Locals are questioning the criteria for filming Coke ads and Love Island in Byron Shire, claiming film companies ignore regulations around shooting drone footage and perform illegal earthworks.
The shooting of a Coke advertisement between The Pass and Main Beach in Byron Bay was noted by locals on the beach last week, who said the crew were not following COVID-19 safety protocols.
‘I approached the crew, and asked if they had permission to be shooting with a drone on the beach, and they said they had permission from both Byron Shire Council (BSC) and National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS)’, said local Alison Drover.
‘I saw one of the crew with the drone in hand walking on the The Pass side of the Clarkes Beach Cafe, as well as the Main Beach side’.
Responding to questions from The Echo, Mayor Michael Lyon said that the filming of the Coke advertisement did not require Council approval, because ‘the activity was regarded as an “ultra low impact shoot”.’
‘Owing to its low impact rating, Council had no ability to influence it’, said Cr Lyon.
A Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DoPIE) spokesperson confirmed with The Echo that, ‘A filming permit would have been required if they were filming within the Cape Byron State Conservation Area (SCA), which includes Clarkes Beach… and that NPWS did not receive any applications, or give permission, for filming on Clarkes Beach during August 2021.’
Love Island shoot
Meanwhile, illegal earthworks at 28 Blackbean Lane in Federal over the last three weeks alerted neighbours in the quiet neighbourhood that something was afoot.
Enquiries led to the revelation that the Love Island reality TV show was set to be filmed at the site, with an expectation that over 100 crew will, or have, arrived in the area from Sydney for the production.
‘One of the issues about the Love Island production was the lack of information provided, and the assumption it would just be waved through’, Cr Lyon told The Echo.
According to neighbours, around five acres has had illegal earthworks done, with up to 20 people on site each day with no apparent COVID-19 safety measures in place.
They also pointed out that there had been no consultation with the local community for filming, that will apparently start early morning and go into the night.
Cr Lyon added the company is now attempting to satisfy all the requirements, including COVID safety, ‘while no approval has yet been given’. He called the unauthorised earthworks ‘outrageous’.
Local councillors and state MPs have all expressed their concern at the fact that people are being allowed to travel from COVID-19 hotspots to a COVID-19 free area like Byron Shire, for non-essential work.
Inane TV rubbish
Independent councillor Cate Coorey told The Echo, ‘I cannot believe that, when genuinely essential workers can’t move around freely, people aren’t able to leave their LGA, kids are home from school, and we are all in lockdown, that inane rubbish like Love Island or a Coca Cola ad are allowed to proceed, crewed by people from Sydney’.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith said that while she is a huge supporter of the film industry, it is ‘hard to understand that at the moment, under the regional lockdown, no more than 10 people can attend a funeral, tens of thousands of people can’t go to work, and thousands of businesses can’t trade, supposedly because of health advice… but a film production crew can fly in from Sydney and shoot a TV show!’
Lismore MP Janelle Saffin told The Echo that she ‘was alerted to this potential public health risk by constituents, who had heard that the crew could number up to 250 people, which was demonstrably inappropriate given that an extended regional lockdown is still in force.
‘Together with local mayors under the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation, including Byron Shire’s Michael Lyon, we’re advocating for the lockdown to be lifted. Any positive COVID cases would surely put that in jeopardy,’ she said.
‘I’ve asked for the NSW Government and NSW Health to provide me and the community with relevant information and advice on this matter.’
Mayor Lyon told The Echo ‘I think it is highly inappropriate for our region to be in lockdown whilst travellers from areas with cases can come and perform non-essential work.’
‘We should be moving out of lockdown and tighter restrictions put in place to limit travel out of hotspot areas except for essential purposes. Anyone leaving Sydney or another hotspot region to come to our region needs to be checked and verified rather than the honour system which seems to be operating currently,’ he said.