Christine Wilmott, Byron Bay
Proposals to run eight festivals a year on the old Club Med / Becton site north of Byron are facing heightened scrutiny from local residents, council and the federal government, as concerns grow about protecting the shire’s surviving koala population.
The 88-hectare iconic coastal site now called North Beach was bought in 2010 by Queensland coal-mining magnate Brian Flannery, a member of the ‘rich list’, estimated to be worth in excess of $500 million.
Byron Shire Council is currently considering the owner’s plans to run eight festivals per year – one roughly every six weeks – some with up to 3000 participants and 1500 campers, potentially causing serious impacts on the local suburb and adjacent estuary, home to threatened species including the little tern and the pied oystercatchers.
Significantly, the festival site is also being identified as a wildlife corridor or ‘key linkage area’, connecting known koala populations in Tyagarah and West Byron – as a local Koala Plan of Management is being prepared by Byron Council.
A report for council in March this year on koala habitat – prepared by Biolink’s Steven Philips – found an urgent need to expand current habitat, and create ‘more effective habitat linkages’ if koalas were to survive in the shire. Just last week Steven Philips addressed a meeting involving council planning staff, new mayor Simon Richardson and the group Friends of the Koala, specifically focused on developing strategies to save koalas in the region.
At the same time the federal environment department has confirmed in a letter to a local resident that compliance officers are ‘currently looking into the case’ involving the North Beach festival plans, along with the Yelgun and Bluesfest sites.
Simultaneously the new owners of the Becton site want to revive an old development application that would allow construction of 160 new cabins on the coastal site – understood to be going on public display for two weeks only from October 16.
With the proposal for multiple festivals, the possibility of 160 new cabins, and approval for a new pub and drive-through bottle shop, local residents involved with the group Save Our Sunrise are concerned about possible overdevelopment. Representatives from the group met with council planning staff on Friday to express concerns and seek clarification about plans to protect and enhance koala habitat.
To contact Save Our Sunrise email : [email protected]