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August 4, 2021

State govt cans Byron events policy

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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 1 July, 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’.

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 petitions/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 remains 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 for managing these different interests, we risk undermining the very features of our community that make Byron Shire so special to begin with.’

When Echonetdaily asked Mr Noble what other mechanisms could be applied to provide an equitable solution to the pressures of large-scale events, he replied ‘[it’s] not an appropriate question for me as I fully believe in presenting events for the cultural enrichment, as well as the financial benefit, of our community.

‘And my track record proves, over more than 20 years of presentation in Byron Shire, that it does not require legislation to curb me in presenting award-winning events here done responsibly. However, a number of councillors believe there has been a major cost to our community regarding the events policy and they do not agree our community’s purse has not been affected.’

When Echonetdaily asked Council’s media spokesperson about the costs associated with the policy, they said that since no court action had taken place, the cost to Council was in preparing the policy. Mr Noble says he has spent around $100,000 on legal costs and a legal challenge was imminent.

Echonetdaily asked one of the proponents of the failed policy, Cr Basil Cameron, to comment but he did not respond by deadline.

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  1. It would be great to find out how much money Byron Shire Council wasted on the campaign to try and stop people having fun. Why doesn’t the council run a music festival of its own and make a few dollars instead of wasting mine ? God forbid that main beach could be nice place to have a NYE party. Run it properly, charge them money and make it big. An International destination for NYE. $200 bucks a head. Light it up, watch them come from all over the world.

  2. Council want to stop spending money on lawyers and start fixing the roads the pot holes in town are third world a bucket of paint and the use of market grounds for bus terminals would sort out traffic problems some what or we could spend millions on reports and assessments and be back were we started in a polluted gridlock.. Green ? Don’t think so

    • Couldn’t agree more. Can’t even back a car out a driveway onto bitumen in Bruns without breaking an axle – and almost a leg! Ocean Shores is just a mess. Proper materials not used and just washes away each rain. What about all the $ spent on the bike pass near the cement works? It just goes on and on. Long term rate payers are not getting a fair deal.
      Now Council should look around the sorry state of affairs it is responsible for andmaintain the public infrstructure to match the class of the events which will now justly proceed.

  3. Memo to Council: Stick to providing services to ratepayers and keep your noses out of legal challenges to causes you have a personal beef with. This overturning of your neanderthal approach to ‘life in the Bay as you see it’, is just and sensible. How wonderful to now be able to live in a regional town ,yet be able to enjoy amazing world class events such as Bluesfest and the Writer’s Festival and concerts by visiting major artists. This decision is so exciting! Makes living here even more fabulous! So many of us are sick and tired of elected councillors treating the Northern Rivers as their own private Nanny State where THEY decide the quality of our lives. Long Live festivals in the Byron Shire! Now get behind them and work out ways to promote the tourist dollar at the same time. Or is that just too hard for you?

  4. Why are people and governments so indifferent to environmental protection? Are they unaware that koalas and other threatened species are at risk due to these ridiculously oversized events held in wildlife habitat? Perhaps they just don’t care … kudos to Byron Shire council for doing the right thing and pathetic that state government, once again, failed the environment and those who care about it.


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