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Byron Shire
October 19, 2021

Micro-distillery proposal activates Middle Pocket

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A community meeting has been called by residents in Middle Pocket opposed to a proposal for a micro-distillery, which locals claim will further damage an already inadequate, narrow and dangerous road.

A development application (DA) is before Council.

At the March 23 meeting councillors voted to defer the decision until more information was provided.

That includes its role in sustainable agriculture, road impacts and ‘greater detail of the production, distribution and sales of the ready-to-drink component and its potential impact on the road and local community.’ Impacts on local water sources will also be researched by staff.

In morning public access, councillors heard from the proponent and those opposed. 

Proponent Brian Restall introduced himself as a local, who bought the farm to start a family business. He said the distillery would be by invitation only and follows a similar model in Tasmania. He argued it would be consistent with RU2 land use. ‘Brookfarm had a similar application, which you approved,’ he said.

‘A lot of distilleries discharge their waste into sewers but we will make a liquid fertiliser,’ he said. His family also planned to grow their own sugar cane for the distillery process, although   molasses would have to be trucked in. 

Mr Restall also said he has approval to use 55 megalitres of water – for both surface and groundwater – but plans to only use 1.4 megalitres.

But will a micro-distillery be wanting to earn micro- profits? That’s a question put to councillors by resident Ray Linabury. He asked at another question – to applause in the gallery –  ‘Wouldn’t this be better in an industrial zone?’

Longtime Shire resident Lani Jensen also questioned whether it was really an agricultural produce industry, as claimed on the DA.

She told The Echo, ‘They will be taking in water, which will compromise the whole valley’s water situation, and all other produce will be trucked in. That is not farming – it’s packaging and branding Byron Bay. It will essentially be a bottling factory called ‘Lord Byron Spirits’ producing ‘ready-to-drink products’.

Jensen claimed it would be ‘an industrial factory that can produce 1,200 litres of pure alcohol per day, seven days per week,’ and would compete with large corporate distilleries.

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