Getting into it at this year’s Splendour at Woodford.
Getting into it at this year’s Splendour at Woodford.

Splendour: now up to umpire

At 11am last Thursday, acting Byron Mayor Cr Patrick Morrissey asked councillors, staff and members of the public to stand and observe a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day.

It was 92 years to the day that the guns fell silent on the Western Front, heralding the end of the ‘war to end all wars’.

After tomorrow, the metaphorical guns should fall silent in the Byron Shire war of words over controversial plans for a permanent festival site at Yelgun when submissions to the State Government on the proposal close.

It will be then up to the Department of Planning to make a recommendation to the Planning Minister on the proposal from the owners of North Byron Shire Parklands for a permanent festival site which would be home to Splendour in the Grass, two other major festivals and smaller events.

Ironically, shortly after the minute’s silence last week, the council fired its final round in the current engagement by voting to oppose the application in its submission to the government.

It also voted to delete any mention of a possible ‘trial’ event at the site.

A report from council planners said the Yelgun proposal exceeded the limits set out in the Events on Public and Private Land Policy and its scale was well beyond anything previously mooted by the applicants, or any other music festival applicant.

It said the proposed development would be ‘destructive of the existing local character, particularly that of the north-eastern part of the shire’.

The report said the site was unsuitable in regard to critical matters, including on-site sewage management, traffic, parking, noise and it also raised concerns about flooding.

Cr Basil Cameron said it had to be made clear that the council’s submission reflected the views of the ‘community’.

Cr Cameron said the ‘community’ had said quite clearly that the ecological diversity and archaeological values of the land alone made any sort of event on the scale planned for the site ‘inappropriate’.

He said it was clear there was no antagonism towards Splendour itself. It had always been about whether the event was appropriate for the site.

Cr Diana Woods queried why the council, which had previously approved a trial Splendour event at the site (overturned by the Land and Environment Court), had not highlighted then the host of issues now being raised.

“To come out now and say we have all these problems that we are now highlighting – how stupid do we look,” she said.

Cr Simon Richardson acknowledged the ‘community’ stance on the proposal was not clear-cut.

But he said he was really sick of people claiming the proposal ‘is for the youth’ of the shire.

It wasn’t ‘youth friendly’ to charge $360 to get into Splendour, he said, and the requirement for any young person to be accompanied by an adult also wasn’t ‘youth friendly’.

“If you are youth friendly, prove it, don’t say it,” he said.

Cr Cameron said he agreed with Cr Richardson that the site wasn’t ‘youth friendly’.

“It’s miles away from anywhere,” he said.

During a public access session before last Thursday’s meeting, Angela Dunlop, representing the South Golden Beach Progress Association, said the association strongly opposed the use of the property for a permanent events site.

“Our opposition is not against Splendour, not against people enjoying themselves,” she said.

“We just believe that the Yelgun site is not the right place for an enlarged Splendour, plus multiple other festivals.

“This site just has too many genuinely insurmountable problems, even for a trial.”

General manager of North Byron Parklands Mat Morris said 62 per cent of the 660-acre site was to be permanently set aside for eco-system support purposes and the site would have little or no activity for 280 days each year.

Mr Morris said when operating at full capacity, the site would inject $192.6 million into the national economy annually, and their community grants fund would provide $100,000 a year when operating at capacity.

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