The popular Falls and Splendour in the Grass festivals have a permanent home after the state’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) today signed-off on a $42-million development application for North Byron Parklands (NBP).
The approval will see both Splendour and Falls increase in size to 50,000 and 35,000 punters respectively .
The announcement comes just over a week before the state election and a day after Splendour (which is now run by a different organisation to NBP) called on its followers to throw out the Coalition government, which it said was ‘not willing to work with the music industry’.
A number of other music promoters have taken their festivals interstate rather than accept the additional, onerous conditions contained in the Coalition’s new ‘safe festival’ policy.
By contrast, Labor have promised to work with the industry and appoint a minister for the night-time economy.
In its statement, issued on Wednesday afternoon (March 13), the Commission said it had put in place ‘strict conditions of consent to address residents’ concerns about crowd numbers, noise, traffic and sewage and wastewater management – and to achieve appropriate environmental and social outcomes’.
Billinudgel Property Pty Ltd (the applicant) lodged a state significant development application with the Department of Planning & Environment (DoPE) for the ongoing use of the site on Tweed Valley Way, Yelgun, for up to 20 event days per year.
It had previously received approval from the former Planning Assessment Commission to host outdoor events there on a trial basis for five years.
DoPE referred the matter to the IPC for determination after receiving 7,204 submissions – 118 of them objections, including from both Byron and Tweed shire councils.
All of the applicant’s proposals were approved, except the development of its own sewerage and wastewater plant, which was withdrawn.
Details of approval
The IPC’s approvals include that:
- Falls and Splendour can continue to be held over a maximum of five days each. Total maximum daily patron numbers will rise to 35,000 and 50,000 respectively – the latter being a staged increase, ‘conditional on the applicant demonstrating its management and mitigation measures are effective’;
- NBP can also host three ‘medium’ event days for up to 25,000 patrons per day, five ‘small’ event days for up to 5,000 patrons per day, and two ‘minor’ day-long community events for up to 1,500 patrons; and
- an administration building, conference centre, road and transport infrastructure and other amenities will be built within the Parklands ‘to support the staging of events on site’.
IPC Chair, Professor Mary O’Kane AC, appointed a three-member panel, comprising Professor Richard Mackay AM (Panel Chair), Ms Catherine Hird and Mr Andrew Hutton, to scrutinise the application.
They met with the applicant, DoPE and representatives of both councils, and inspected the site and surrounding area.
‘After carefully considering all the evidence, the Commission has today (Wednesday 13 March 2019) determined to approve the application, subject to conditions,’ the statement said.
The IPC concluded the applicant had ‘demonstrated throughout the five-year trial period that it can adequately manage outdoor events for up to 35,000 people at the site – including trialling, monitoring and refining a range of measures to manage and mitigate impacts associated with development, which have resulted in overall improvements in amenity and a reduction in complaints from local residents’.
It also found:
- the proposed staged increase in patron numbers is ‘appropriate… subject to the applicant implementing the required mitigation measures’;
- the predicted traffic impacts are ‘acceptable and appropriate traffic management will be in place’; and
- the proposed noise impacts and management measures are ‘acceptable because appropriate noise limits are included in the conditions of consent, and the applicant will be required to prepare and implement a noise management plan and monitoring program for large and medium outdoor events’.
In concluding that the application is ‘in the public interest’, the Commission stated, ‘The development will continue to deliver a unique tourism experience that will generate positive economic and social benefits, including local employment opportunities.’
The conditions imposed by the Commission seek to prevent, minimise and/or offset adverse social and environmental impacts; set standards and performance measures for acceptable environmental performance; require regular monitoring and reporting; and provide for the ongoing environmental management of the development.
NBP welcomes approval
In a statement released on Wednesday, NBP’s owners said they were ‘thrilled’ to received the permanent licence.
‘NBP has worked with planning authorities for the better part of a decade to secure this permanent approval which was entirely merit based,’ they said.
‘The five-year trial approval period (extended to six-and-a half-years) clearly demonstrated that Parklands was more than capable of hosting iconic outdoor music events in a manner that limited impacts while maximising benefits to so many in the region.’
Management said they would continue with ‘further detailed modelling’ for the proposed ‘environmentally sustainable wastewater treatment system’, with a view to resubmitting this proposal at a later date.
They added NBP will now ‘finalise the gifting of more than 41ha of densely forested lands to National Parks and Wildlife Services that will increase the sizeof the Billinudgel Nature Reserve by more than 3 per cent’.
Change of government urged
On Tuesday (March 12) Splendour in the Grass management posted a shout-out to its Facebook followers calling them to kick out the NSW Coalition Government with the tagline, ‘Turn up live music. Turn down the current NSW government’.
‘LISTEN UP SPLENDOUR PEEPS, THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT!’ the Facebook post read.
‘The NSW election is less than two weeks away and the future of live music in this state hangs in the balance. The current government has made it clear through new unnecessary regulations for music festivals, they are not willing to work with the music industry.
‘We urge all fans and followers of live music to take a moment and consider what’s at stake. ‘If you are not yet on the electoral roll, it’s not too late to register and vote music!
‘This election is down to the wire, the most closely contested race in NSW ever and your voice matters.
‘Make your vote count on Saturday 23 March,’ the post concluded.