Bluesfest has had its Tyagarah tea-tree farm festival site rezoned for tourist purposes as part of a schedule of variations that Byron Shire Council will submit to the planning department with its new LEP application.
But, after heated debate, councillors voted to retain the existing environmental zoning of the Yelgun site for the Splendour in the Grass festival, known as North Byron Parklands.
A motion for the Bluesfest site change proceeded quickly and was passed, with councillors Wanchap, Dey and Cameron against.
But councillors debated the change to the Splendour site extensively.
The issues affecting Splendour were that the site is in a particularly ecologically sensitive area, adjacent to the Billinudgel Nature Reserve, and that the test events were for a limited period only.
It was also recognised that Council was not the consent authority for the Splendour test events.
Supporting the move, Cr Sol Ibrahim said, ‘Wider environmental issues will continue to be addressed and fine-tuned but the broader issues of whether to put a festival on the site have been addressed.
‘Council sought and supported the concept of a site outside Byron Bay township to support festivals while having less impact on the town. It’s time to recognise these uses and complete the zoning process.’
Cr Cameron said the whole purpose of the five-year process was ‘not to simply tick off the development, but to ensure a proper and thorough assessment is made as trial events continue.
‘If we rezone now we devalue the contributions of all the people who spoke up against it. Let’s stick with a fair process so that environmental values have a fair contest.’
His comments drew applause from the gallery, some of whom had spoken during public access of their concerns about the way last month’s festival had proceeded.
Cr Hunter described the event as, ‘one of most iconic events Byron holds. It’s about giving the operators and event holders the confidence to get it right.
‘Clearly there are things they need to do to improve, the way it panned out. Clearly there were problems because of wet weather, but I was impressed in what they got through in a short time.
‘It’s unreasonable for us to expect them to make changes without showing Council’s confidence. For too long we’ve ignored local economy.’
Cr Woods concurred that there were many teething problems with the new site but said Council needed to encourage event-holders ‘to ensure there is commercial value for local businesses in it’ while acknowledging their ‘effort to constrain traffic’.
However, she said the issue of zoning was largely symbolic.
‘Zoning at the end of it doesn’t make any difference because the state government has control.’
Cr Dey was concerned that a rezoning ahead of full state government approval would give the site an enhanced resale value.
‘If someone in Hong Kong were googling a place to buy some land to have a festival it would jump out at them if it were rezoned,’ he said.
‘And it would be sold to somebody who had an expectation in their head that they could have a festival there. Don’t let’s paint it out now [because of] something that is currently a temporary arrangement.
He added that Splendour has ‘a guarantee of fiscal operation because the tickets sell out.’
The motion was defeated with Crs Ibrahim, Cubis, Woods and Hunter voting for.