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September 19, 2021

Byron Bay wants Byron Baes to back off

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Stop Byron Baes protest. ‘Today, we paddle out to protect our beloved town that has given us all so much.’ Photo Dom Farrell.

Eve Jeffery

Faster than a speeding reality TV producer, members of the Byron community have swiftly mounted a multi-pronged attack against the proposed ‘influencer’ based show Byron Baes, and have already had two protests since Netflix announced the program less than two weeks ago.

Paddlers prepare to head out to create the ‘No’ symbol. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Organiser Tess Hall said that she started a petition as soon as the show was announced. ‘I wanted to give our community a voice and to ensure that the planned Netflix production Byron Baes is not granted filming permits that will allow them to film anywhere they please in our Shire and surrounds.’

The petition attracted 3,000 signatures in the first day and after a week was well on the way to 8,000 with the protests raising the numbers.

More than a backdrop for a ‘docu-soap’

Ms Hall and a growing band of locals are objecting to the environment and community of Byron Bay and the larger Northern Rivers region are being used as a filming backdrop for a ‘docu-soap’.

On Monday over a hundred protesters paddled out at Main Beach to create the No Symbol. ‘A paddle-out is a sacred tradition practiced by surfers that is usually reserved for the death of a loved one or family member,’ said Ms Hall. ‘Oceanside communities also use the paddle-out to make their opposition to the threats posed to their local environment by development or other exploitative actions.

Liz saying it with earrings. Photo Jeff Dawson.

‘Today, we paddle out to protect our beloved town that has given us all so much.

‘We stand together united to show without any doubt that we as the community of Byron Bay do not want our name or town to be exploited by the series Byron Baes TV show, which we believe will severely damage our community and future communities.

Byron – a community that comes together

Ms Hall said the community is calling on Netflix and Eureka Productions to listen to the community and cancel the Byron Baes production immediately. ‘Today we are showing the world who Byron Bay REALLY is. A community that comes together for what we all believe in and will fight to protect the town we love. We are so much more than gossip, drama and tacky reality TV. The heart and soul of Byron is still alive and today we are proving that.’

Byron local residents and business also met at Main Beach last Friday for an emergency meeting. The group was brought together by long-standing local Ben Gordon to share their concerns about the series which they say has been forced upon the town without any community consultation whatsoever.

Photo Jeff Dawson.

‘Byron is a special place, there’s no doubt about it. And what makes it so special to large extent is the local people and the common values we share. We’re not a commodity, we’re a community. We’re not just something for companies to make money from. There’s a lot of people who have lived here for a long time, this is our home and it is a very special and sacred place to us.’

The gathering discussed what can be done to protect the community and the environment from detrimental impacts that will inevitably follow from allowing a production with this type of ‘tone and style’.

Representatives from local businesses included: The Byron Bay General Store, Bay LeafCafe, The Roadhouse Cafe, No Bones Restaurant, Di Vino Restaurant, Shromunity and The Bread Social.

The Nimbys of Byron Bay

National media has been aroused by the kerfuffle with the Channel 9’s Today show commenting on the story on Monday morning. During the segment, it was suggested that Byron Bay was full of Nimbys who didn’t understand that the production would see jobs and growth in the area and that many people would find themselves employed by the show, something that hasn’t always proven true in recent times as many production companies bring their ‘people’ with them.

The traditional custodians of Byron Bay

Arakwal woman Delta Kay was present at the meeting. ‘I grew up here. Grew up right across the bay here at the Belongil and later over at Tallow Beach so I have seen massive changes in my traditional homelands here,’ said Ms Kay. ‘Our elders have fought very hard to have a say over country and to protect country. It took over 20 years for our elders to get our native title. To be able to look after country and have a say over country and ensure that we work together as a community so our community values and our environmental values are adhered to.’

Ellie Davidson with the Indigenous voice. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Ms Kay said that when she heard about Byron Baes, she just shook her head. ‘I mean, what can you say about it? ‘Byron Baes’ – it’s ridiculous! We work hard here, we are a very close community because we love our home. This is our home. How dare Byron Baes come here and make this fantasy world about our little home town.

