

The commission, which makes the final decision on the North Byron Parklands event site proposal where Splendour in the Grass and other music festivals are set to be staged, has scheduled two public hearings for Wednesday, February 1, at the Byron Bay Community Centre and Thursday, February 2, at the Ocean Shores Public School hall in Shara Boulevard, Ocean Shores, both starting at 9am.

The NSW planning department recently recommended approval for the development, allowing maximum crowds of up to 30,000 people for three events in its first year, growing to 50,000 people in later years. It also recommended a maximum of 25,000 on-site campers. It says the events site would attract tourists from across Australia and overseas and provide job opportunities.

But Tweed and Byron shire community and environmental groups, including Pottsville Community Association and Wooyung Defenders, are unanimous in their opposition to the plan.

Byron Shire Council recently moved an urgency motion directing staff to prepare a submission for the hearings opposing the plan.

Mayor Jan Barham said the recommendation showed a total disregard for community concerns and undermined local democracy. Cr Barham said the proposed event numbers recommended were ‘huge’.

Deputy mayor Basil Cameron says ‘council doesn’t think it’s an appropriate development for the site’, right next to the Billindugel Nature Reserve.

‘And we’re not talking about the event Splendour, which often gets confused, but an application for a permanent ongoing event site at Yelgun,’ Cr Cameron said.

Local environmental broadcaster and author Gary Opit fears the plan ‘will generate a potential crime wave, besides the traffic problems, the lack of suitable fire and flood emergency evacuations and the disruption to the migratory rainforest birds along the narrowest portion of the adjacent wildlife corridor’.

Illegal drug industry targeting the area

Mr Opit says that ‘over time any locality offering a permanent party atmosphere, whether it be Kings Cross, Surfers Paradise or, in the future, the Tweed Coast towns and Brunswick Heads, will eventually lead to ‘a crime wave’ with the illegal drug industry targeting the area.

Convenor of the Coalition for Festival Sanity, Mac Nicolson, says the proposal was an unrivalled recipe for ‘an environmental and social disaster’ and the recommendation had been ‘100 per cent in favour of the music promoters’ with the local community totally ignored.

‘I am absolutely astounded by the numbers and the overkill,’ Mr Nicolson said.

Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said the decision was a blow to the work of conservationists who have been working to protect the very fragile area for years.

Ms Faehrmann said the department’s recommendation threatened the future of the Marshalls Ridge wildlife corridor which linked the World Heritage area of Mt Warning caldera to the Billinudgel Nature Reserve adjacent to the site.

‘The impact of thousands of festivalgoers and associated infrastructure, traffic and rubbish and booming noise will be unacceptable; it will be a serious blow to threatened species such as the koala and long-nosed potoroo that depend on the protected area network around the site,’ she said.

Conservation of North Ocean Shores president Bob Oehlman said the state government had reneged on its pre-election promise to return planning powers to local government and as a result the planning department had ridden roughshod over the community.

Mr Oehlman said he was alarmed that an earlier Land and Environment Court ruling banning a trial festival event at Yelgun had not been considered

‘For a government to approve a festival site catering for up to 50,000 patrons several times a year in the middle of a nature reserve and the most easterly wildlife corridor on the Australian mainland defies logic,’ he said.

‘Even more ironic is the fact that it was the NSW coalition government, via Don Page, which made the decision to establish the Billinudgel Nature Reserve in order to protect its natural and cultural values.’

The PAC panel hearing the case comprises Emeritus Professor Kevin Sproats as chair and Ms Gabrielle Kibble.

People wishing to speak or make a submission at the meetings are urged to register by 4pm, Friday, January 20, by contacting Mrs Paula Poon on 02 9383 2101 or email: [email protected]

The concept plan and first two stages of the development, including the planning department’s assessment report and recommendation, are available at website www.pac.nsw.gov.au.

Image: Jeff Dawson

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