Bluesfest director Peter Noble has distanced himself from a campaign of opposition to a draft amendment to Byron Shire Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP). If approved, the LEP changes would allow only two major music events per year, which – while not named – are generally understood to be Bluesfest and Splendour.
Organisers of both festivals have opposed the plan and both have indicated their desire to run more festivals in the shire.
Echonetdaily understands that the argument arose when Northern Rivers Tourism (NRT) sought endorsement from Bluesfest for a campaign and website that focuses opposition against the draft amendment. The website, www.kill-amendment-151.com, was commissioned and paid for by management of the new proposed Splendour site, North Byron Parklands (NBP).
One page of the website encourages readers to email their objections to Byron Shire Council and includes boxes of optional autotext, which can be added to an individual’s submission. Some of the text boxes relate to the policy in general while others refer in particular to the NBP site. None of the text boxes make mention of Bluesfest or other local festivals.
In a series of increasingly terse email exchanges, which Mr Noble forwarded to the media, he has accused NRT chief Russell Mills in endorsing the website of favouring NBP to the exclusion of Bluesfest.
‘I cannot support the proposition you have created whilst it so blatantly supports ONE company in our shire – whilst not necessarily representing the interests and concerns of all,’ Mr Noble says in one email.
‘My question to you – as you are a government chartered body – is why do you show such blatant favouritism – when you should be supporting ALL Arts presenters in our community in respect of this policy,’ he continues.
‘Your attempt to do this adds a dark shadow in the fight against this unjust policy, whilst at the same time raising the ongoing concern you represent the interest of a single group and not our Arts Community.’
Mills told Echonetdaily, ‘NRT was sent an email asking for endorsement of the website and campaign. We chose to endorse it based on the other parties already endorsing it and the sample questions put to us, which were opposing [a limit on] the number of major music events in the Byron Shire.
Groups endorsing the website include Destination Tweed, Byron United, Common Ground, Splendour in the Grass/North Byron Parklands, Mullum Music Festival and Byronbay.com.
Mr Mills said he decided to approach Mr Noble given that his event would be impacted by the policy.
‘I asked him if he’d like to support it on the same basis that we were supporting it. Our motivation for asking him was purely because we think the LEP amendment is wrong and is not in the interest of festivals and events in our shire, particularly music events.’
Mr Mills added ‘NRT endorses the initiative and supports all festivals and events that contribute to sustainable tourism in Byron Shire and the Northern Rivers.’
North Byron Parklands (NBP) manager Mat Morris said the group set up the website ‘to help people raise objections to amendment 151, which had to do with the events policy’.
‘While this doesn’t apply to our Parklands application [which will be determined by the state government over the heads of council], we think the policy is without merit and we together with a number of other organisations don’t support it. We are really trying to help save music in our shire any way we can,’ Mr Morris said.
‘These organisations have raised serious concerns about the significant impact on the creative industry and the tourism industry that would arise from the implementation of this policy.
‘Peter [Noble] has not been involved in this. He hasn’t put any money or resources into this. It looks like Russell [Mills] spoke to Peter to see if he would come on board.’
‘Peter was not approached to create a joint effort because he was undertaking his own actions in this area [such as putting] on the big screens of his recent event details of the events policy and encouraging people to write to the council.’
Mr Noble was approached for further comment but did not respond by deadline.