Events meeting 'not a good idea'

Many Byron Shire residents hold the view that major cultural festivals such as the Blues & Roots Festival  have a negative impact on the region.
Many Byron Shire residents hold the view that major cultural festivals such as the Blues & Roots Festival have a negative impact on the region. Gemma-Rose Turnbull

COMMUNITY groups were disappointed this week when they attended a meeting with the Byron Shire Council to discuss its Draft Events Policy.

Many in attendance felt the forum was hijacked by event and tourist operators with vested interests.

The meeting was called by the council’s environmental health team leader, John Rushforth, in an attempt to encourage residents and other groups to air their views on the draft policy.

But the meeting at the Byron Bay Surf Club on Thursday night descended into chaos, as people with opposing views screamed at each other.

Spokesperson for the Conservation of North Ocean Shores (CONOS) group, Bob Oehlman, told The Northern Star: “To get those parties together under the one roof was not a good idea.”

Representatives from CONOS, the Coalition for Festival Sanity, South Golden Beach and New Brighton Progress Association and the Yelgun Progress Association were in attendance.

Also present were representatives of Splendour in the Grass, Bluesfest, Byron United and the owners of various businesses associated with festivals.

Coalition for Festival Sanity spokesperson, Denise Nessel, said her organisation was under the impression industry representatives had already had the opportunity to meet with council to discuss the policy earlier this month.

“But when we arrived we discovered that the majority of those attending were from industry groups,” Ms Nessel said.

“My impression was they were in favour of more festivals and bigger festivals and were critical of the draft policy for being too restrictive.”

Byron Bay architect Paul Jones, who also attended the meeting, fears that if Byron doesn’t embrace events such as Splendour they will be lost for ever and something worse might take their place.

“I’m saddened by the negative agenda that has evolved around these events,” Mr Jones said.

“There are so many community and cultural benefits to having events like Splendour and the Blues Festival in the shire.”

Mr Jones said the area had a rich history of festivals, which could be traced all the way back to the Aquarius Festival.

“They’re inspirational events and they’re very well run,” he said.

“If you take all this stuff away what are we left with? We’ll have Blandsville and no sense of difference from anywhere else.”

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