Hinterland weddings, council says 'I do'
THE war on weddings in the hinterland of the Byron Shire was yesterday compared to the contentious war on drugs.
Councillors spent more than an hour debating their best course of action to manage the craze that has been occurring under their noses for a number of years.
Mayor Simon Richardson said the council could no longer turn their back on the illegal events occurring and it was time to take simple steps to enforce the industry to minimise impact on neighbours and locals.
Cr Richardson said rather than condoning current practice, the council was trying to manage it. He likened their predicament to debate surrounding pill testing at festivals.
"I think the answer is the same. We acknowledge this is happening - we can't wish it away - we just want to manage it for the safety of the community.”
While Deputy Mayor Basil Cameron and councillor Cate Coorey said they think council was jumping the gun on this decision, majority of councillors voted in favour of moving forward with the process.
"If we open the stable door the horse will bolt,” Cr Coorey said.
"We don't need to rush this, people will still get married, love will find a way.
"I'm not saying no to this, we just say slow it down a bit and do it better.”
The passed motion will see the council writing to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for a Gateway determination, to amend Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014 to permit function centres in the RU2 Rural Landscape Zone.
"For us this is asking the State Government 'are you open to a change'. If they say yes, part of it will be going to the community again and work out how do we make it as water tight as we can,” Cr Richardson said.
"Some of the proposals are you can't have it occurring in a house if you are within 500 metres of another house, which would cut out at least 90 per cent of all current operators.”
As part of the amendment council will investigate the possibility of implementing a registration system for approved rural function centres, and report back to the council as part of the post-exhibition reporting.
"The proposal to see if we can permit it in some circumstances isn't saying 'cool, it's a free for all'. From my perspective it will decrease the amount of spaces,” Cr Richarson said.
"Really strong requirements will knock out a fair chunk of current operators because they simply won't be able to cover them. Then we have more legal clarity with the fees that we can raise from this, the two strikes and you're out policies, more compliant staff and have a regime that will work better.”
Cr Richardson said this proposal was meant to be taken to the State Government last year, however it was decided that more community consultation was needed before proceeding.
"We've had consultation up until this stage and when the State Government responds, hopefully in the next couple of months, it will be an opportunity for us to go out again,” he said.
"Just saying no, they will continue what they are doing and it will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs to have more compliance staff to get into the hills.”
"There isn't enough compliance staff to stop people from sleeping in Byron Bay, let alone Seven-Mile Beach, let along the dog activity. So we would have to be paying many hundreds of thousands to be focusing in the hinterland.
"This way we can charge yearly fees to be part of this regime.”