Byron Shire's Controversial Events Policy


Update: 17 July 2012

Today we heard of a majordevelopmentin Peter Noble's fight against the Byron Shire Events Policy.  The NSW government has directed the council not to align the policy with the 1988 Land Environment Plan.  The Council had sought to restrict major music events to two per year, sparking outrage from BluesFest fans and some in the music industry who interpreted it, accurately, as singling out music events but not other types of events. has the story - read more.


23 April 2012

Some controversy has erupted over the Events Policy in a northern NSW Local Government Area. That LGA is Byron Shire Council and the controversy surrounds its major international music festivals, in particular the Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Festival Director Peter Noble posted on the Bluesfest website a plea to the festival's supporters to petitiion the Council to change its policy. "We have ALWAYS put quality before profit - and continue to invest in our site - which many in our industry are now calling the best event site in Australia," says Noble, adding that they would like to develop the site and add a "Shakespearean Festival, an indigenous festival - and to do a few one day events."

The policy reportedly limits major music events (more than 6000 people) to two per year.  The Bluesfest website says: "It is discriminatory toward music lovers - after all the policy allows sporting events, food & wine festivals, writers festivals, film festivals, cane toad race festivals, religious events - IN FACT - EVERY type of event EXCEPT music."

In an article on, Mr Noble says ""We have already been approached regarding a possible concert by Elton John and John Farnham as well as opera which would all be banned under the draft policy."  That same report quotes Council's Executive Manager of Planning, Ray Darney, as saying the draft policy was different in that "it redefines major outdoor music event to any outdoor music event exceeding 6000 attendees for any duration."

The "Kill Amendment 151" website outlines a short history of the Event Policy and Council's attempts to restrict the number of live music events in the area.  It states that a very small minority of submissions have been in favour of the policy (see below).  It isn't clear who runs this website although a number of logos for tourism bodies, music festivals and others appear on the site. They argue that there are already at least two events per year which fall under the "major outdoor music event" category: "What about other events that are gaining popularity? What happens when they achieve over 6,000 attendees?," they ask.

The petition against the policy reportedly attracted 500 signatures per hour when it was launched on Thursday 19 April.

What is the policy?

Byron Shire Council's Events on Public and Private Land Policy (October 2010) outlines Council's requirements for events held in the area.   Its objective is "to recognise the contribution that events make to the diverse character and culture of the Shire, and to encourage event organisers to promote events that recognise and contribute to the evolution of this character and culture, and to manage events so that they do not adversely impact on this existing on character and culture."  Much of it is worthwhile and won't raise many eyebrows, including statements such as "be inclusive of the broad community", "encourage the engagement of local artists", "ensure that minimal environmental harm is caused". There are very few targets set out in the policy, mostly statement about what Council would like to achieve.

There seems to be nothing in the policy which would negatively affect the average cultural event in the area.  However, Clause 2.7 does set a specific limit and does single out a particular type of event, stating that "there be a restriction of no more than two major music events to be held within the Byron Shire in any calendar year. In this clause, major event means any outdoor music event of any duration that exceeds 6,000 patrons, participants and staff per day."  It doesn't specifically rule in any other type of event (food & wine festivals, cane toad races or anything else) but does specifically limit "outdoor music" events.

Another statement, in Council's Cultural Policy (April 2008), says that "A sustainable future depends on maintaining functioning and viable ecosystems, since no activities can be sustained into the long term without these. A sustainable future requires a well-maintained ecologically sensitive balance between the needs of today‚Äôs community to develop according to current economic and social needs and the needs of the future communities to do the same." (Clause 4.5). 

An activist website, Kill Amendment 151, states that in 2010 a "majority of public submissions opposed the suggested restrictions on major events" and the petition had 2054 signatures.  Another attempt in 2011 resulted in 3525 submissions, 3482 against the restrictions and 43 in support.

Byron Shire Council is taking submissions until Tuesday 24 April, 2012.