Number of knots out of control

The number of knots being tied in the Byron Shire is out of control, according to mayor Cr Jan Barham.

But her comment has left many in the growing local wedding industry with knots in their stomachs.

Cr Barham made the comment about weddings during a debate at last week’s council meeting about a development application for a Coorabell resort to open its restaurant for up to 40 non-resort guests for brunch and dinner, three days a week.

The DA eventually got up, with conditions on opening hours.

But Cr Barham feared the opening of the restaurant on the country road – described by others as ‘dodgy’ – would lead to it being a reception centre, with the excess traffic being dangerous to residents.

During the council debate, Cr Barham said ‘non-compliance (with DAs and consents) is going on all over the shire and it seems to be accepted’.

“We are driven by the dollar and nothing else matters,” Cr Barham said.

“Welcome to the new Byron Shire: Not very proud to be part of it.”

Cr Ross Tucker was in favour of the celebrations. “Let people have their weddings, let people have their parties,” he said.

He said it was ‘unbelievable’ to hear Cr Barham use the expression that ‘weddings were out of control’.

Matt Wilson, who runs The Deck at Byron at the Byron Bay Golf Club with his wife Brenda, said if the business didn’t have weddings, ‘it wouldn’t be a viable business’.

While he said the backbone of the business was looking after locals, weddings and other functions were the ‘cream’ which kept the business afloat, enabling it to employ nine staff.

“Weddings bring a fair bit to Byron,” he said. “It’s not only the venue that reaps the reward. If they bring 80-100 guests, they have to stay and tbey’re going to have to eat out. (Weddings) give a lot back to the town.”

Mr Wilson said the venue would host about 25-30 weddings per year, which has grown in the past two years from six.

Penny Rettenmaier, who co-owns the family business, Byron Bay Wedding and Party Hire, wholeheartedly agrees.

She said weddings were seen as an ‘underground’ business.

“For some unknown reason, council doesn’t want to accept weddings as a part of the tourism industry in Byron Bay,” she said.

She said weddings were a seasonal business, with the peak periods being in autumn and spring.

“It’s not like we’re doing weddings 12 months of the year,” she said.

She also pointed out the flow-on effects of weddings to businesses like hairdressers, florists, accommodation and technical industries like lighting companies.

Sevegne Newton, president of Byron United, said weddings were a ‘really important sector of the economy’, which had been in a ‘precarious position’.

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