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Byron Shire
February 23, 2024

Call for audit of Splendour In The Grass as 50,000 capacity questioned 

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Splendour in the Mud 2022. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Tweed Council has called for an independent audit of Splendour In The Grass (STIG) following the multiple and significant failures of the 2022 event. 

Tweed Shire Councillors ‘stuck the boot in’ over ‘very serious’ issues at 2022 SITG, citing problems ranging from the safety of young people to a general failure to organise an effective event. They have called for an independent audit of the state government-approved event that became colloquially known as Splendour in the Mud earlier this year. 

While all councillors were clear that well organised, arts and music events were welcomed in the region they brought up a wide range of failures and breaches of conditions that need investigation if STIG is to go ahead safely in the future. 

50,000 too many?

A key issue was the increased capacity at the Yelgun site which went up to 50,000 patrons this year. 

‘I think it is important also that we look at the increase in patrons to 50,000 from the previous 42,500, and whether or not our local road network can actually sustain that increase,’ said Councillor Rhiannon Brinsmead who moved the notice of motion (NoM).  

‘It is not an NoM that is against the event, it is just a very clear safety issue for me.   

‘It is a very good event but we need to look avoiding, or mitigating, the issues that were experienced this time around because some of them were very serious.’

Mayor Chris Cherry supported the call saying, ’I particularly agree with point 3.4 which is saying we really need to have a long hard look at whether this site can cope with 50,000 patrons. Because it may be able to cope with it in fine weather, it may not be able to in rainy weather. That’s what we do need to think about, those eventualities,’ she said.

Only 80mls of rain

‘That was not a very big weather event. I believe there was only about 80mls of rain in the couple of days beforehand, so that is not a massive amount of rain in the Northern Rivers.’ 

The impact of the wet weather meant that the STIG site, located on a floodplain, quickly became wet, boggy and in many places unusable. This caused traffic delays on the opening Thursday night which meant people were, in some cases, stuck in traffic queues overnight waiting to get into the site. Locals were stuck for hours trying to get home, including primary school-aged children on buses with no toilets, food, water or adequate supervision. The event was cancelled on the Friday. 

Noise complaints

Councillor Dr Nolal Firth raised the issue of waste and noise pointing out that ‘it is 50,000 people right next to a wetland. When it flooded, which it did, there are waste materials that may have ended up in the wetland. Also noise pollution – neighbours have to deal with that but it has also been found that increasingly it affects wildlife as well. It is a huge amount of people.’

‘We did have a few [noise] complaints come to us about noise from as far as Burringbar and Crabbes Creek,’ said Cr Brinsmead.

Safety risks

Speaking to ‘the human side’ Councillor Reece Byrnes told the meeting that ‘This isn’t just about sitting in traffic. My niece and my sister-in-law attended the event and made efforts to leave well before most everybody else – and were in a queue for about seven hours. 

‘The issues around basic sanitary [facilities], toilets and things, [this was] obviously an issue because the crowd simply couldn’t access them. So you had cases of people literally urinating next to someone in a very tight crowd. You have people there under age mixing with adults who were intoxicated for a number of hours in the wet with no opportunity to sit. So for many of these people it was actually quite a traumatic event,’ he said. 

‘I wanted to raise that, not just because it affected members of my own family, I know there were thousands of other people, very young people, in quite vulnerable circumstances that could have easily turned very much worse had the weather been worse or any other things happened.’ 

It is understood that one bus returning young people to Murwillumbah did not get back to town until 7am the following morning. 

Must be well run

Councillor James Owen said, ‘I guess I just want to stick the boot in a bit more’.

‘It is a great event if it is run well, it is great to have lots of people enjoying themselves at a well run event – but there were so many elements that weren’t run very well at all. 

‘The lack of buses at the end is one of the big issues. And how you couldn’t have the foresight? That’s just a basic thing that should have been oraganised to alleviate people queueing – but to have to go through that until two or three o’clock in the morning would have been just horrible.

‘So I just think they have got to do better. It is a commercial event, they make money out of it, that’s fine. But they have got to do better for everyone that is going, not just for the impacts on our local community, but for anyone who is there.’

