Riding bareback in the Byron Bay Nude Bike Ride.
Riding bareback in the Byron Bay Nude Bike Ride.

The naked truth: Byron Bay is changing

ONCE Byron Bay was a hippie utopia.

These days it's all Yuccies (young urban creatives), CCTV cameras, heavy traffic, development and possibly even - shock, horror - paid parking.

Yes times are a-changing and Byron Bay is changing with them, acknowledges Byron Shire councillor Duncan Dey.

He said the Byron Bay Master Plan, due to be hatched in September, needed to consider not just the changing nature of the Bay but of the world.

ABOVE: Protesters at March’s rally against development on Ewingsdale Rd.
ABOVE: Protesters at March’s rally against development on Ewingsdale Rd. THE NORTHERN STAR STATE RECORDS NSW

"I grew up in the '60s and I share those values," said Councillor Dey.

"For me it's about retaining decent values so that we don't end up with chaos."

Cr Di Woods sees it another way: "The direction Byron is going in is out of control as opposed to what I would like to see.

"But the ground rules were set many years ago. It's very hard to get rid of the idea that (Byron is about) wet t-shirt competitions or backpackers. What I would like is more boutique development, such as wine bars for older people."

Byron Bay Beach before the village developed into a multi-million dollar seaside town.
Byron Bay Beach before the village developed into a multi-million dollar seaside town.

Of course everyone has an opinion about Byron Bay, with the once-laidback shire recently the scene of beach protests after the decision to build a $1.2 million rock wall at Belongil, and outrage over a scheme to raise resident parking costs $75 by increasing the local coupon cost from $25 to $100.

The proposed West Byron development and the potential for increased traffic flow along an already-crowded Ewingsdale Rd has also brought out some intense local ire.

On top of this, the former home of free love, surfing and herbal substances has recently agreed to the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in the town centre to combat hoon violence or "anti-social and unlawful behaviour".

Installation of the cameras and lighting will start in August.

Cr Dey, who is a guest member of Byron Bay Liquor Accord, admitted the cameras were a "band-aid" measure to control "a certain kind of behaviour" that nightclubs attracted.

And he said that while he did not have a problem with the West Byron development, council's hands were tied to an extent by the state government, who ultimately approved it in a high-flood, low-employment area.

Cr Woods, who believes the shire now faces large bills to upgrade "Third World infrastructure", has criticised local residents groups who oppose development such as West Byron or the rock wall for spreading "ridiculous rubbish".

Meanwhile Cr Paul Spooner has said he did not believe the fundamental character of Byron was changing.

"Byron has a capacity issue," he said. "We need to attempt to make sure the character and style of the town remains.

"I would like to see Byron as a much more pedestrian-friendly town where people could move around public spaces including the fore-shore more easily."

And what of nude bathing - once almost a Byron rite of passage but, these days, regulated against at one of the shire's favourite beaches, Belongil, home of the approved rock wall.

"Council passed a resolution to make part of the beach clothing-free. Then we found out we had no right to do that … it's up to the state government," said Cr Day.


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