Passion high at Splendour meetings
THE loss of environment and amenity or jobs, and a boost to tourism - these are the major issues that have drawn battlelines in the passionate fight for and against the development of North Byron Parklands - the proposed home of Splendour in the Grass.
More than 120 community members, both for and against the development, spoke last week at two highly emotional and packed public meetings in Byron Bay and Ocean Shores.
The meetings were called by the Planning and Assessment Commission, which has the final say on whether the development can go ahead.
The NSW Department of Planning handed the decision to the commission late last year with a recommendation for approval.
Proponents hope to use the site for up to three major events per year, including Splendour, as well as smaller events.
Passions ran high at the two meetings, with Byron Bay hotel licensee Tom Mooney leaving the lectern halfway through his speech after being heckled by an audience member who accused him of "being all about the money", while at the Ocean Shores meeting, president of the Ocean Shores Community Association (OSCA) Jan Mangleson was almost shouted down on several occasions, with half the audience staging a walkout midway through her pro-Parklands speech.
The Byron Shire Council's director of planning Ray Darney said the Yelgun site was an area of high conservation significance and the proposed scale of the event far exceeded previous planning approval.
He said the Yelgun interchange was never designed for the potential volumes of traffic that would be generated and could have implications for the safety of those using the Pacific Hwy.
More importantly, Mr Darney said the council would miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of developer contributions because of the way the development application had been approved through the State Government.
Other arguments against the proposal were heard from various community and environmental groups concerned about their loss of amenity and environment and the effect the development would have on an identified wildlife corridor, which exists on the site.
Some of these groups included the South Golden Beach Community Association, the Yelgun Valley and Middle Pocket Community Association and the Byron Environmental and Conservation Organisation.
"It will change our idyllic situation forever," Paul Arrowsmith from the Yelgun Valley and Middle Pocket Community Association said.
"Many people moved to the north of the shire to get away from the late-night noise of Byron Bay," president of the South Golden Beach Community Association Kathy Norley said.
Others argued there was no need for an extra event site with the already existing venues at the Bluesfest site at Tyagarah, the Island Quarry and the new Byron Regional Sports Complex.
Former Greens MP and Byron Shire resident Ian Cohen said the Yelgun site was a natural corridor of unsurpassed ecology and was not suitable as an events venue.
His other concern was that the "creeping cancer" of holiday letting would move to Brunswick Heads and Ocean Shores.
"We have already lost 600 homes to holiday lets and it's a real problem," Mr Cohen said.
Those people in favour of the development spoke in glowing terms of the benefits the site would bring to the shire.
Chair of Northern Rivers Tourism Cameron Arnold talked about how the development would attract more tourists and create jobs.
"The flow-on of employment is going to be significant," he said.
General manager of the Beach Hotel and chairperson of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord Elke van Haandel said that in the 11 years of operation in Byron Bay, the Splendour in the Grass event had never had a breach of license.
"Like it or not, our local economy is dependant on tourism," she said.
"The tourism generated by this event creates thousands of hospitality hours for the hundreds of local hospitality employees.
"In 2009 the Beach Hotel employed 129 staff in winter, while in 2011, the hotel had 31 less staff over the same period due to the loss of Splendour to Queensland.
"Many of our Liquor Accord members have cut their staff back by 50% in winter since Splendour left town."
Former Byron Shire councillor and president of OSCA Jan Mangleson said the development would create 130 full-time jobs.
"This would make Parklands the biggest employer in Ocean Shores within increased economic flow-on effects," she said.
North Byron Parklands' general manager Mat Morris thanked those who addressed the gatherings.
"No matter how much we have consulted with individuals and groups, there are individuals who feel they lack information about our proposal," he said.
"To these people I say thank you for attending and please get in touch with us personally at any time to discuss your concerns.
"Some of these concerns will need to be addressed over time, through evidence, however some we can answer simply so we encourage these questions to come to us."
Planning Assessment Commission secretary Paula Poon said the commission would make a decision within the next two to four weeks, depending on whether it had enough information.
General manager of the Beach Hotel and chairperson of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord Elke van Haandel
Like it or not, our local economy is dependant on tourism. The tourism generated by this event creates thousands of hospitality hours