The state government has jettisoned Byron Shire Council’s events policy, effectively ending a protracted stoush between event promoters and festival supporters on the one hand and council and resident groups on the other.
The policy intended to limit major music events with more than 6,000 attendees in the shire to two per year: Splendour and Bluesfest.
The council attempted to amend its Local Environment Plan to include the policy, a move that required state government approval.
The letter that sealed the policy’s fate came from the NSW planning and infrastructure department, dated July 1, and says that under the Environmental and assessment act 1979 (s59(2)(b) the proposed ‘major events clause’ should not proceed.
‘I have formed the opinion that the proposal is not in the public interest,’ said director general Sam Haddad.
‘I believe matters of concern to the council can adequately be assessed through the normal development application process.’
Earlier this year the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), appointed by the state government, approved a trial for three annual events at North Parklands festival site in Yelgun including Splendour In The Grass.
That decision essentially gave the shire two different policies for the two major festivals to operate under.
Bluesfest director Peter Noble, while celebrating the overruling of the policy, was critical of what he called council’s lack of due process. He said his solicitors ‘continuously questioned Byron Council as to why they have not obtained their own legal advice regarding the illegality of this policy over the past four years, and why the majority of elected councillors have not voted for this to be done.’
Council’s spokesperson, however, told The Echo that legal advice was received, ‘but it’s a matter for them should they wish to waive the privilege that rightly attaches to that advice.’
Other points of contention for Mr Noble included numerous submissions opposing the policy, which he says were ignored.
‘Over four years, and the three times the policy was placed on public display asking for submissions, the vast majority objected to the policy, including more than 13,500 signed objections to the policy all up!’
He said in a media release ‘The Byron Events Policy, as it existed, which had no equal in Australia in terms of its restrictions, will now soon be history and the arts – and music-loving community of Byron is rejoicing.’
Byron Council defended what it saw as a need to ensure sustained protection of the environment, resident amenity and the continued success of the tourism industry.
Council’s acting executive manager of environment and planning Sharyn French said the ‘overall importance of these issues remain despite the planning department’s decision.’
‘Byron Shire is a small, regional community that hosts 50 visitors for every resident annually. With about 1.5 million visitors a year, Council thinks it is appropriate that there is a framework in place for helping it, on behalf of the community, to decide what is sustainable in terms of environmental protection, resident and visitor wellbeing, as well as what the quality and quantity of tourism should be.
‘Without a proper process in place