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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Married at first sight, or giving mourners a fright?

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Jelbon Leigh House, also known as Hinterland House, is currently used for holiday letting but its owners want to host wedding events. Photo Byron Shire Council

Earlier this year, Hinterland House in Bangalow featured on Married at First Sight, a hit reality-TV series that has millions tuning in to watch strangers paired up in fictional marriages. 

But it appears that the historic local property may not be witnessing real-life marriages any time soon, with its application to host weddings and events receiving short shrift from staff at Byron Council, neighbours, and the local historical society.

The owners of the high-end holiday accommodation venue have sought permission to run a temporary outdoor wedding and function centre at the nine-hectare Hinterland Way site, with the application due to come before this week’s Council meeting for determination.

The proponents say the centre would only operate for three years, would be limited to 20 events per annum, and that attendees would arrive and depart via minibuses to limit the traffic movements on the surrounding streets.

While each event would host up to 150 people, there would be no additional permanent structures built, with tents and marquees brought in if shelter is needed.

The owner of the property, Mitch Carter, said the temporary function centre would bring additional money into the local economy and have minimal impact.

‘We champion hyper-local businesses above all others as our preferred suppliers, and should we be successful, this will extend to wedding planners, celebrants, caterers, transport companies, accommodation providers, hire companies, cleaners, food and beverage staff – the list goes on,’  Mr Carter said.

However, the site is located next to the Bangalow Cemetery, and access to the centre would require travelling on a road that passes through it.

According to Council staff, having busloads of wedding guests travelling through a place of commemoration and mourning and then dancing and drinking into the evening represents a significant land use conflict with negative social consequences.

There would also be potential noise impacts on neighbouring residential properties, staff said.

The Bangalow Historical Society echoed staff’s criticisms in a sternly-worded submission.

Historical Society vehemently opposed

‘The entire committee of Bangalow Historical Society objects in the strongest possible terms to the component of the most recent development application requesting access to the function centre via the Bangalow Cemetery,’ the submission said.

‘Local families whose loved ones are buried in the cemetery have contacted the Bangalow Historical Society, greatly concerned about the irreparable disturbance and damage that permitting access to an event centre through the cemetery would cause’.

‘The land on which the cemetery is located was gifted to the community of Bangalow by early Bangalow pioneer Robert Campbell, specifically for the purpose of creating a cemetery for the community.

‘As such, we request that Byron Shire Council respect the wishes of our pioneer settler, and our entire community, by maintaining the privacy and sanctity of that land solely for its intended purpose.’

But Mr Carter refuted the claims and defended his application.

He said that access to Hinterland House was via a public road that was already frequently used by the neighbouring macadamia farms and residents.

The proposed event location was more than 1.5 kilometres from the cemetery, which only hosted eight burials a year on average.

Mr Carter also said that testing had shown that noise from the events centre would have a very minimal impact on the cemetery or other neighbours, and that event attendees would adhere to specific rules, including leaving the site by 10pm.

‘We are cognisant of our neighbours and community and will always operate with them in mind and have created a stringent events management plan in consultation with Council,’ he said.

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