Passionate on Parklands

There were mixed views at the NSW Planning Assessment Commission meeting at the Byron Bay Community Hall yesterday.
There were mixed views at the NSW Planning Assessment Commission meeting at the Byron Bay Community Hall yesterday. Jay Cronan

EMOTIONS ran high and tempers flared at a public meeting at Byron Bay yesterday where the North Byron Parklands development and potential home of Splendour in the Grass was discussed.

More than 120 community members signed up to deliver their view on the Yelgun site development proposal at a meeting at the Byron Community Centre yesterday and at another at the Ocean Shores School Hall today.

The NSW Planning Department recommended the approval of the North Byron Parklands development late last year, which would see three major events per year of up to 30,000 people plus a number of minor events.

The site would also become the new home of Splendour in the Grass, which was relocated to Woodford in Queensland two years ago.

Passionate supporters, many of them local business identities and tourism advocates clashed with determined opponents including residents who live near the development site at yesterday's meeting.

Local licensee Tom Mooney left the lectern halfway through his speech after a woman from the audience accused him of being "all about the money".

Another man accused Mr Mooney of not declaring a conflict of interest because of his involvement with a number of local pubs, including The Rails in Byron Bay.

Before Mr Mooney was interrupted, he said events like Splendour in The Grass were a saviour to business during the non-holiday period.

"It is very positive for employment," he said.

Chris Cherry from the Wooyung Action Group said the Department of Planning, by approving the proposal, showed a blatant disregard for patron safety because of the flood risk.

She presented a picture of the Yelgun site, taken last week after heavy rains, which showed flooding.

Outside the meeting, North Byron Parklands general manager Mat Morris said the site was not unsafe and an event would not have been held at the site following last week's rain.

"We ran a simulation of the system that we would have utilised and we would not have had an event (following last week's rainfall)," he said.

"The north-east corner of the site took 18-24 hours to rise in the area that it did (last week). It takes about eight hours to evacuate the site at its full capacity.

"The Department of Planning were focused on public safety. The event operators involved in this project have probably sold in excess of 2-3 million tickets for events and have never had a major incident or death."

Bluesfest director Peter Noble said it was unfair North Byron Parklands had approval to operate 365 days a year and his Tyagarah event site only had operational approval for five days a year.

The Planning Assessment Commission will consider the public submissions before making its decision.

Topics:  meeting parklands splendour in the grass

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