Festivalgoers dealing with the mud at this year’s Bluesfest.
Festivalgoers dealing with the mud at this year’s Bluesfest.

Mayor seeks guarantee on Blues Festival site

With a decision deferred last week on an application by Bluesfest to permanently stage the event on its own site at Tyagarah, Byron Mayor Cr Jan Barham is seeking a guarantee that the site will host only one event a year.

Cr Barham told last week’s extraordinary Byron Council meeting there was fear and a lack of trust in the Tyagarah community about what would happen at the site in the future.

After a site inspection last week and talking to local residents, she said constraining the site to one event a year would deal with the ‘trust’ issue.

Frequency of events was only one of a number of issues which led to a depleted council voting 5-1 to defer the application which council planners had recommended be approved for five years.

The others related to flooding, traffic management, security, social impact, access to the beach at Grays Lane and the Byron Bay Pistol Club which has an ‘overshoot’ area partially on Bluesfest land.

Cr Tom Tabart, who sought the deferment of the application, said there were still a lot of questions to be answered and he would not be happy to vote on it until they were resolved.

Cr Tabart said as it stood, the pistol club would be forced to close down for an extended time during the festival.

He said planned traffic management at the site was ‘still a mess’ and security would have to be stepped up for the safety of festivalgoers and local residents before he would be happy.

Cr Tabart said there also was a need for an assessment of the social impact on Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby, a ‘major’ aspect that hadn’t been looked at.

He raised the spectre of one of the shire’s ‘legendary dumps of rain’ occurring during the festival, with festivalgoers running around and driving in the dark moving cars to safety.

“What plans are there to deal with this?” he asked.

The only councillor to vote against deferring the decision, Cr Ross Tucker, said it was a fact of life that the area got heavy dumps of rain.

He said it was something that affected everyone and ‘we just seem to manage it’ and he didn’t know why imaginary situations were being applied to the Bluesfest application.

Cr Diane Woods said the site inspection revealed there could be big flooding and drainage problems.


Cr Woods said she had spoken to a person who knew the site well and who had told her about ‘horrendous flooding there’.

She said she had seen some ‘horrifying’ photographs of recent flooding at the site.

Cr Woods said she would prefer to see Bluesfest given a one-year trial at the site and she also had problems with the projected crowd jumping from 17,500 a day to 20,000.

She said an agreement with the pistol club had to be sorted out and questions about flooding and drainage resolved.

Cr Barham said a lot of people were concerned about how many people would attend the festival.
She believed there needed to be a discussion with organisers on that issue and a ‘community compact’ developed.

Cr Barham acknowledged that while Bluesfest could have gone straight to the State Government with the application, organisers had shown respect for the local community by lodging the application with the council.

Bluesfest’s commercial and business affairs manager, Vickii Cotter, said organisers understood the need for the council to make informed decisions and would work closely with the council to provide the information requested.

Ms Cotter said much of the required information was in the development application along with additional reports provided to the council.

“As part of the local region for 20 years, it is important to Bluesfest that our DA is determined by our local council,” she said. “We employ local staff, most of our patrons come from the local region and we provide a regular and significant economic boost to the shire and its businesses each year.”

Ms Cotter said Bluesfest looked forward to working with neighbouring residents to ensure the festival had as minimal an impact on them as possible.

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