‘We have huge environmental issues, huge social issues here. I don’t want these influencers coming here and painting this fantasy picture that all is well in Byron Bay. It isn’t.’

Green’s candidate for Byron Shire mayor in 2021, Duncan Dey. Photo Jeff Dawson.

‘No one from the production has contacted me or any local mob here, the traditional owners. Personally, as a traditional owner here, I would like to see Byron Baes stopped. They really need to have a think about this and come in and talk to us locals before they even think about doing this production.’

You can add your name to the petition here.


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16 COMMENTS

  1. Can someone tell me what the actual issue is here? And how does this differ from any other film production or “influencer” who might want to work in Byron?

    • Danny, it’s because it’s reporesemting, or more accurately, misrepresenting our home town as a backdrop to the production. The Byron ‘vibe’ – it goes by other names – is the product of years of local activism. That is what Netflix are seeking to exploit , There are no positives for us , no employment, no fees collected just a low brow crap TV show.

  2. I think the community of the northern rivers of which I have been apart of for the last 30 years deserve to be listened too… I have seen this area change and Byron bay has to an extent been taken over by an international commodity in which they take and as a collective destroy what is essentially very sacred land … sure the community want to share this beauty but it’s just not big enough to sustain such an international and ongoing presence …

  3. Go Team!
    Let’s keep these bogan idiots away from our area, we have a surplus of them descend on us over holiday periods.

  4. Well, the issue is that a town experiencing all the inequity that homelessness, lack of employment, environmental issues and developers clamouring to ruin the place would rather be seen for their more positive subcultures than idiotic soapie vacuous marketeers. The surf symbol says NO but, to me, it also bares its buttocks, and I cannot think of a more fitting response.

  5. Byron doesn’t need the rat-bag screen rubbish proposed. It’s no ‘lord of the rings’
    just cheap b grade spin & of no use to the area.

  6. Too late people…Byron town has already lost it’s soul and community due to the huge percentage of short term rentals, party houses and press it receives.

  7. I cannot understand in any way why someone would want to watch this show. I certainly don’t welcome anything likely to attract to Byron Shire even more of the vacuous, the precious, the rich and hipster, the anti-science-whacko- health gurus and the social-media-inspired conspiracists. Nor give more encouragement to those already here! I also get thoroughly tired of the exploitation of the area and the commodification of the ‘Byron brand’. But do we really know what we’re upset about here?

    Those objecting say they are worried about the reputation of the town. What would be an accurate portrayal of Byron Bay? How do we want ourselves to be seen? Would we welcome a documentary about tourism hot spots = homelessness? Housing unaffordability and community dislocation? Or tourism = decaying infrastructure? Do we object to whatever image we believe will be presented on the basis of accuracy or because we fear it will be one dimensional or negative?

    For all our illusions, any sense of community, groundedness and egalitarianism has really been taking a hammering for some time now with a general apathy about the steady erosion. It’s a bit late to get het up about a show that is likely to make the most of one element that undeniably exists among us. It will be popular with an audience that enjoys living vicariously through a fantasy.

    Dare I ask why there was no petition or demonstration – not even a raised eyebrow – about a suggestion that a significant part of the “Community” Centre is to be turned into an exclusive bar for “major donors”? Just as important to keep an eye on the accumulating bricks in the wall!

  8. From a publicity point of view “any attention is good attention” . My view is that whether we are portrayed as tacky or not, we are already overwhelmed by tourists and a bulging population and more publicity, tacky or sublime, will likely increase the demand by seekers from around the world to titillate themselves by saying they’ve experienced “Byron Bay”

  9. My understanding was that the Americanised script was already written – promising all the usual drama that ‘reality ‘ series bring. Importing people so that they could play out their human dramas and simply using Byron ‘as an backdrop’ devalues anything Byron has to offer of itself. it doesn’t read as something grown from Byron – which could reflect the many facets of the town.
    If it went ahead and did attract more people to the area, it would be due to a false and disconnected impression of the realities of living in the area. And that would create an even greater disconnect between those who have been part of Byron longer and those it would attract. Not to mention disconnect to country rather than simply the view. It sounds like a top down corporate decision that makes sense in a board room and to their marketing team, but not in touch with the people – as the protest shows. And ‘growth’ in itself is not always good.

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