Draft events policy causes concern

Byron Shire festival and event organisers are taking steps to ensure they and Byron Council are singing from the same song sheet.

They are concerned the council has prepared a draft policy for events on public and private land and draft event guidelines without consulting the industry.

An urgent meeting last week of 20 representatives from events including the Byron Bay Writers Festival, Bluesfest, Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay Film Festival and Brunswick Kites and Bikes, unanimously voted for an alternative draft policy, with the guidelines to be rewritten and developed with industry input.

Last month the council resolved to defer placing its draft policy on exhibition to allow for consultation with the industry to be co-ordinated by Arts Northern Rivers and with results to be reported back in time for consideration at the November ordinary meeting.

Arts Northern Rivers CEO, Lois Randall, said the council’s Cultural Plan 2008-2012 recommended the development of an events policy and protocols that distinguished between community and commercial events, simplified the approvals process for community festivals and provided for long-term approvals, as an action of critical priority.

However, Ms Randall said event industry representatives expressed the view that the lack of industry input had resulted in a draft policy which could have adverse impacts, particularly on small not-for-profit community events.

“Industry recognises the value of having a policy and acknowledges council’s responsibilities in limiting any negative impact from events on the community,” Ms Randall said.

“The event organisers would like to work together with council on a new draft of the guidelines, to meet this common objective, and to ensure that events in the shire are socially and environmentally responsible.”

Ms Randall said the industry would also like the policy to recognise the significant positive cultural and economic impacts the festivals contributed to Byron Shire’s ‘famously vibrant culture and lifestyle’.

She said regional festivals around the country were being embraced as a way to keep rural communities afloat.

“The growth of festivals and events in Byron Shire and the rest of the region is in keeping with what’s happening all over the country,” she said.

 “The new Mullumbimby Music Festival is a fantastic example of a grassroots event that is bringing new vitality and public attention to a small rural community.”

Ms Randall said the event industry had presented a revised Byron events policy to the council, which was intended to meet the council’s objectives in a way that was enabling, rather than prescriptive.

The issue is expected to go before councillors at a meeting on November 26.

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