Splendour in the Grass organisers have been fined by the state’s planning department for exceeding noise limitations on the Friday and Sunday nights of the 2014 event.
Even the department admits the $3,000 fine is effectively a token impost given ‘speakers were positioned to avoid directing sound away from the event and shipping containers were used to absorb as much noise as possible’.
But North Byron Parklands (NBP), the venue that holds the events, has hit back, with GM Mat Morris describing the current noise regulation requirements of the Planning Assessment Commission as ‘unworkable’ and saying it is seeking to have them varied.
A spokesperson for department said some of the problem was caused by prevailing winds, which ‘contributed to the breach, carrying noise further than it would have done otherwise’.
‘The department is working with the venue to reduce bass noise from next year’s event to minimise its impact in terms of sound and vibration on nearby residents,’ the spokesperson said.
According to NBP’s Mat Morris, the venue would happily accept stricter controls on its bass volumes if it could have more flexibility at higher ranges.
‘On the Saturday morning, at about 10.30am – half an hour before any music of any description was playing… we took measurements at various locations in and around the site [including] at North Ocean Shores and Wooyung,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘Just the extraneous noise in those locations alone – people on landmowers, traffic passing by, dogs, whatever – meant the background noise was already plus the 10 decibel DbA that we’re allowed.
‘That example just shows how entirely impossible it is for any activity, let alone a music festival, to comply with those conditions.
‘So we are asking the regulator to provide us with limits that are a level playing field with other outdoor venues, whether they’re in the Hunter Valley or in our region, and that we become regulated for the intrusive [bass] component, which we’re currently not,’ Mr Morris said.
Ticks for traffic, complaint handling
Splendour did do better in other areas, however, with its traffic management plan and complaints response getting ticks from the department.
The report’s authors said the complaints system worked well, with phone staff directing noise monitors to areas of concern via text messages throughout the festival.
‘While the event’s complaint handling processes met approval conditions, there were capacity issues whenever there was an unusually high number of calls to the line simultaneously,’ the spokesperson said.
It recommended the hiring of more phone answering staff for the community hotline at the next event.
The report said traffic management had improved ‘significantly’ since the 2013 event.
The department said it received 36 submissions raising concerns about the event from the community and considered all of them in putting together the report.
But it added some of the issues were outside the department’s control, including illegal camping littering and disorderly conduct.
The Compliance Report is available online from www.majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au.