Byron Shire councillors have defended their support of Sunday’s March in March anti-government rally in Byron Bay at which council was accused of double-dipping over a $2,000 fee for the use of a public park for the event.
Former Byron councillor John Lazarus told the rally, which drew more than 3,000 people, that council had not supported locals’ ability to organise peaceful protest on public land.
‘It cost $2,000 for us to be in this park, we pay for this park, you have charged us twice,’ the former Greens councillor told the crowd.
He said, ‘the March in March people have been run-around terribly by Byron Shire Council.’
But mayor Simon Richardson and fellow Greens Cr Rose Wanchap rejected the claim, saying they were disappointed with Mr Lazarus’s outburst against Council during an anti-federal government protest.
Cr Richardson told Echonetdaily that council advertised on behalf of organisers and helped kick off fundraising.
He added that Greens Cr Duncan Dey also went with the organisers to help set up police support.
‘I would say that most councillors stepped up to the plate in supporting the march,’ Cr Richardson said.
Cr Wanchap said she was ‘very disappointed John came out so strongly against Byron council.’
‘We did work very closely with organisers,’ she told Echonetdaily, ‘We helped them in other ways as well.’
Cr Wanchap said she had helped organise protests in the past and the fee-charging process was needed as Council ‘need to be able to protect the public.’
Debate by councillors recently over the March in March event saw conservative Crs Woods, Chris Cubis and Alan Hunter argue for council to take an apolitical stance, but they failed in a bid to deny organisers a slight assistance with fees.
Cr Basil Cameron’s motion for the march’s go-ahead passed, with conditions including that police provide traffic control and escort along with public liability insurance being in place for at least $20 million.
During the public addresses at Railway Park on Sunday, rally goers watched bemused, some horrified, as a person tried to grab the microphone from the MC, Echo columnist Mandy Nolan, and an argument erupted.
The scrap sparked sections of the crowd to chant ‘Mandy, Mandy’, before order was restored on stage.
At the conclusion of the event one of the organisers told the crowd she was disappointed by the diversion, that the group had not been treated differently from any other group seeking to organise a rally in the town and that some councillors had been helpful ahead of the rally and had attended it on the day.