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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Independent review of Splendour sought

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Around eight people have been arrested so far, since almost fifty police arrived at the Wallum development in Brunswick Heads this morning to escort machinery and other work vehicles on to the site. Police include local officers, members of the NSW Public Order and Riot Squad, and Police Rescue.

Byron Council is calling on the NSW Planning Minister to initiate an independent review of the Splendour in the Grass festival, following the serious issues that occurred at this year’s event.

In a motion at last week’s planning meeting, councillors voted for a review into the ecological, social, and business impacts of the event, as well as the health and safety issues that occurred at the North Byron Parklands site.

The motion states that Council, as the key stakeholder for the community, should help formulate the review’s terms of reference, and that its findings should be used as a basis for determining how future events on the site are run.

‘There’s no doubt that this was the worst Splendour ever,’ said Independent Councillor Cate Coorey, who proposed the original motion in relation to the matter.

Her motion was later watered down by Labor Cr, Asren Pugh.

‘Some of the things that happened were actually quite harrowing,’ Cr Coorey said.

‘Pretty much everything that the community members raised concerns about when this event was originally proposed on the site happened at the latest iteration of the festival.’

Less strident motion

The motion that was eventually passed by councillors was considerably less strident in its language and narrower in scope that Cr Coorey’s original proposal.

‘The issue I have is that the picture painted by this [version of] the motion is all black,’ Greens Deputy Mayor, Sarah Ndiaye said.

‘It basically says “This event is bad, everything to do with it is bad, and all these terrible things happened”.’

‘But everyone I know who went had a ball.

‘We’ve heard from them [the festival organisers] that they want to make the whole thing better. We have to work within the parameters that we’ve been given.’

The motion that was eventually passed included a demand that Council, and/or the Environmental Protection Authority, or the Department of Planning, investigate whether the conditions of consent for onsite sewage management on the Splendour site were being complied with.

Councillors also agreed to consider a planning agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the managers of the site to address the issues experienced there. 

Already under investigation

North Byron Parklands, the company that manages the site, is already under investigation by the Department of Planning over traffic safety issues, which saw cars and buses banked back onto the Pacific Motorway (M1) on the first day of the festival.

The organisers of the event say this situation was the outcome of factors largely beyond their control, including bad weather and a police operation which restricted the flow of patrons onto the site.

During morning public access, Kathy Norley, representing South Golden Beach Community Association, implored councillors to provide leadership on the issue.

‘The [organisers] are literally treating our Shire as a joke’, she said. ‘As elected representatives, what are you doing?

‘Have a say in one of the biggest events in the country. The people in the north have had enough. We need communication and respect’.

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