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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Public meeting hears of festival site’s expansion plans

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Signs outside Monday’s IPC hearing into North Byron Parklands’ plans. Photo supplied

The long-running fight over the future of the North Byron Parklands festival hub is coming down to the crunch.

On Monday, public submissions were heard at the Ocean Shores Community Centre, concluding the application process.

From here, the matter rests entirely in the hands of the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), which is expected to hand down its final decision early in the new year.

Should the Commission decide in favour of the festival hub’s owners, it will result in a significant and permanent expansion of festival activity on the site, dashing the hopes of those who had hoped to limit the size and scale of the operation.

‘This is the stage where we either gain control as a community or lose it,’ Byron Shire councillor Cate Coorey said.

‘We have to maintain a role for Council and the community. It’s really crucial that if there are to be festivals on that site, that there’s rigorous oversight and monitoring.’

The central elements of the application are to increase the maximum number of patrons at Falls and Splendour in the Grass to 35,000 and 50,000 respectively, and to allow each to run for five days.

There would also be three ‘medium event’ days per year, each with up to 25,000 patrons, five ‘small’ (5,000-patron) one-day community events and two ‘minor (1,500-patron) community events. This would increase the total number of event days from eight to 20.

The applicants are also proposing to build a conference centre on the site, which would operate all year round.

Health & safety risk

In a significant win for the owners, the Department of Planning has recommended that the proposal be approved, subject to a few minor conditions.

Byron Council, on the other hand, is firmly in the other camp.

In a stinging submission to the IPC, Council staff pointed out a range of concerns including parking issues.

They said delays of up to three hours for patrons trying to exit the site each day had led to a significant number to park offsite, many in No Stopping zones.

‘This situation is a public health and safety risk,’ the staff said in their submission.

Council staff also said that the influx of festival patrons into surrounding areas like Brunswick Heads and South Golden Beach was a major issue.

Council was having to put on extra enforcement staff in these areas to enforce rules such as those against illegal camping.

‘Council must remove staff from other important duties and priorities,’ the submission said.

They said the festival should engage staff on a user-pays basis, as they did with police and emergency services.

But the manager of North Byron Parklands, Mat Morris, said the company had been employing private cleaning and security staff to address this issue.

‘We’re very much aware of the potential impact on the towns in the northern part of the Shire and we’ve put in a number of measures to address that,’ Mr Morris said.

The company is adamant that it has taken all reasonable steps to limit the impact of the arts and music venue on the community.

This includes agreeing to contribute up to $120,000 a year to Byron Council’s voluntary tourism fund to assist with spending on local infrastructure, reaching agreements with all but one immediate neighbour, and giving 100 tickets away to residents in the surrounding area.

Mr Morris said that the festival hub should be allowed to operate as intended.

‘The fact is that we have actually been given a legal licence to operate here,’ he said. ‘In a civil society there are rules in place to allow or disallow an activity, and we’ve been allowed to conduct this activity.

‘We’re not a concrete batching plant – at the moment we operate for eight days a year.’ 

Resident concerns

Resident Olga Tresz told The Echo, ‘There were many locals who stayed for the six-hour hearing, where it unsurprisingly appeared to be the same old “environment versus money and jobs” paradigm. A sad and frustrating day for the Nature Reserve and a bora ring positioned exactly under the main stage!’

Byron councillors will have the opportunity to declare their allegiances on the issue at this Thursday’s Council meeting, when they vote on a motion opposing the proposal, put forward by Cr Cate Coorey.

Cr Coorey’s motion raises concerns from residents, including that any increase in patron numbers will exacerbate existing safety issues.

But Mr Morris said the motion contained ‘glaring inaccuracies’.


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9 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s hope councillors have the decency to support Cr Coorey’s motion. Aside from the horrendous safety implications, crowds of 50,000, even 35,000 will make too much impact on an over-impacted, precious area. Please give our shire a break!

    • Questionable – good for the businesses in Cabarita and Kingscliff perhaps. It’s benefits to local businesses are in more doubt given a range of factors – much of what the attendees consume is provided on-site, the festival is often at peak times when a lot of business has reached near saturation already, then there are the visitors who now avoid the place at all costs at these times who often represent a different tourist market.

      One thing is probably certain though – it’s great for North Byron Parklands’ business.

      All the motion is asking for is that the concerns (raised from official channels) re evacuation, waste management, EI etc are resolved before the green light to expansion. Festivals are fine – having some parameters is even better.

  2. It seems the number of arrests by police for drug possession does not matter.
    Or arrests for drug taking does not matter.
    For aggression to other patrons does not matter.
    For causing fights does not matter.
    For general hooning on the roads does not matter.
    For drink driving does not matter.
    Just why is there an investigation when these activities are in the media after each Festival

  3. This is just another episode in the ugly takeover of Byron by mega festivals supported by a corrupt government. 50,000
    next year, 100,000 in due course . Money buys everything even Byron Shire.

  4. Patrons of 50,000 excludes the numbers of staff and artists and guests etc numbers so add another 15,000 on top. The festival is large enough as it is! I live in South Golden Beach where we have one coffee shop and 2 public toilets! It seems the entirety of the festival lobs here to the beach and it’s scary! My kids live in Burringbar and getting to and from work in Byron for them means they have to line up in traffic forever and are made late for work. I can’t see why the North Byron Parklands ( should be called Yelgen Parklands) aren’t made to install a round about and extra lanes for such a massive amount of traffic. Why is this community supporting a large multi national? Once again, Council and rate payers will have to pick up the slack. I can’t believe how Bayfm and some other local community groups are such a bunch of groupies, free tickets to an event seem to make people compliant to what is really happening to our beautiful and fragile environment there.

  5. Isn’t this always the way with developers etc, “we only want a small low key event it’ll be great for the shire…” 12 months later : Wasn’t that great, everyone had a good time & we made lots of money but if we could just have a few more mug punters through the gates it would be even better for everyone.
    12 months later: this is reaaly great lets have the rest of Australia here for the party… bugger the wildlife & lost sleep for the neighbours The last DA was sent from my resort in the Bahamas

  6. Sadly in this issue is that this festival site is flood prone central, when you get hard rain
    the beautiful amphi theatre with it’s inward slopes turns into a wetland lake, Try evacuating 35 to 50k of people from there only two entrances.

    You ask why has this not happened over the last 5 years etc because by miracle as opposed to Blues festival, it only rained on one occasion and the front page Northern star headline was ,Splendour in the Mud.

    This was not that heavy a rain event,

    Check out any aerial of the site after a big rain event and imagine for yourself what would happen with 50k people trapped in the site trying to escape mud,water, infrastructure.etc.

    Historical disaster waiting to happen, but u cant tell them, none are so blind as those who cannot see

  7. Way too many people to impact on the Tyagarah Nature Reserve. The north coast has a pretty good record for supporting the environment. Shame that music and money win over threatened species and nature reserves.

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