Byron Bay’s Bluesfest has been taken to court by a frustrated ticket holder over its controversial decision to introduce parking fees at this year’s festival.
The festival incurred the wrath of music fans last December when it announced that it would be scrapping its free parking policy and charging $25 a day for parking at the event, or $50 for those failing to book in advance.
The announcement came eight months after tickets first went on sale, leaving some early ticket buyers facing the prospect of paying up to $250 extra to attend the event.
In a case that could provide a precedent for thousands of these ticket holders, Burleigh Heads man Anthony Donnellan has taken the festival to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to demand a refund for the two tickets he purchased.
‘I would prefer it if they removed paid parking for everyone rather than just refunding my tickets, but the NCAT doesn’t have the power to do that,’ Mr Donnellan said.
‘I don’t have any objection to them charging for parking, but people needed to be made aware of it when they bought their tickets.
‘As an absolute minimum, those who bought tickets before December 12 shouldn’t have to pay for parking and should receive a refund if they’ve already bought parking vouchers.’
Paid parking approved
Bluesfest sought and was granted approval to introduce paid parking by Byron Council last August.
However, it has emerged that owing to an oversight, the festival’s development application (DA) continues to state that paid parking must be included in the ticket price.
The festival has sought to amend this clause, with the matter currently on public exhibition.
The festival’s chief operating officer Steve Romer told last week’s Byron Council meeting that a growing number of festival patrons were already choosing not to drive to the event.
‘About 50 per cent of people either catch public transport, camp or find other ways to attend that don’t involve parking at the festival,’ he said.
The festival has previously said that it can no longer afford to foot the bill for managing parking at the event, which has been costing it hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
It has also stated that the move is designed to reduce the number of people driving to the festival, thus reducing congestion and the event’s carbon footprint.
But Mr Donnellan says that clause 101 demonstrates that the festival has already been charging patrons for parking as part of the ticket price.
‘No one seriously believes that Bluesfest have, for 29 years, been wearing the cost to provide parking for five or six thousand cars. It’s been built into the ticket price,’ he said.
Bluesfest management declined to comment about Mr Donnellan’s claims or the NCAT action when contacted by The Echo.