Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson has admitted he had no idea that his staff approved a major corporate event on Clarkes Beach – a decision that is not only inconsistent with Council’s alcohol-free beach policy but may also set future precedents.
Echonetdaily received numerous complaints upon the construction of the temporary structure from Thursday.
Cr Richardson told Echonetdaily he first learned of it late Thursday afternoon through social media. ‘I immediately asked for information,’ he said, ‘which I received at about 4pm. I will move a mayoral minute that this never happen in this way again. I have been assured it is a one off.’
The Last Drinks in Byron group, who are lobbying for earlier closing times for the town’s venues, have asked Council to please explain.
The letter reads, ‘Our members have alerted us to the existence of a number of floored temporary structures which are currently being erected on Clarkes Beach.
‘We understand that it is being erected for an NZI Insurance Company function today May 30 and that alcohol will be served on the beach.
‘Can you please let us know the criteria for allowing private functions to be held on the beach, how often this might occur and the criteria used for lifting the alcohol prohibition?
‘Will the beach continue to be an alcohol-free zone or is the council changing its policy to allow alcohol to be served on Byron beaches?
Occasional activity: Council
‘An occasional activity to support Byron as a conference destination,’ is how Council’s director of corporate and community services, Mark Arnold, described the decision to lift the alcohol ban and allow the private function.
‘[But] Council strongly supports the beach remaining primarily for public use and will ensure that it is not spoilt through function usage. Fees received from the function will go back into the Crown Reserve and the improved maintenance of the iconic beachfront for everyone in the community.’
The applicant, Ben Kirkwood from the Beach Cafe, defended the event, telling Echonetdaily it was well managed, adhered to stringent council guidelines and created no impact on the beach.
Mr Kirkwood also spruiked the economic value of high- yield visitors to the region.
‘While we appreciate and understand why there is some fear in the community that these events might now happen on a regular basis, the truth is that people visiting Byron Bay for business make up less than four per cent of all visitors to our Shire; this is far less than the NSW average of 17 per cent (source: Destination NSW).’