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Parklands bids to retain Falls and Splendour

North Byron Parklands – the 650-acre greenfield site which has since 2013 been home to one of Australia’s leading music festivals, Secret Sounds’ Splendour in the Grass – is hoping to be granted permission for a permanent 50,000-cap. festival venue, despite opposition from some councillors and local residents.

Parklands, which is also home to the Byron Bay leg of Falls Festival, submitted its A$42 million (US$33.4m) proposal before Christmas, which, if approved, would allow the site to host Splendour and Falls permanently, along with limited one-day concerts and smaller cultural and community events for up to 20 further days.

The application follows the end of a five-year trial period, which started in 2012, that required a series of trial events to be monitored and reviewed to test the site’s suitability.

“We feel we have done an outstanding job in managing our environmental impact, which has been reflected through a range of improvements covering traffic, noise and community amenity during the trial,” comments Parklands general manager Mat Morris. “We now hope to be able to operate on a permanent basis so that we can invest in improvements to the site which will further enhance this world-class cultural venue.”

However, the tender process has been criticised by local authorities, which lack jurisdiction over the site, as anti-democratic, with responsibility for approving the proposal falling to New South Wales (NSW)’s Department of Planning and Environment.

“Hundreds of jobs and more than $100 million in economic benefits would leave the region”

“Because the NSW government is currently the consent authority for events held on the North Byron Parklands site, Byron Shire Council has limited input to what occurs aside from compliance issues, including traffic management and noise to minimise disruption to residents,” a Byron Shire Council spokeswoman tells the Sydney Morning Herald.

The paper also quotes Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson as saying he “strenuously oppose[s] the circumvention of local government decision-making”.

Local resident Denise Nessel adds that the festivals further stress the infrastructure of an area “already overrun by tourists”. “Many of us who live near the site are not pleased with the ever-larger numbers of festival goers who use our roads, camp on our streets and beaches and swarm into nearby towns in great numbers, and we are not looking forward to twice as many festival days, as are proposed, and still more in future,” she says.

If the proposal is rejected, Morris suggests Falls and Splendour will be forced to relocate from NSW, north to neighbouring Queensland. “Hundreds of jobs and more than $100 million in economic benefits will leave a region with high youth unemployment and a range of businesses dependant on these events,” he says.

Secret Sounds has since December 2016 been majority owned by Live Nation, with Splendour and Falls becoming its first Australian festivals.


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