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Byron nightmare

By Sue Arnold - posted Thursday, 12 January 2017


Byron Bay is without doubt one of the most geographically beautiful places on the east coast of Australia. Under the gaze of Mount Warning, a most ancient volcano which greets the rising sun each morning, this is a place of mythology and the heartland of green crap.

Unfortunately for the people who live here and the rapidly disappearing wildlife, the shire is overwhelmed with tourists. It's more like a war zone. On top of a massive influx of people coming to Byron for holidays, the annual Falls Festival held over New Year's Eve is the last straw.

Although the now defunct Planning Assessment Commission imposed a limit of 22,500 patrons on the Falls festival, there is no independent audit of ticket sales and the council is prevented from accessing the true numbers. Only the festival corporation knows the real numbers. At the last Splendour in the Grass, more than 35,000 patrons crowded the site creating massive traffic problems. On the final day of that festival, it took seven hours to exit the site causing gridlock further down the Pacific Highway.

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Because of the heat this December, patrons from the festival site flooded into Brunswick ensuring there were no parking spaces, big queues outside cafes and fast food joints, crowded footpaths, hundreds and hundreds of people taking over the river banks, and hundreds if not thousands of people on the beach. A family swimming area known as Torakina looking more like a stuffed pond than a beach.

Nearby Devine's Hill at Ocean Shores is a picturesque lookout. Many tourists and festival patrons park there illegally. One neighbor on his early morning walk came across a couple having sex on the grass. They had to be careful because the site is littered with turds, toilet paper, empty bottles and rubbish.

Mountains of rubbish litter the walkways around Brunswick. No rangers come to check the status of vehicles. No rangers come to Devine's Hill lookout. Illegal camping is happening all over the shire.

Paul Davies, a Byron resident wrote to the local paper about his experience on New Year's Day.

I am cycling home via Paterson Hill on a detour to avoid the drunks still shambling around town, and also the many patches of broken glass – little bicycle landmines, now scattered in glistening splotches all along the main roads and footpaths. These will cause punctures for weeks and months to come. But at the summit of Paterson Hill I find another Byronian mountain-top scene: a pack of shirtless and legless young men, occupying the middle of the road, theircognitive abilities enfeebled by 14-straight hours skolling Bundy and Colas. Their cars are scattered, open-doored, spewing rubbish all around the bottom of the water tower, their nearby toilet waste just starting to attract a bevy of flies in the early morning heat (and yes, that's our drinking water tower). Thanks to my slim bike profile and rapid peddling, I manage to avoid eye contact with the puffed up hooligans and slip through their silly, informal blockade.

Two hours later a friend of mine was not so lucky. Driving over Paterson Hill to a yoga class, her car was effectively blocked by the same group. One fool jumped on her bonnet, another on the boot and a third on her roof, giggling and poking his ugly head through the window, insensitive to the complex public, personal, and third-party property liabilities now in play. Here was a woman, alone in her car, on a major public thoroughfare, being put upon by bunch of drongos at nine o'clock in the morning! And they'd been at it for hours! Where were the police? Where were Council's Rangers? Why do we pay rates and taxes in the first place?

This was also Byron 2017, but it didn't seem to be the one we'd chosen to live in.

The amenity of ratepayers and people who live in Byron is completely destroyed. Byron has been over-sold by the tourist industry and the festival cartel. The corporation which runs the Splendour in the Grass and Falls festivals, North Byron Parklands, is seeking approval from the state government to be designated a State Significant Development with 12 events allowing 50,000 patrons and eight events allowing 25,000 annually. This request has been made in spite of the Land & Environment Court last year rejecting a proposal by the corporation to have an event with 50,000 patrons. The festivals have been sold to a giant US entertainment organization, Live Nation.

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Local journalist, John Lewis, has estimated that if the state government grants the designation, that approximately 800,000 people will be using Byron Shire's limited facilities and infrastructure bringing an extra 400,000 vehicles a year on the already atrocious roads.

Meantime, the new " green" dominated Council is considering a special rate variation of 12.5% to cover the costs of infrastructure " for the residents". The rise would mean that 15,500 ratepayers will be asked to cover the costs of the damage which 1.5 million visitors create in the Shire. If the festivals are granted State Significant Development status, this would create a situation where almost 3 million visitors a year descend on the shire as the numbers of tourists has increased exponentially.

It is clear that Byron will be completely transmogrified into an appalling place with an infrastructure and a community that cannot cope. It is incomprehensible to residents and ratepayers that North Byron Parklands should have the right to turn Byron Shire into their 'playground' whilst the community not only pays for the damage but is driven from the shire because of the invasion.

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About the Author

Sue Arnold is the co-ordinator for Australians for Animals International, an International Whaling Commission NGO, working internationally on marine issues, particularly whales and dolphins. She is a former Fairfax investigative journalist who regularly lobbies the US government in Washington DC, as well as the European Parliament and Commission on whale issues. She can be contacted at suearnold25@icloud.com.

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