Problems had already been foreseen by community

Mayor Cherry highlighted the frustration of those in the local community who had pointed out the risks of the North Byron Parklands site in the past. 

‘I think that when this development was proposed and was in its trial phases – the things that came to bear during this event are all things that people in the local community said would happen in time. It was very frustrating to see those things come true,’ she said. 

‘It is realy important that our road network, and our children ‘s safety is paramount. So I really support asking the state government for that independent audit and going through all the conditions. Because there are a lot of conditions that have been put on this event to try and keep it safe, to try and keep it operating well for the community. 

‘So looking through and saying “what went wrong?”, “What can we do about it?” – I think that is in everybody’s interests.’


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Event numbers are 58,000, which was granted to cover the actual number of people on site after the organisers were busted for breaching previous site numbers (and granted after a small ‘diner money’ fine).

    • Tweed councillors may well complain about ‘splendour’ which was always a disaster waiting to happen. They chose to waste $14.4m of taxpayers’ money destroying a billion dollar train line, which could have reduced some of the traffic disaster, to replace it with a bike track! Luckily no lives were lost-this time.

      Allowing any development on flood plains, let alone ‘festivals’ of fifty thousand people, is deliberately putting peoples’ lives at risk.

      To be destroying a valuable train line that can transport millions AND reduce carbon emissions, to replace it with a bike track for a few fit cyclists (too bad seniors or people with mobility problems-no one cares about your transport needs) in this fast growing region with millions of tourists, while so many locals are still reeling from climate disasters, and local roads are a mess, is something even Monty Python couldn’t have dreamt up.

  2. If the railway line was in use it could have moved people in and out without causing that much traffic congestion , the event should be a lesson to the TSC that their access roads and drainage are a higher priority for future events .
    So far as the volume of the music is concerned the direction of the stage and the speakers and their volume should be addressed as they may be pointing in the wrong direction .
    Our entire family attended the very wet and muddy Sunbury 1975 Rock Festival in Victoria where Stage 1 was located in a valley facing the audience on a hill, and that year Deep Purple who were rated the loudest on the planet played for us and on top of the hill they weren’t very loud which is worth considering for the organisers of Splendour if they could relocate to a valley near the railway line where where the music can’t upset those living in surrounding areas so everyone can go and get what they paid for and the neighbors are all happy

  3. The local roads couldn’t cope at 30,000, how on earth did it get increased to 40%more? Or were locals being misled about numbers?
    The whole thing is a social and environmental nightmare for wildlife and the region. Little is contributed to the local economy, but the noise and lights disturb everything. Living over 9km away thought the neighbours were having a very loud doof.
    Lots of other venues to enjoy good music and party, but this isn’t it.

  4. Maybe the recent tragedy in South Korea (multiple deaths due to crowding) could also serve as a lesson to organisers. The region LACKS the infrastructure (eg. busses and trains) to deal with this absurd capacity of people. It only takes a couple of panic attacks to spread thro’ a crowd to create mayhem. This whole saga was beyond tipping point but a salient lesson to all when contemplating another such event.
    The writing is clearly on the Wall that the whole Festival scenario must have greater safety/policing/care features to avoid tragedy.

  5. the whole event was very poorly organised. we live near the site and the noise from people wandering around at all hours had us rather scared. people were parked anywhere and everywhere in all the roads around the site. our road was littered with rubbish,from alcohol containers to shoes, clothes and more, which was not cleaned up by the organisers. My children went and were terrified someone or many people would die. they still live with this trauma in crowded situations, especially this week after what happened in Sth. Korea. The festival seemed to function well at 30000 patrons.. inconvenient for us, but good to see so many people having fun. Our only problem with the site is how much the wild life in the area suffers during the weeks of the festival and the consequences for months after the event. A broom needs to be swept thru the whole set of conditions for the festival and some common sense conditions put in place. During the submissions before the approval of the festival the committee hearing local opinions seemed to have no interest in local knowledge. I could go on, but knowing the bureaucracy its highly unlikely peoples safety will be put before PROFIT….

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