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May 28, 2024

Bluesfest in court over paid parking

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Patrons will have to pay to park at this year’s Bluesfest. Photo Darcy Garlick-Kelly

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.

Frustrated Bluesfest ticket holder Anthony Donellan (third from left) with friends attending a previous Bluesfest. Photo supplied

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.

No comment

Bluesfest management declined to comment about Mr Donnellan’s claims or the NCAT action when contacted by The Echo.

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  1. I purchased a 5 day pass for this year, at last year’s festival. No mention was made at that time re having to pay for parking in future.

    I heard through a friend of a friend a fortnight ago about this paid parking fund-raiser for Mr. Noble. I honestly thought it was a scam as I have heard nothing from Blues Fest about this imposition. Being on their mailing list, I hear from them weekly but with NO mention of the parking charge.

    I sought clarification of this matter a week or so ago, with a follow-up email yesterday. They have not had the courtesy to acknowledge my emails, let alone comment on them!

    This is morally & ethically wrong. I live at Kingscliff and the regularity of buses (which I believe we have to pay for) means we will be away from home significantly longer each of the 5 days, than if we drove.

    I don’t know how many car spaces their are but it’d have to be close to a couple of thousand. If that’s correct, the daily gross take for Mr. Noble would be in the vicinity of $50,000. How much does it cost to run the car park, given that many of the staff directing traffic are volunteers.

    I’m disgusted by Blue Fest’s high handed, money grabbing tactics of announcing changes AFTER we bought our tickets. Surely that is illegal. There’s not much point in offering refunds when many people sharing the cars, will have already paid for accommodation & airfares.

    Since & including 1994, I’ve attended 16 BluesFests. It would’ve been more if I wasn’t living in Wales for 6 years. It’s easy to say this but I can assure Mr. Noble that this year will be my last BluesFest. That’s a shame but I will not continue to support an organisation that immorally rips off the punters.

    Remember Mr. Noble – what goes around, comes around.

  2. We paid for 5 day camping and usually leave our car out of the camping ground to give us more room and others. We can then do day trips to places that public transport don’t go and spend money in the area. Now we’re up for another $175 on top of the camping price. Our vehicle leaves and comes back in completely offpeak times during the festival

  3. “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. ”

    I have an electric car with no emissions

    Do I get free parking?


  4. When Bluesfest moved to the present location it was conditional on parking being provided. That has always been the case. It has not been free as claimed by Bluesfest but included in the proce of tickets as made clear by condition 101.
    As commented elsewhere Bluesfest knew of their intention to introduce additional charges in February 2018 yet proceeded to sell tickets with no mention of this, under the premise of buy early and save.
    Prior to the December announcement, whether an ‘oversight’ or not the conditions clearly state parking is included in the ticket price. You cannot sell a product on one basis and then after selling it go back to the purchaser and demand additional payments.
    [The attitude] shown to its loyal customer base by bluesfest refusing to answer emails, prohibiting comment or debate on their website or social media has permanently damaged their reputation.
    Adding salt is seeing how Peter Noble vociferously objected to the suggestion they might have to pay extra for policing claiming it had been introduced without consultation or notice. The hypocrisy is not lost.
    Like others after attending Bluesfest annually I will not be returning again.

  5. 1. BF first applied to do this in February last year so.they had plenty of time to let people know.
    2. Condition 101 is only a problem because they can’t back charge those who already purchased tickets if it’s in place. If they leave it there, theres no problem creating a new ticket class for next year to include parking. They may not sell many, but that’s there problem not ours.
    3. I only discovered the level of secrecy they have employed because they refused to even discuss a refund.
    4. Its I their Traffic mgt plan that should.traffic bank up, which it will because the many that arent aware of this are going to be asked for $50 and naturally stop to object, then the payment system is suspended and vehicles are waved through, hownwill.you feel.if you just paid $50 only.to watch the next 50 cars get a wave on?

    Anthony Donnellan.

