Hilary Bone, Federal
Currently there are nine zones in Byron Shire where weddings and other commercial events are permitted. To date the remaining three zones in the Byron hinterland, zones RU1 RU2 and R5, have been protected from this commercial invasion. At a Byron Shire Council meeting on 21 June 2018 Council resolved to proceed with a planning proposal to introduce a new local provision within BLEP 2014 relating to land zoned RU2 (Rural Landscape). The proposal permits weddings and other commercial events in the RU2 zone. The proposal was forwarded to the Department of Planning and Environment for a gateway determination. This is despite the fact that the NSW Department of Primary Industries has advised that it does not support these types of development in RU1 and RU2 zones. Industry members eg caterers, sound technicians, wedding planners, celebrants etc. demanded that the proposal be amended to include zones RU1 (Primary Production) and R5 (Large Lot Residential). Council appears to have caved in to Industry with regard to RU2 but held the fort with regard to RU1 and R5. Since the initial planning proposal, Council has been under considerable pressure from industry to amend its original proposal to promote the interests of industry. Council has complied. In the Council meeting scheduled for 20th June 2019 Council will seek to make the following amendments to its original proposal.
- The number of attendees at events will not exceed 150
- Events will be restricted to 20 per year
- Official approval of an events venue will be for a three-year trial period with ongoing approval.
- All amplified music must cease by 10pm (amended from 8.30pm at the request of industry)
- All attendees must vacate the venue by 11pm (amended from 8.30pm at the request of industry).
- Guests are required to be transported by bus to minimise the number of cars.
- No specified distance is required between the event and the neighbouring property (amended at the request of industry from a minimum 500m.)
- Council will rely on acoustic assessment to protect neighbours against offensive noise (rather than specifying distance from neighbours).
In their submissions to Council, local residents opposing the planning proposal raised as a serious issue their lack of trust in the ability of the Council and Industry to adequately manage disturbance. As usual it will be left to residents to monitor consent conditions or suffer in silence unless of course they exercise their own right to host private events resulting in a free for all. Some protection is afforded for residents under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1977 but few can afford to go to court.
Byron Bay is saturated with commercial activity including Airbnb and international festivals. Hundreds of Airbnbs are already thriving in the hinterland. Many local families can no longer afford to rent in the Shire and certainly cannot afford to purchase property.
Now absentee landlords and industry seek to further fracture our local communities. They make no contribution to building and sustaining the community. Instead they exploit the community by bringing masses of people into the Shire for the sole purpose of self-gratification and financial gain. Attendees return home, wherever that might be, and leave in their wake mess for others to remedy, and untold damage to the environment, not least of all the people who live here and the flora and fauna. Beware it may not yet be in your backyard but it is coming. The community needs to stand up for their rights and for the environment.