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May 8, 2021

Police squeeze local musicians over gigs 

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Having been starved of live music for nearly a year, the announcement of Byron’s Summerstage concert series brought a round of applause from local music fans and performers.

With a healthy slice of the ticket proceeds set to raise funds for the Red Devils football club, which is hosting the event at their oval near the centre of Byron Bay, the sporting community was also pumped.

While Tweed-based police are making it hard for the Summerstage concert to go ahead, organiser Lisa Hunt says she has borrowed money to ensure it does. Photo Jeff Dawson

But when the organisers, led by well-known local performer Lisa Hunt, notified the police about Summerstage, they got a very different response.

Despite the event endeavouring to adhere to all noise, parking and COVID-19 rules, and offering significant benefits for the local community and economy, a small group of police from Tweed Heads seemed intent on shutting it down.

They recommended that Byron Council and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) impose a series of draconian restrictions that made the event almost impossible to run.

Many of these restrictions were subsequently imposed by Council and the OLGR, who then added further restrictions themsleves, forcing Ms Hunt and her team to consider cancelling the event completely.

Refusing to be defeated, Ms Hunt has borrowed money to ensure that the shows not only go on but go off with a bang, and believes locals will come out to support them.

But she and the other organisers are deeply disappointed that the boys in blue have refused to come to the party.

‘I can only conclude that police basically set out to stop the shows,’ Ms Hunt said.

‘There was no support for it at all. Every single thing they proposed went against the event.’

Tough restrictions

Ms Hunt’s original proposal to hold events every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening over summer was cut dramatically by police, who recommended just two events per fortnight over the three-month period. 

Police also seemed to ignore the fact that, during the application process, Ms Hunt reduced the proposed capacity from 600 to 500 people.

This change brought crowd numbers into line with the number of people who attend Red Devil Park every fortnight for game day.

Yet police continued to recommend conditions based on the original capacity figure, referring to it as a justification for the tough restrictions they were proposing.

‘The conditions imposed were based on these erroneous assumptions – that it would be six concerts a fortnight, 600 people, potentially death metal (music),’ said a spokesperson for Ms Hunt.

The police later alleged that Ms Hunt had tried to conceal what she was doing.

Police allege ‘act of deceit’

‘They twice stated in writing that the inconsistencies between documents appeared to be a “deliberate act of deceit,” the spokesperson said.

‘Lisa has chosen to underwrite this to help a rugby league club, a community crying out for live music, and a group of live musicians who are on the breadline.”

‘These conditions have imposed a significant financial burden on her, and on the event. A significant amount of work had to be done that turned the attention of organisers to meeting the conditions rather than promoting the event’.

Every cent from the first 500 tickets sold will go to ensuring that the tough conditions recommended by police, along with those added by Council and the OLGR, are met. 

The police are also charging Ms Hunt thousands of dollars for policing services at the concerts themselves, under the state’s User Pays system, treating them as commercially driven events rather than a grass roots program.

When The Echo put these allegations to police they declined to comment on any of them. 

‘We’re not responsible for imposing conditions – we make recommendations to Council and the OLGR,’ a spokesperson said.

‘We never comment on the recommendations we make.’

Byron Mayor, Simon Richardson, said that Council shared Ms Hunt’s frustration, but had little choice but to impose the police’s recommendations.

‘Police, when it comes to events, are certainly an organisation that you need to have on board,’ he said.

‘We had staff trying to intervene with the police to try and find a way forward.’

He also said the state government had exhibited a ‘blatant double standard’ between its treatment of sporting events, and cultural events such as live performance since the COVID-19 outbreak.

‘It’s hard to fathom how they can justify how people sitting in a concrete stadium with nowhere to move around can have less stringent restrictions,’ he said.

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  1. So the cops charge the organisers under ‘user pays’ then they bring in the dogs, do strip searches and intimidate people attending these concerts.
    I think council and our mayor should be supporting the organisers not how towing to the the police
    Why can’t the organisers employ private security and bypass the police ?

    • private security was hired.. so there were 4 security guards, two police person, an ambulance and a 4 man traffic team for a concerts of 343 and 150 respectively.

  2. Hardly surprising,we are drifting more and more into a police state and COVID-19 is now a most wonderful excuse to cement that even more! We tend to continuously criticize other countries for being undemocratic,we are now getting dictated by a duopoly of parties that are mere washing powders,democracy in disguise,very sad to watch! I feel for you Lisa,but don’t you understand…dancing is dangerous and unless it’s Country and Western music or Rugby,it’s unacceptable and that’s it!

  3. No surprises there. I do notice also that despite the apparent neutrality that the Echo also “toes the company line”. Freedom is gone, it ain’t coming back. Fall to your knees feeble peasants without a hint of a fight.

  4. I’m getting flabbergasted at restrictions that don’t make sense. How have we forgotten so soon, the hundreds of visitors congregating at Main Beach in the weeks before Christmas, continuing on to New Years Eve, and police did nothing, and a lot of the community held our breathe, waiting for a pop up of covid, but it did not come then and has not come at all, to date. I see crowded restaurants and coffee shops everyday. The Artisan market on Saturday night, there’s no social distancing. It’s just life as normal. One explanation for the no cases could be the low rate of testing. Well the weeks keep going by and we have not had one case.
    Lisa has made it very clear. Everyone sits in their own groups, and they cannot walk over and talk to people in other groups. Even children have to be seated. They can’t run around which of course if I had small children, I would not go because that’s an unreasonable request of children. It is a lovely venue for children to run around out on the grass as they are at school already.

    We would hardly need a police presence costing thousands, it is not going to be a wild rock concert at all. It’s ‘family’ oriented. There’s no dancing. Maybe one police person. He’s getting in for free to a great night. And it’s only a few hours It’s not like a normal day there where we start at 10 in the morning and go to midnight, this is only about 4 hours. Totally disproportionate response from the police. The officer who deemed it will be ‘death metal’ obviously does not know Lisa. The Arts are being destroyed.

  5. Why have Tweed Heads Police 👮‍♀️ 🚔 who are nearly an hours’ drive North have anything to do with Byron Shire Council matters ?
    They are there to ‘serve and protect’ as underpaid public servants – They work for us – the taxpayers / citizens – as their wage comes from our taxes –
    So which part of democracy allows 🐷 Tweed Heads to dictate opinionated influence to Byron Shire Council ? Didn’t the locals democratically elect the local shire council ? I don’t remember the locals voting for a Tweed Heads regional Police commander as mayor !

  6. This sux, they bleat on about a mental health crisis due to covid yet crush any joy music lovers and performers have, persecute Lisa for her initiative, yet an hour away in qld they can even dance indoors, life as normal.
    Remember all this when you vote, Gladys and her police mafia are out of control


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