  6. I am disgusted that Bluesfest have gone about this parking fiasco in such an underhanded manner. We already pay for flights, accommodation and car hire, not to mention having purchased our early bird tickets, and this extra parking fee is just greed! Every other year has had the parking fee included and, had we known there would be extra charges, we would not be coming! Bluesfest already charge exorbitant prices for drinks, merchandise and the VIP scam. It seems that’s STILL not enough. Not happy Bluesfest. Not happy at all.

  7. Well said Ross Allan!
    I am in exactly the same situation. For over 10 years I have been driving from Kingscliff to Bluesfest. Taking my kids, their friends and my friends as passengers.

    I have already purchased a 5 day ticket, like I have each year and now I have to find another $125 just to park my car! If they want to do that, they must publish the fact before punters shell out their hard earned cash.

    Money grab for sure, but I’m a bit skeptical about the carbon footprint reasoning.

  8. Couldn’t agree more with Mr Allan.
    I too, purchased tickets at last year’s festival and the above article is the first I’ve heard of this impost.
    This is my 15th (and, like Mr Allan, probably last) Bluesfest and I find it quite outrageous that Mr Noble would treat his patrons in such a fashion.
    This appears to be some sort of retrospective charge which, seems to me, very dodgy.

    I wish Mr Donnellan every success in his court matter.

  9. Get over it people. You obviously have a roof over your heads, and have the financial resources to not only afford the festival ticket in the first place, but to get yourself there. Get some perspective. It’s called capitalism.

    • no sally, its called taking advantage of loyal long term repeat customers with no regard for them in the name of increasing revenue.

      We have repeatedly stated that this is not primarily about the money, though it certainly is for some who save all year for this event, the primary concern is the way it was imposed, you know, kind of like Bluesfest felt when the Govt imposed additional unannounced costs on them? And by the way, the applied to do this way before any changes to festival license regime were considered so they cannot use that as their get out clause.

      You may be able to “get over” being ripped off and treated like a fool, I and many others happen to take offense.

      Anthony Donnellan

      • Thank you for your efforts.

        Tis a shame that Blues fest has so little regard for the people who pay upfront every year with trust.

        Trust broken.

        We would have to drive to catch the bus and then leave our car parked in Bangalow every day.Us and how many others who live rurally and cannot easily access the services provided.My husband has a broken ankle can walk but not go up and down stairs too.

        We are not happy.

        We will be enjoying Womad in the future

        Thanks again,


    • By god, you’re right Sally. In principle, there is no difference between and capitalism and profiteering if you consider their behaviours only within a capitalist framework. Both seek the highest possible profits for delivering a good or service.

      You have to step outside the amoral capitalist framework to make a distinction between the two. In particular, you need a moral framework which defines the social-justice distinction between just and unjust profit.

      The use of deception by Bluesfest is seen by many, such as yourself as acceptable, normal, necessary, and appropriate, i.e. justified. But it also helps more broadly to better understand aspects of economy and an oblivious festival management team, i.e. who we are and have become (and why), individually and collectively, under the condition of capitalism in 2019.

  10. Likewise purchased at last years event, likewise heard nothing other than about line up and Boomarang etc, drive over from Lismore as there is no bus, now this $50 / a day !
    Comes as they say ; ” Out of the Blue” , likewise disgusted , they already lean heavily on volunteers , is the State creaming off money for security , is that it ?

  11. This seemed to slip under the radar for sure! I thought it was a joke when inforned by a family member – nothing from Bluesfest! !
    My husband is on TPI pension including low vision. Getting buses, and indeed walking to our nearest pick up which is approx 2 kms from our holiday accomodation is difficult. His vision at night reduces to almost zero so public transport once it gets dark is problematic.
    This decision appears to discriminate those with a disability. I have emailed Blues but no reply as yet!

    • Many people missed the announcement because the Bluesfest email that was sent out about it ended up mostly going to people’s junk/spam folder. Bluesfest’s refusal to even broach the issue on any of their social media has only made the situation worse.

      • And they made the announcement on 13 December 2018 when people were away on holidays or busy leading up to Christmas. And then they closed the Bluesfest Office over the Christmas/New Year period. And when people later raised legitimate concerns on the Bluesfest Forum and Bluesfest Facebook page, they shut down the discussion and deleted all the posts and comments.

