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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Down goes the Dong – Byron Council votes to decommission roundabout sculpture

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Paul Bibby

Just eight months after its striking edifice first emerged from the Bayshore Drive roundabout, the ‘Disco Dong’ has been consigned to annals of history by Byron Council.

In a unanimous vote at Thursday’s full council meeting, Councillors decided to decommission the structure and sell off the 5,000 individual metal birds which make up its construction in a bid to recoup some of the costs of the failed project.

‘A lot of lessons have been learnt,’ said Greens Councillor Sarah Ndiaye  the chair of the Public Art Panel which selected the sculpture’s design. 

‘It was fraught with difficulties from the start. There was no time to allow a full and proper process, installation could have been better managed… the artist better informed about our requirements.

‘They’re the kind of things you have to learn the hard way.’

The decision to decommission the controversial sculpture followed a recent investigation by an engineer which found significant structural and safety issues.

It is understood that these included the safety risks associated with people climbing the sculpture, stopping on the road to take selfies, and some underlying structural issues.

However, the exact nature of these problems are set to remain a mystery, with a bare majority of councillors electing to keep the report under wraps.

The meeting heard that the artist, Corey Thomas, had suffered significantly as a result of the controversy surrounding the sculpture.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ Cr Ndiaye said.

‘He’s had to shut down his website. He’s lost his next two commissions and there’s been a serious impact on his mental health.

‘He’s suffered a crushing from this community.’

Labor Councillor Paul Spooner said the council needed to release the engineering report to put an end to the secrecy that had surrounded the project.

‘I don’t think when mistakes are made you bury your head in the sand,’ he said.

‘We can’t do things better when we keep a cloak of secrecy. It’s about the wider reputation of the Shire. We need to change the things we’re doing, to send a message to people that we’re above board.’

Councillors voted to sell off the 5,000 individual bids that made up the sculpture for $20 each.

The proceeds will go to covering the costs of decommissioning the sculpture, estimated to be between $11,000 and $13,000, with the remainder going to remediating the roundabout or a homelessness initiative.

A time frame for taking down the sculpture has not yet been set.

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  1. Paul Spooner’s amendment included a provision to put the sale-of-birds funds towards the development of an arts and culture policy. I thought this became included in the motion. Pity – a good step in better directing the rather chaotic decision making in this area.

  2. It was the saddest erection I’ve ever seen in Byron Shire (and boy, have I seen a few!); I eagerly await its detumescence.

    • Given the strong Aboriginal community in this region, it would be appropriate (and well overdue) to have a sculpture(s) that celebrates local Aboriginal culture and history. With the agreement and involvement of the Aboriginal community to decide what they wanted, of course.

  3. Well there you go, the council admits they are in “L”plates. What a bunch of incompetent dimwits. how much did this monstrosity cost the rate payers and how much of that should have been spent on fixing the abysmal roads oin the shire? What a bunch of idiots these Councillors are, especially this Ndaiye woman! Who votes for this idiots?!! And I bet not one of the idiots associated with this project will take responsibility. i feel sorry fopr the artist to have had the misfortune of coming into contact with this shire which is peopled by ego tripping a-holes mostly. You know being fiscally responsible and accountable are the primary functions of a Councillor and for this Ndaiye woman to try and paper over her own incompetence by saying “We have learned a lot”is a crock. She should be sacked now!! These fools have tarnished the Greens brand for years to come. The constiuents must be feeling totally let down and betrayed by this band of merry morons. A five year old could have done a better job!!

  4. Art censorship alive and well in byron bay , a town and council who say they are pro art have caved to the town wingers , I had hoped our councillors were made of stronger stuff , wow look forward to a rusty lennox surfboard out the front . Who would have thought we had some many experts on street art in the town. A complete misuse of people power

  5. Art censorship alive and well in byron bay , a town and council who say they are pro art have caved to the town wingers , I had hoped our councillors were made of stronger stuff , wow look forward to a rusty lennox surfboard out the front . Who would have thought we had some many experts on street art in the town ?

  6. Whether you like the sculpture or not…I think it is more about safety..by having something so distractive on a round about.

    Most drivers either don’t have a clue ..or don’t care about using a roundabout safely…especially when it comes to using their turn indicator.

