Naomi Gillespie at Bluesfest 2010.
Naomi Gillespie at Bluesfest 2010. Jay Cronan

Bluesfest signs 10 year deal

OUTDOOR music events in the Byron shire will be limited to two per year, after a decision handed down by the council yesterday.

And one of those spots has been secured by Bluesfest for the next 10 years.

The public gallery was packed at the Byron Shire Council meeting, with most people concerned about the repercussions of council’s draft policy on events on public and private land.

Much to the delight of north Byron Shire-based action group Coalition for Festival Sanity, council passed an amendment to the policy that restricts two major events – clarified as outdoor music events – of over 6000 people in the shire per year.

However, a clause was included that the policy be reviewed every two years, allowing for ‘a festival that has done the right thing, a chance to grow’, Councillor Simon Richardson said.

“Importantly, we don’t come across as those people who say yes to every event just to make a buck. We don’t want the events from Sydney and Melbourne dumped on us,” he said.

Mayor Jan Barham spoke in favour of the draft policy and said Byron Bay has fought hard not to become a ‘homogenised culture.’

“We all put a lot of energy into making this place special and we are attracting the people that don’t give a damn,” she said. “We need to support the events that come to us and work with us.”

Meanwhile, the council decided to give its approval for the Byron Bay Bluesfest to remain in the area for the next decade.

Under the amendment to the Blues Festival development application, the festival will operate at a 19,000-person capacity for the next two years before it increases to a 21,500-person capacity until 2021.

The increase is subject to the construction of a slipway from the southbound lane of the Pacific Highway to the Tyagarah festival site.

Speaking for the amendment, Cr Richardson said council needed to ‘show some faith in people from the shire.’

Cr Basil Cameron spoke against the amendment and said it was being ‘railroaded’ through council.

Applause followed council’s 5-3 vote for the amendment and Bluesfest director Peter Noble said although he was not rejoicing, he was relieved. “I didn’t sleep at all last night,” he said.

“We have worked so hard for so many years in this community, I believe we have answered every single concern in a positive manner and yet there will be no celebration because it has been so difficult to get to this point. It hasn’t sunk in yet that we finally, for the first time, have the opportunity to say to our bank, ‘guess what? The money you lent us, we don’t have to pay it back in two years’ time or sell my house’.”

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