Around 40 Oceans Shores residents opposed to the controversial Yelgun event-site development walked out of the Planning Assesment Commission (PAC) public hearing yesterday in protest and anger at their community association president’s speech favouring the proposal.
Oceans Shores Community Association president Jan Mangleson, a former Byron Shire councillor, drew many interjections by residents during her speech at the Ocen Shores Public School hall during the second day of hearings into the plan for the permanent music-festival site.
The planning department has recommended approval for three events per year of 20,000, 25,000 and 30,000 people respectively. The approval also allows for an eventual 50,000 patrons at one major festival per year and up to 25,000 onsite campers, plus other minor events after the first five years.
PAC chair professor Kevin Sproats was forced to intervene several times to stop the interruptions after Ms Mangleson labelled those opposed as ‘habitual objectors’ and ‘political activists’ who were ‘denying economic progress’.
She had also angered many in the crowd by claiming the North Byron Parklands proposal, at which the Splendour in the Grass festival would be held, would become the shire’s biggest employer by creating 130 jobs.
Howls of ‘shame’ preceded the mass walkout by almost half the audience, many of whom are members of her association and told Echonetdaily outside that she ‘does not represent us’ and was being deliberately divisive.
The objectors later walked back into the hall after she finished her speech.
Almost 130 speakers addressed the two days of hearings. During the first session at the Byron Bay Community Centre on Wednesday, emotions also ran high with various interjections from the audience.
Byron Shire Council’s executive manager of planning and environment Ray Darney opened yesterday’s hearings by outlining a range of serious concerns with the proposal.
Mr Darney said the scale of the events and numbers of patrons far exceeded the previous council-approved proposal for a Splendour festival trial by the developers. He added the current proposal failed to assure traffic, social or environmental impacts of the festivals could be properly managed.
The roads and traffic issue had been ‘glossed over’ in the application, Mr Darney said, and it was ‘never envisaged’ that the Yelgun interchange of the Pacific Highway could cope with traffic of around 35,000 vehicles. Such a large volume of traffic from major events on the site, he said, would compromise the safety and efficiency of the highway.
He said the development also proposed 25,000 onsite campers for major festivals, which was almost the entire population of the shire and ‘far exceeds what’s warranted’.
Mr Darney also took a swipe at the fact the shire could miss out on developer contributions from the site developers, which were levied against other developers, unless the proposal was referred to council for assessment, saying it would cause an ‘unfair ‘ situation’ with competing commercial enterprises.
He said the iconic The Piggery backpacker hostel in Byron Bay had been levied $458,00 in developer contributions, but there would be ‘no contributions from this event’ unless it was referred to council.
Mr Darney drew wide applause after ending his speech by saying the development would have impacts on the residential community that council believed could not be mitigated and was ‘not sustainable in a shire of 29,000 people’.