    1. Going left..? Approach from the left lane ( depending on pavement arrows) ..indicate left ..then enter roundabout when there is a safe gap…indicate left to exit.

    2. Going right or making a U-turn ? Approach from right lane ( depending on pavement arrows) ..indicate right…then enter when it’s safe..stay in right lane..indicate left to exit.

    ( One bit of simple advise is that when you ever you still have your right turn signal on… when you exit a roundabout YOU ARE WRONG. Example : This happens hundreds of times a day right in front of the Police Station across from Simmo’s Petrol Station. Driver is coming into town from Ewingsdale direction..pulls up to the roundabout to go left into town….said driver has to sit and wait …while watching oblivious drivers exiting left to go towards Ewingsdale..with their right turn indicators still blinking for 10 metres or more after they have exited the roundabout. I think it could a $130 plus fine and loss of 2 demerit points..?..for doing this.)

    (Can you imagine the confusion when the all the extra traffic will be coming through from the Skinners Shoot direction.. on this roundabout ..when the so-called bypass is done ? )

    3. Going straight ahead? Approach from either lane if there are more than one,,unless pavement arrows show you cannot use either lane. ..Give way..and only enter when there is a safe gap….indicate left to exit.

    You have to give way to all traffic already on the roundabout. Example: Driver is at Timpo’s corner on Jonson Street…. wanting to turn left into Lawson Street towards the Police Station / Ewingsdale direction.
    Driver sees a safe gap in slowly enters the round about..when some oblivious driver comes driving too fast down Lawson Street towards you into the roundabout and thinks he or she has right of way !!

    • Totally agree. the priorities of councils all over NSW are skewed towards attracting people to their area for businesses. This is why Byron council will be purged next election. is there anyone out there with a clue??? I invite your readers to take a drive to Peter street South golden beach to see what ruinous street really looks like.

    • As someone from up north that works in a council. I was appalled by the road conditions. The money I paid just to be in that tourism shithole. And the commerce happening, ( never been before, never will again) for 30minutes was enough for me to believe the roads should be paved in gold. What is the local council doing with the money??!!

  7. Finally!! Thank you!
    There are nobility and humbleness in recognizing when mistakes are made and learning from it.
    Next time, please don’t deny the community point of view when you will decide again to erect a totem.

  8. ‘They’re the kind of things you have to learn the hard way.’

    Not at all. Anyone with any engineering knowledge would have been able to see that the object in the drawing provided by the artist could not have been built. The Public Art Panel did not have the skills to make this assessment.

    The artist must also accept some responsibility for drawing something he should have known he could not build. Clearly he didn’t have the engineering skills for a project on this scale.

  9. I express my empathy, support for Corey Thomas the artist in light of the suffering it’s said he is undergoing. I’m really sorry for your bad experience, Corey. I sincerely wish you receive all the love and support you need. No Artist should have to suffer like this. The way the Council has handled this situation from beginning to end is the reason, and these Councillors are personally responsible, and should hang their heads in shame. Again! Most of them must be permanently staring at their shoes by now. Follow the trail of destruction and devestation, oh just another day in the life of Byron Shire Council. I know all the readers and commentators here are sensitive and empathic about you must be going through, Corey. Wishing you great, forward creative progress

  10. What a shame it is being removed. Seeing it in person I kind of liked it. It is certainly far better than Lismores boat frame sculpture.
    Most public art is a waste of tax payers money, but as always it comes down to what the unartistic viewer thinks. To keep these people happy you’d be best installing an oversized sculpture of an AFL/sports player who has disgraced the game!

  11. “A small child said that he doesn’t have anything on!”

    Finally everyone was saying, “He doesn’t have anything on!”

    The emperor shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought, “The procession must go on!” He carried himself even more proudly, and the chamberlains walked along behind carrying the train that wasn’t there.

  12. So Council in its ignorance have decided that the public art is the trouble and not Council itself in placing the sculpture in the wrong place.
    Council is at fault here and not the sculpture or the artist.
    The sculpture is intricate and detailed, and therefore needs to be put where the public can see it close up. That cannot be done on a traffic roundabout.
    Something has happened to the Byron Council, suddenly it has turned on ratepayers and wants to confront and offend ratepayers and make undemocratic decisions not in the interests of Byron Shire ratepayers but in the interests of what they dream up in Council of what they think ratepayers will want. They have become autocratic. The gap between Council and its public has widened.
    The place for the Edifice was on the hill of the proposed Roundhouse Art Gallery but Council sold that lot of land for a paltry sum of money for housing.