  12. Let’s all hope Mr Donnellan wins this case. The unethical move by Bluesfest has left a bitter taste in the mouths of so many dedicated Bluesfest fans who have been supporting this festival for years.

  13. The parking has gotten worse every year with last year being beyond a joke. Some nights it took almost 3 hours to get out of the car park!!

    Most of the time, cars were packed — we had 5 people each day in our car and majority of people I saw, were the same.

    I have been a loyal , car pooling festival goer for 5 days every year, buying my ticket on the way out each time with no idea who would be in the lineup.

    To say I’m disgusted by these tactics is an understatement.

    I agree with others in that anyone who purchased a ticket before they announced the parking charges, should not be obliged to hand over another $250! A parking voucher should be given out free of charge to everyone who purchased a ticket prior to their incredibly obscure ‘announcement’ that parking charges would apply.

    I won;t be featuring Bluesfest on my radar again that’s for sure – I’d rather go elsewhere.

  14. I’m disgusted with the parking fee as well. Hope Mr. Donellan wins, hope BLUESFEST read all of these comments and ideally drop the parking charges! Shame on Bluesfest

  15. I loved bluesfest, attended every day of it’s existence since 2004 and even have a large tattoo on my right leg (as proof of my dedication or quite possibly stupidity) always brought a group with me, purchased those tickets always at the previous festival or very shortly after.
    Then they announced this parking mad money grab at the expense of people who have shown tremendous loyalty over the years. I and my friends will never attend bluesfest again, I was going to bite the bullet and go this year but I just can’t so I will hopefully get a refund or sell my ticket, I have cancelled my accommodation and finally I’d like to thank bluesfest for many happy memories and also to condemn them for treating myself and everybody else who purchased tickets like idiots.

    • I wish you well John, however don’t forget item 2 in their Terms and Conditions stating that you may not sell or transfer your ticket. Although apparently they have the ability to waive “some” of their Terms and conditions, just not the one relating to refunds.


  16. What an ignoble act I cant stand shiftys and rip offs… This wasn’t such a clever scam after all eh?. I wonder how the artists will feel when informed of this tricky scam. Thank you Mr Donellan for pointing this out and good luck… You clearly will win as right is on your side.

  17. Ive been to 24 out of the 30 fests. I’ve seen it go from the best festival with the best line ups and food to a complexed, over policed, over priced fest with a few traditional blues bands and a lot of mediocrity. The few busses that run are a shocker. With the introduction of these fees they better have an extra 50 busses or be prepared for a very long wait at the end of the night

  18. I pity the poor carpark attendants who will cop the wrath of hundreds, if not thousands of unsuspecting patrons as they try to enter the carpark each day of the festival due to the way Bluesfest have “notified” the public of this parking fee. The freeway will be jammed for hours and festival goers will enter the festival angered, late and disappointed.

    • hi Marg, you raise a very important point and Bluesfest have considered this possibility in their Traffic Management Plan. Their solution is to suspend the Paid Parking initiative until the traffic is flowing again. Consider how you will feel if you have just outlayed $50 and then the next 5, 10, 20, 30 cars are waved through due to traffic build up??
      I have grave concerns about the impact of this.

      • Unbelievable! So they are obviously expecting an uproar at the gates! What a lame way to deal with it! Good luck with your mission, hope you achieve a positive result for us all! Thank you for taking up the cause.

