The long, ugly battle over the Byron Bay Shire – regular host to Bluesfest and previously, Splendour In The Grass – may have finally come to a reasonable conclusion. Bluesfest’s director, Peter Noble, had previously slammed Byron Shire council’s “draconian” plans for a new clause in their events policy that would limit the beach-side city to just two major music events per year.
The music festival director calling the proposed Major Events clause a “kneejerk reaction” that “was always illegal” as an update to an older Shire policy which was conceived “around the turn of the Millenium, and which was meant to contain the use of “DOOFS” (illegal all night electronic dance music raves which no longer occur) in forests and on beaches within the shire.”
Today however, Noble is applauding the NSW Government’s decision to refuse Byron Shire Council’s requests, rejecting the proposed amendment under the Local Environmental Plan that would redefine major events in the area as having more than 6,000 patrons a day. Including limiting the quota of single-day events to just two a year. Sam Haddad, the Director General of the Planning and Infrastructure department for the NSW Government, wrote a formal letter this week to the General Manager of Byron Shire Council rejecting the proposed plan, writing that
“…the Byron Shire proposed “Major Events’ Clause”, should not proceed. I have formed the opinion that the proposal is not in the public interest, I believe matters of concern to the Council can adequately be assessed through the normal development application process.”
Noble welcomed Haddad and the Planning and Infrastructure department’s decision, calling it “a great win for our arts loving anti-censorship community as well as for those that believe in democracy and the rule of law in Australia.” The overturned decision comes after a gruelling opposition from Noble, who along with industry figurehead, tour promoter Michael Chugg, and a chorus of musicians critiquing the changes including the likes of Ben Harper, Michael Franti, John Butler, Kasey Chambers and The Cat Empire.
Alongside the star-studded critics was a public constructed petition objecting to the Policy, with more than 13,500 signatures gathered over three separate attempts to dispute the policy over three years The news of the rejection was a win not only for music events but, according to Noble, “the basic democratic right of any Australian.” He urged that Byron Council now needed to totally re-write its policy, adding
“…or better still start all over again from the ground up and make it inclusive for all Arts groups in Byron Shire and to finally consult properly with them in the future, which has never occurred to this date, and most importantly to address the current difficulty of lodging any Event Development Application at any level in Byron Shire for the presentation of any type of performances in the arts.”
Noble also stated that any arts presentation, including his own iconic Blusefest at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm Events site, was made difficult by the long approval times – taking somewhere between 6 months and 2 years – as well as the high costs for approval applicaton, as ‘abos0lute deterrents’ to holding music and arts events in the area.
“Byron shire contains more people on a percentage basis to population involved in the Creative Industries than anywhere else in Australia and they need to be acknowledged, respected and have their interests advanced by Council now,” Noble concluded.
It’s a major win for the creative sector, whose voice has been heard by the NSW Government and their support of the public opinion. A move further strengthened by the recent news that the State’s Government assembly of a Creative Industry Task Force, headed by ARIA CEO Dan Rosen, inviting the public to contribute to its ‘Action Plan’.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Stoner said the new ‘Creative Industries Taskfoce’ would help “to develop comprehensive strategies to drive growth, innovation and productivity”, adding they’d “develop a 10-year Industry Action Plan to deliver economic growth and support a sustainable and vibrant sector.”