The NSW government legislation has provided a permit for screen filming on private land in NSW without any Council oversight or accountability. This has led to Federal Village currently being overrun by the ITV film company. This is extraordinary given that the local community have successfully fought hard over many years to ensure that the RU1 and RU2 zones in Byron Shire remained exempt from function centres (weddings and events). Clearly what is currently happening in terms of exploitation of the law by film companies was not the intent of the legislature.
At an Ordinary meeting in 2017 Byron Shire Council (Council) resolved to amend the LEP to permit function centres in zones RU1 and RU2. Following what they called community consultation, Council caved in to pressure from the wedding lobby group but appeared to have, in part, heeded community concerns with regard to RU1. In June 2019 Council met to vote on a proposal to forward to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment the amended policy to approve functions in the RU2 zone. At this meeting Crs Cameron and Coorey moved that Council not proceed with the proposal ‘as the proposed clause is inconsistent with the zone objectives of RU2’. The motion was defeated.
Richardson and Martin then ‘slipped in’ an amendment seeking a Determination to provide an approval mechanism for rural event sites in the RU2 Rural Landscape zone and RU1 Primary Production Zone. Crs Martin, Lyon, Ndiaye, Richardson and Hunter voted in favour of the amendment. Crs Coorey, Cameron and Hackett voted against the amendment. The proposed inclusion of RU1 was refused by the NSW Department of Planning (DOP), Industry and Environment who stated; ‘The removal of the RU1 Primary Production zone has been required as this land represents the most significant farmland in Byron Shire, and it is considered sufficient area is available in the RU2 Landscape to facilitate rural event sites. This is also consistent with the Department of Primary Industries advice to Council that its preference is to avoid these types of development in the RU1 Primary Production zone’.
Fight to preserve community
Many in the community fought hard and long to preserve the RU1 zone from the proposed degradation. Few would be aware that gratitude is owed to them, to Coorey, Cameron and Hackett and to the DOP for this preservation. No credit is due to Byron Shire Council.
This sorry saga is not yet over. We now have, in the village of Federal, a massive film company squeezed into three small rural properties two of which are zoned RU1. All that is required for their unfettered presence on private land is the permission of the property owners, none of whom reside on these properties. It is not hard to imagine the enormous amount of money that has been offered to the owners for the right to occupy this land, especially the film site at 28 Blackbean Lane Federal. Most people would not be able to resist the temptation.
Legislation pertaining to screen filming in NSW was amended in 2009 enabling a film company to film and carry out major construction work without a development application (DA). This means that there are no consent conditions. Construction work on the film site at 28 Blackbean Lane, Federal, has been going on continuously for eight weeks. Allegedly actual filming commenced on 5 October. The legislation strips Council of most of its powers but not all. Council has been silent on the matter except for the Mayor, Michael Lyon, who appears to be the spokesperson.
TV Tonight reported, ‘Michael Lyon has already been through his own break-up and make-up with producers in relation to Love Island, first admonishing production for undertaking major earthworks and road building without a DA or COVID Safe plan, then praising a comprehensive COVID Safe plan put in place by producers’. Lyon then stated on Facebook, ‘I am looking into our options this morning to rescind Council approval for the Love Island production, from the same studios that brought I’m a Celebrity and COVID to the region. As part of that approval issued recently, which allows them to film longer than 30 days in Federal, I insisted on a 14 day-isolation period whereby any cast or crew coming from an area with cases would not come into contact with people from our region. It is clear this is not possible to implement given what has happened in the last few days. Council approval was only one part of the process. It hasn’t yet had Ministerial approval so I’d say it’s unlikely to proceed’. It is probable Michael Lyon still does not know that the cameras are rolling, or are they?
Love a loophole
The ITV Studio boss, David Mott, told the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘They (the company) had originally applied for an exemption to film Love Island beyond those 30 days, as a fallback if something were to go wrong. We didn’t need that long, but in an ideal world we were hoping to get approval to allow for contingencies. The Byron Shire Council is aware of this loophole of sorts, and as the saying goes, the show must go on. They’re aware of that and they’re not going to get in the way of it. All I want is to get on with the show now.’ Karl Quinn, journalist, reports Mott as saying, ‘ITV and Nine spent much of last week rejigging the show to ensure filming could be retained within that 30-day window. With a tightened production schedule, an exemption is no longer necessary, meaning Cr Lyon has been able to withdraw his begrudging support for the show, while ITV can go ahead and make it regardless.’
Testing the law
The reason the company is behind schedule is because it was left to a neighbour to notify Council that illegal earthworks, including road building by the company, had been going on for three weeks. A Stop Work Notice was issued by Council and then retrospectively approved ensuring a delay of just one week. After eight weeks of on-site activity the local community, including neighbouring property owners, received a generic letter with a generic address hand delivered to a receptacle on the street advising that filming commences on 5 October and will be 24/7.
It is interesting to note that in all media posts I have read there has not been one mention of community or neighbouring property owners’ rights. There has been no mention of damages. This is an interesting area of law as yet untested in the courts. There will be a precedent case to iron out definitions, conflicting legal rights, relevant environmental law and damages. Meanwhile it’s full steam ahead for the film company and a big ‘up yours’ to Council, Federal Village and the rest of NSW. The film companies are moving in, and it is now time for lawyers and the legislature to turn their mind to tossing them out again.
Once again local residents have to put up with something that they don’t want. And the property owners who will have been handsomely paid for the use of their place don’t even live there. And I have to wonder how many residents in Ballina Shire alone watch such a mindless load of drivel.
People love this crap, it’s popular so it’s a commercial success. Most people are awful and pointless, where have you been?
OMG What a mindless/ inane and dumb fook film ‘segment’, no doubt praising the ideals of elitism and narcissism . I would like to think that the LOCALS had a major say in whether or not this crap goes ahead? As the article says the owners of the land DON”T EVEN LIVE THERE. They will be popular if they ever move into Federal. I believe most of the locals would not want this drivel in their beautiful & scenic backyards. People move there ( I imagine) to avoid such commercialism and trivial programs….as most aware souls are fully cognisant of the fact that we are living on the verge of ecological collapse…Hello !
Lindy, you have a unrealistically positive view of the human condition.
I missed on the witchhunt agreement and demonisation of the filming industry in the Byron shire. Also the judgements of the product being sold. The fault is in watching it, not creating it.
Found the film industry stooge lol