The start two weeks ago of construction on the site for the future Splendour in the Grass and other festivals in Yelgun has touched a raw nerve for some longtime residents who fought for almost two decades to stop the controversial development.
But they say the fight is over and want to get on with their lives. They’ve accepted that, though sad, the transformation of their quiet rural neighbourhood was inevitable once the state government took over and approved the North Byron Parklands (NBP) events site development earlier this year.
The reality, one local says, is that the wildlife corridor linking the hinterland with the coast at Jones Road they battled so long to save has now been ‘severed’. (The highway also cuts the corridor).
They know that’s an understandable reaction when earthworks, excavations and tree removal start in earnest.
Site contractors hired by a Queensland-based construction company have begun reshaping the land around Jones Road for a road and underpass to provide access to the festival site on the property.
Jones Road is mostly unsealed, but will be bitumened and widened for around 340 metres as part of the works.
A spokesperson for North Byron Parklands (NBP), which owns the large coastal site, says they are doing everything possible to minimise impact on locals and the environment and keeping everyone fully informed at every phase of the works.
Trees removed, including invasive camphor laurel, are to be replaced by native species, with other compensatory works taking place.
The spokesperson said they had advised Jones Road residents of the start of works with hand-delivered notices, had provided newsletter updates as well as meeting with them at Jones Road to discuss or walk across proposed construction areas.
She said Byron Shire Council had provided all roadwork approvals and the regulatory working group had consulted on pre-construction ecological survey and monitoring.
Daily surveys also had been undertaken during the tree-removal phase by the company’s ecologist, who found ‘no fauna impacted on’.
The spokesperson said of the 75 trees removed as per council approval, 34 were large camphor laurels and more than 1,000 replacement native species would be planted after the works as part of council-approved tree revegetation program.
The developer also has a water truck to control dust along Jones Road and a residents’ bypass road was currently being built north of the proposed underpass.
A longtime resident of the road spoke to Echonetdaily on condition names were not used, for the sake of maintaining good relations and future co-operation with the developer and site managers.
The resident said because there were so many conditions and three tiers of government involved in the eventual development consent, it was difficult to monitor regular compliance.
The resident said the last hurdle in their fight to preserve the wildlife corridor intact fell down recently after the federal government did not declare the development a controlled action under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act.
But extra federal consent conditions related to wildlife connecting to the Billinudgel Nature Reserve nearby have been put in place.
‘But it makes you laugh that just a couple of days after they rejected the controlled action move, the federal government announces a plan for funding wildlife corridors to help fauna adapt to climate change; it’s a joke,’ the spokesperson told Echonetdaily.
Last week, environment minister Tony Burke unveiled the National Wildlife Corridors Plan, which outlines processes for communities to nominate areas to become part of a national network of wildlife pathways.
A spokesperson for Byron Council said compliance staff received a phone call from a concerned resident recently about the works, but that it was up to the state government’s planning department ‘to ensure the conditions are met’.
The Jones Road resident told Echonetdaily that ‘now there’s a road servicing the tunnel as the festival site entrance, large trucks to supply the events, provide infrastructure, buses etc will use it, so this road has to accommodate quite heavy vehicles, and that’s just the start of it’.
Another nearby resident spoken to, who also preferred not to be named, said he could understand the initial shock reaction but felt it should settle down once works ended.
Image: Construction work on the Jones Road tunnel and road entrance to the Yelgun festival site has begun. This picture was taken from Jones Road looking down at the southerly approach to the proposed underpass after roadworks ended for the day.