Approval of the North Byron Parklands site 20 month extension, where both Falls Festival and Splendour are held, was subject to a public hearing on Tuesday, 29 August to hear community input ad concerns about the future use. The meeting took between four to five hours and heard from 33 speakers.
Mat Morris, General Manager of North Byron Parklands said that, ‘there were approximately 35 people in attendance and the speaker list was split roughly 50/50 between people with concerns and those in support.
‘There were no surprises from our perspective in relation to the issues raised.’
The planning department have recommended in favour of the extension, however, the final decision rests with the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).
A range of concerns in relation to the North Byron Parklands failure to put in place noise reduction measures for residents, lack of an environmental impact statement (EIS) and breaches of their conditions under the trial approval to run events were raised.
‘Many people felt like it was a done deal given the fact that Falls Festival tickets were on sale on the day of the meeting,’ said Angela Dunlop, Secretary, South Golden Beach Community Association (SGBPA).
‘A lot of people are losing faith in the system. In the whole five years there has been one compliance report from the department of planning (DOP). They should have been regular, say one a year, or one for each event. There have been more than 80 breaches.’
The SGBPA claim that they have evidence of the breaches however, Mr Morris has told The Echo that there have been only ‘three non-compliances issued to the venue by the Department.’
Morris also pointed out that an EIS was not required for this extension modification and that it is ‘only the state significant development application which is a separate application entirely that requires an EIS which we are currently preparing.
‘In relation to the noise attenuation, Parklands has received costings from three registered builders to undertake these works at a cost of between $136,000 and $150,000. There is only one resident that has instigated a request for attenuation and we have been waiting months to spend a considerable sum of money to attenuate this home.’
Economic value questioned
The value of the North Byron Parklands: Economic Impact and Benefits 2015, that has been used to argue in favour of the extension by the planning department, was questioned.
‘Michael Hunt asked economists to go through the figures and now disputes the amounts that they claim are benefitting the community and the way the amounts were calculated,’ continued Ms Dunlop.
Concerns over the use of multipliers used relating to the economic benefit gained by the community and the sources used for the figures were questioned.
‘Personally, I have been to dozens of music festivals and I am not opposed to festivals per se but this is located in a wildlife corridor and right next to a Nature Reserve on which the state of NSW has spent millions.
‘An alternative to the site could be, for example, the Cavanbah centre that the council is struggling to make pay.’
In response Mr Morris told The Echo that, ‘Parklands stands by the figures presented in the 2015 economic impact report which were derived directly from the financial accounts of both Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival Byron’
A commission spokesperson said that: ‘The Commission will now consider all issues raised at the public meeting, in written submissions, and in the Department of Planning and Environment’s assessment report, before making its decision. The Commission will work to deliver its decision, and decision report, as soon as practicable.’