  19. The application documents are freely available on the council website. They make interesting reading .
    It is evident, what everybody has known up until now, that parking has always been included in the price of a ticket for Bluesfest.
    It is also clear that Bluesfest intended making this change for the 2019 festival and these plans were in place before the 2018 festival had taken place (January/February 2018). It is therefore interesting that no mention of this was made when tickets for the 2019 festival went on sale last April. In fact, all tickets that went on sale prior to the council approving the change in August 2018 were clearly sold and bought on the condition that parking was included. Bluesfest only announced the change in December 2018 so it can also be argued that all tickets sold by Bluesfest where no mention of the additional charge was made or publicised were sold and bought in accordance with the existing conditions. That Bluesfest then failed to remove this condition leaves it open for argument that parking remains inclusive until such condition is removed.
    You cannot sell a product according to approved conditions and then at a later date force the buyer to pay extra for a product they have already purchased. Adding potentially 30% to the price of tickets already sold in some cases!
    Bluesfest knew this was controversial hence making a big deal about the green initiative and carbon imprint – making an appeal to the eco sensitivities they know most of their patrons hold. A truly cynical move as it is clear in the submitted documents that this is purely about cost and financial interest.
    Let Bluesfest make this change. But it should only be permitted for next years festival onwards when this charge is open and above board. Bluesfest should rescind the cost of all tickets sold prior to them making the announcement at least as prior to that tickets were sold on the understanding that parking was included. Alternatively offer full refunds for those who bought in good will and are now having to pay an additional cost of upto $250.
    This is a huge own goal for Bluesfest and one that many long term supporters will not forgive.

  20. Good on you Anthony,
    I am with you mate.
    I love the Blues fest and its vibe and i am not alone and that is for sure.
    You will win your case as the facts are they can not change the conditions after you have paid for a ticket that includes parking.
    In other words they cannot charge a fee after you have paid a sum for a ticket then to add on the parking.
    this is against Australian consumer law.
    There are many consumer law cases that you can refer to that will validate that.
    good luck

  21. Not happy, last bluesfest for us too. … I’m unable to get a refund if i cancelled my accommodation so it’s not worth exploring getting refund for tickets as we’ve already outlayed so much. Like others i don’t live locally and have the added costs of traveling to the event.
    Not to mention this is the first year I’ll be attending as a parent, taking our 3 month old with us. I know i won’t be partying like i once did and i certainly won’t be taking her and her pram on a shuttle bus, paid parking is an insult to families already under financial pressure. Any additional costs should have be made clear from the beginning and if not possible introduced the following year when it is.

  22. This issue is obviously very important to many people, and these comments are just in response to those reading the Local Echo (as fine an Idependent newspaper as it is).

    Imagine the response if the story had of been published via larger mainstream outlets, as a huge portion of BLUESFEST fans actually travel from Interstate and overseas and thus are still unaware of what’s happening.

    Thank you all for you comments of SUPPORT and should you wish to help change this situation please dont hesitate to email me at [email protected]

    Thanks again

    Anthony Donnellan.

  23. Disappointing that blues festival has decided to add on parking fees when previously parking has been included. In the past I’ve driven, and used the local bus. I thought The bus service was problematic, unreliable.
    Not telling patrons about the change at the time they bought tickets is a breech of trust.

  24. And this paid parking charge comes on top of Bluesfest already increasing ticket prices for this year’s festival. Early Bird 5 day tickets for Bluesfest 2019 cost $50 more than the same tickets for Bluesfest 2018. My wife and I purchased our tickets for Bluesfest 2019 at the ticket office during Bluesfest 2018 ( 2 April 2018 according to the receipt from Bluesfest). So we paid our money to Bluesfest in good faith more than a year before this year’s Festival. And then out of the blue on 13 December 2018 they increase the cost of our attending Bluesfest by another $125 (pre paid parking) or $250 (if parking is not prepaid). Like so many other Bluesfest ticket holders we are disgusted by this decision by Bluesfest.

  25. Bluesfest please do the right thing by your faithful followers and stop this parking nonsense before you lose all your credibility.

  26. Wow only just found out by accident
    This is my tenth year and the last
    This will result in chaos
    So many people won’t know
    The traffic will be horrendous let alone the impact on buses
    The queues are already long
    They can’t proceed with this
    It should have been known up front

  27. We’ve been three years running – with toddlers. It’s a major logistic and financial undertaking, which we simply will not do if we have to pay for parking. I’d be happy to put a fiver into a bucket each day for the CFA, but the ticket price surely includes parking. This is absolutely ridiculous opportunism, and we won’t be supporting this event again if this is pursued for 2020.


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