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May 11, 2021

Councillors defend costs of staging March in March

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Byron Bay March in March MC Mandy Nolan managed to reassert control after a rowdy debate over Byron Shire Council’s charges to rally organisers. Photo Eve Jeffery

Matthew Cusack

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.

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  1. The people own the park, Council has not right to charge them to use it… at all… but then, councils are only masquerading as government anyway and every single fine or charge they issue is illegal… its just that people never challenge them or request that they identify who they actually represent…

  2. Council bashing is almost Byron Bay’s favourite sport, anyone can play, no rules, no responsibility… just shoot your mouth off, you don’t even have to think! I was there on the day and it certainly wasn’t the platform for council bashing and it was very disappointing to see John Lazarus digress and sour the moment.

  3. The original organiser (a local single dad) dropped out, unable to cope with the escalating park fees and bureaucracy of Council. The organisers paid the requested Council charges after they were informed that the GM could refund them, but the GM didn’t, as the organisers were “not a registered community group”.The application then went to Council’s Traffic Committee (Cr member Duncan Dey), where the committee’s conditions were that the organisers had to provide a professionally accredited Traffic Control Plan, professional traffic controllers, professionally produced and accredited detour signs,and that further costs for council staff or materials be invoiced to the organisers, and that two electronic message signs had to be paid for and be erected for a week prior, and that the event had to pay for commercial newspaper advertisements (under the road act),with a 28 day advertising period before it came back to Council for consideration (which would have taken it to the end of March and stopped the event). Yes, after Councillors reduced some of the proposed fees and obligations the event went ahead, but the organisers paid more to use the park than the weekly commercial artisan market. And who already pays for the construction and maintenance of the park? Residents do, for our use, and additionally for the use of 1.5 million non contributing tourists. So Council obliges us to pay twice to hold a community rally. Final cost for a walk down the street and rally in the park – about $2000.00. We have the Constitutional right to hold a political rally. Simply filling in a Form 1 with the Police covers you legally for a political rally, and allows the Police and Council the opportunity to raise prior booked street or park events, or march route concerns. Constitutional rights can not be withheld on demand of payments. Half the advertising signs in Byron are unlawful and unauthorised under the same Road Act. Councillors attended last weeks rally for the Marine Park. That rally, like many before, paid no fees and put in no Council applications. Didn’t hear Cr Wanchap jump up and down about ‘need to be able to protect the public.’ for that rally. Yes it was great that the hugely community supported March went ahead, but it only happened in the face of Councils bureaucracy and onerous costs.
    As for attempting to grab the microphone – no, I was the previous speaker and had left the stage, but I returned in an attempt to conciliate the escalating argument between Mandy, Rose and the next speaker when his mike was grabbed. I’m sure all parties felt the situation was unfortunate, but I am equally sure that everyone felt the day was great.


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