When local musician Lisa Hunt arrived for a meeting with police last Thursday she was hoping for a somewhat friendlier reception than she had received on the last occasion.
Having watched her community concert series, SummerStage, nearly drowned by a sea of red tape and regulations recommended by two licensing officers, she was looking for the burden to be eased when she met with the officers.
Instead they greeted her with a $5,000 fine.
The fine, they said, pertained to some dancing in the crowd at the January 9 event– an alleged breach of COVID-19 regulations.
Ms Hunt was shocked, upset and angry.
Paid police for services
It wasn’t simply the fact that there had only been around 300 people at the concert in question and that they were spread out across a whole football field– Byron’s Red Devil Park.
It was also that the two police officers engaged by Ms Hunt under the state’s User Pays policing system had been present at the event for the entire day but had reportedly given no indication to anyone that regulations were being breached.
It was a licensing officer who arrived much later – one of the two staff responsible for recommending that the event be subject to tough regulations – who eventually issued the fine.
‘I feel like I’m living in some kind of local mafia movie; getting shaken down, trolled and targeted,’ Ms Hunt said.
‘And all of this while I’m actually trying to do something good – putting on a concert series for local people, employing local musicians and raising money for the Red Devils Rugby League Club.
Ms Hunt says she will challenge the fine and will be represented by prominent local lawyer and activist Mark Swivel from Barefoot Law.
‘There were two police officers there for the entire show – why didn’t they say something if regulations were being breached?’
Ms Hunt also questioned why the police had waited nearly a month to formally issue the fine.
She received the penalty a day after speaking out inThe Echo about the severe financial impact of the tough regulations imposed by Byron Council and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing following recommendations to this effect by police.
These regulations included significantly reducing the number of concerts in the series, imposing expensive parking and toilet requirements, and $3,796 to hire two police officers for the weekend’s two shows.
‘To put this in perspective, the entire takings for the weekend was $18,790,’ Ms Hunt said.
‘The cost of meeting the conditions demanded by the police, council and OLGR was $13,358. When you take out the $5000 fine as well that’s $432 left for everything else.’
Going ahead with shows
‘Even though this has been incredibly hard for me personally and financially we are going ahead with the shows – live music is for our souls,’ Ms Hunt said.
‘The community needs this, I need this, and we’re really just hoping people come out, have a great time and support live music.’
The next two concerts are on this Saturday and Sunday (Feb 13 and 14) from 4pm-10pm. For more information and tickets visit the SummerStage website.
When asked about the fairness of their actions toward Ms Hunt, NSW Police provided the following statement:
‘About 7.35pm on Saturday 9 January 2021, officers attached to Tweed/Byron Police District attended a music event at Bangalow Road, Byron Bay.
Upon arrival, officers observed several alleged breaches of the Public Health Order, including groups standing and dancing and patrons not being appropriately socially distanced.
Police also observed an alleged breach in the event’s limited liquor licence, with the absence of an RSA Marshall at each bar service area.
Officers spoke with event management and the event licensee at the event and acknowledged the breaches of both the Public Health Order and the Limited Liquor Licence.
Officers returned the following day (Sunday 10 January 2021) for a second day of the event, and observed the breaches of the Public Health Order had been rectified – with event security asking patrons to remain seated and socially distanced.
Following extensive inquiries, the 36-year-old male licensee was issued with an infringement notice for the offence of licensee fail to comply with conditions of licence.
Following additional inquiries, a 59-year-old woman was issued with an infringement notice for fail to comply with noticed direction in relation to 7/8/9 – COVID19 Corporation.’