  13. A nice little earn for the Byron Council…
    Approx 5000 metal birds @ $20.00 each…gross about $100,000.00…if they sell all of the birds..
    So if the reports are correct and Byron Council are recouping their costs..this little SNAFU has cost the Byron Rate Payers…very dearly.

  14. “Learn by our mistakes” I doubt this very much. The cost to the community for the erection and now removal is ridiculous. Money would be better spent I’m sure. Any roundabout is dangerous enough without erecting a distraction in the centre.Byron already has an iconic lighthouse. Leave it at that.

  15. I love the rock sculpture on the roundabout entrance to Ewingsdale Road. I suggest that it would be aesthetic to stick with the theme. A lot more appropriate, easier to maintain and cheaper than the dong!

  16. Seriously what lessons were learned, and by who?
    We need safe roads and street lights ahead of stupid artworks commissioned by lightweights.
    Do this crap with your own money on your own property, but don’t waste ratepayers money on your egos.
    Yes politicians would rather build something than fix something, but you clearly show you are out of touch with the needs of the community.

  17. BBSC, an expensive lesson learnt here, next time, do your homework, listen to the community & most of all, join us in the real world.
    Blind Freddy could see this was a disaster waiting to happen from the get go but not BBSC, hmmmm time to get rid of the airy fairy rubbish on the council & get people with good down to earth common sence.

  18. Watch the sculpture as you drive down Ewingsdale road and BANG you hit a pothole… couldn’t some of the money be used to fixed them too ?

  19. I m so sorry to hear of the effect on the mental health and artistic reputation of Corey ,the artist.Corey I wish you future ease and many commissions to come to enable your creativity to flourish .I would buy a bird ,if some of the proceeds were to support housing for homeless people in this shire,as suggested.Community consultation is important for a public art work reflecting the community and this region.can the community be engaged in the decision making as to how the proceeds from the sale of the birds be spent?

  20. I’m p!$$ed off. I thought it signified the joke that Byron had become. Byron lost it in the 90’s .with no direction from community or council, it’s floated on whatevers going.
    Travelling around Oz at present I see communities generating power from solar and wind. In the middle of who knows where, there’s street lights with wind turbines on top. Really the town ain’t as green as they should…. Phantim

  21. The birds are made of soft aluminium which is liable to crack and fracture when flexed by high winds. It looks as if this is already a problem with a strand of birds hanging away from the top of the sculpture on the Byron town side at the top. I suspect this is the structural issue referred to. In a previous article it was stated that the original design was meant to be made in stainless steel but due to the cost, aluminium was used.

    I also think the original commissioning of this sculpture was a bad decision by airy fairy Councillors who don’t live in the real world of maintaining infrastructure but instead are swayed by nice, though doubtless well intention-ed ideals, and visionary architects drawings whilst failing to recognise the costs as bad value, wasteful or downright extravagance.

  22. There is no excuse like “we didnt anticipate and made a steep learning curve”
    You have 12 PAP members of which at least 4 should have known better. I have worked in public art for nearly 18 years as have a number of other artists/curatorsin this shire. None of us were consulted. In fact we instigated the initial draft of the public art policy some years ago.
    I want to see the report. Why is it being kept secret in a town that prides itself on transparency.

    Lets get the dirty laundry cleaned and start again. Public art is important to the over all value of a community.
    That we’ll never get 100% agreement on anything is clear but please consult with the people that know.

    And please stop the hatemail and harrasment of Cory Thomas.

  23. I reckon we should propose “The Big Nothing” for the roundabout. Everywhere else has a big thing and we only have the lighthouse which are a dime a dozen along this coast. Being careful to please everyone and offend no-one, the only way forward is The Big Nothing. We will still have to do community consultation, a planning assessment and make a funding application to the State and that will take time and money but I am sure we are on the right track. If you stand in the right spot you will be able to see right through The Big Nothing and see the lighthouse. We could sell the airspace above The Big Nothing and a developer could build a nice restaurant that is out of the way but we will also need a Community Centre and some affordable housing up there as well. Its a good idea.


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