Oct. 1, 2014, 2 p.m.
COUNCIL have taken a bold step and voted in favour of supporting a same-sex marriage equality proclamation that will be presented to the Prime Minister.
It was a contentious topic between the councillors in attendance at last Wednesday’s meeting with the vote eventually swinging five to four in favour of the recommendation.
A request had come from Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson to support the same-sex marriage equality proclamation.
Mr Richardson said denying same sex couples equal rights to marry was discriminatory and a violation of basic human rights.
“We will be collecting Marriage Equality Proclamations from local government areas across Australia, with the intent of presenting these to the Prime Minister.
“We believe our elected leaders have a responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens,” he said.
General manager Lotta Jackson reminded councillors before their vote that “marriage is not a religious ceremony” and council were a “secular organisation”.
“Access and equity is very key in local government – I’m sure the Byron Shire did not only send this to us,” Ms Jackson said.
Councillor Blair Maxwell spoke strongly on supporting the liberties of all citizens.
“This is a very serious discussion – I would expect we provide those rights of equity to everyone.
“I fear if we don’t support this we would not be following the rules set down in our policies,” he said.
The vote has stirred controversy with some questioning the need for the discussion in a local government forum.
Pastor Jim Seymour from Tenterfield’s Presbyterian Church Family sent a letter to each councillor prior to the vote erring them on the side of caution.
“I believe that any councillor found on the side of the ledger supporting such an abominable position after votes have been counted, is exposing themselves to an uncertain future,” Mr Seymour said.
Cr Mary Leahy voted in favour of the proclamation but said she felt it was a community issue that needed to be treated as such by holding a shire-wide vote.
“I don’t know the feeling in our shire and I feel this would be a divisive issue.
“This shire however, for a rural one, is quite remarkable in its acceptance of same-sex couples.”
Updated about 2 hours agoFri 19 Sep 2014, 8:56am
Police search Byron Bay’s Arakwal National Park for missing brothers
PHOTO: Illegal campground – police found a number of makeshift campsites while searching Byron Bay’s Arakwal National Park for missing brothers. (Elloise Farrow-Smith – ABC News.)
MAP: Byron Bay 2481
The Byron Shire Mayor says the council has been grappling with the issue of illegal camping for decades.
There’s renewed focus on the situation after police discovered a number of makeshift campsites in the Arakwal National Park during the search for two missing bothers.
Simon Richardson said up to a hundred people sleep rough throughout the shire on any given night.
“We get some groups who are pretty anti-social and camp in some really fragile environmental areas and do a fair bit of damage with tree removal for fires etcetera,” he said.
“Then we get others who probably leave a slightly lighter footprint and come and go and most people wouldn’t really be even aware that they’re actually sleeping rough.”
Cr Richardson said problems with illegal camping are only going to get worse unless something is done.
He said finding legal accommodation alternatives should be a priority.
“Where at least they minimise the anti-social impacts on nearby residents, at least that’s a first step,” he said.
“Of course what we’d love to be able to do is find actual accommodation for those who do seek it.
“Not all rough sleepers actually want accommodation or crisis accommodation, but there are certainly some that if we could provide (it for) them, we would so.”
The National Parks and Wildlife Service said people caught illegally camping risk being fined if they refuse to move on.
Spokesman Lawrence Oral said two notices were recently issued to people found camping in the Arakwal National Park.
He said there are good reasons why camping should be confined to designated areas.
“One of the reasons why illegal camping is a concern is the fires that are associated with these often obviously pose a potential bushfire threat as well,” Mr Orel said.
“That’s something that we’re very keen to reduce as much as possible.”
THURSDAY 10 JULY, 2014
Behind Byron Bay’s stunning beaches is a thrilling artistic and cultural community.
Why the arts capture the spirit of Byron Bay
When thinking about the greater Byron Bay region, world-class beaches, sunshine and a laid-back lifestyle may spring to mind.
Yet for Byron Bay Shire Mayor Simon Richardson, it’s the thriving artistic community that underpins much of the social and cultural fabric, and gives a unique sense of personality to the Shire, from Bangalow to Lennox Head, to Byron Bay itself.
‘A place without art is a very dull place indeed. We are lucky in Byron in that we have over two times the state average of those working in the creative industries.
‘We have a rich tradition of cultural creativity, and so for us in a way it ensures that the alternative or progression of culture and community here continues to have a voice, continues to share their skills and ideas with the wider community,’ he said.
‘The good thing about Byron is we have various streams of creative industries. Not only does it reflect who we are, they’re actually nationally or internationally renowned. We are really quite spoilt in this Shire.
A short journey by plane from most major Australian east coast cities makes Byron Bay the perfect destination for artists and art enthusiasts alike. ‘That capacity to travel is a key statistic of the Byron sensibility,’ said Richardson.
‘We’ve got a really lovely mix between those who are very regionally and locally focused, and come from that old school, non-metropolitan artistic aesthetic, and those who are fully fledged professionals.’
Working in Byron Bay are artists from all streams of the creative industries, from visual artists, sculptors, circus artists, theatre makers and filmmakers.
‘Not only do they reflect who we are and give locals an opportunity to experience creativity – they are nationally or internationally renowned,’ said Richardson.
‘We’re world leaders in event management, and creating a cultural escape and creative production for the visitor. Splendour in the Grass is a perfect example of visual and installation art mixed with the music art.’
Indeed cross-collaboration can be seen in many more examples across the region. Splendour Arts, the arts program supporting the forthcoming Splendour in the Grass Festival, is just one of the many large-scale festival platforms operating in the region, alongside Falls Festival, the Byron Bay Writers Festival, Byron Bay Blues Fest, the Byron Bay Film Festival and the Boomerang Festival.
‘They [Splendour] spend some serious money and serious focus in planning installations and artistic interactions with the punters. In fact, a lot of our festivals do a similar thing – they grab the other threads of the creative industries and weave them in,’ said Richardson.
Splendour Arts curator Craig Walsh agrees with Richardson that the opportunity to work with local artists has exposed him to a thriving eclectic group of artists who work together across a range of art forms. ‘It’s quite a competitive place to work because there are so many artists living in the area.
‘The networking assists with that. I still think it’s a lifestyle choice, which is very sympathetic to artists, which brings so many artists to the region. There’s definitely a sense of community that crosses over between art, music and the commercial,’ he said.
Walsh adds that the Byron Arts and Industry Estate is of equal significance – home to many jewellery makers, glass sculptors and fashion designers. ‘I’ve seen that transform essentially from a typical industrial estate to becoming a residential, studio, industrial estate and I think that’s important for the continuation of the art community in Byron Bay.
‘What’s it done is set up a model for how residential, studio and artists can exist in one space. Architects are now using that as a model to develop new subdivisions.’
While local artists appeal to segments of the tourist market, Walsh said that Byron Bay has strong historical relevance as the birthplace of the modern music festival, as first seen within the illegal outdoor “doof” held on properties around the Byron region in the 1990s.
‘Something like Splendour in the Grass is really an evolution of that and I think that it’s something really distinctive that encapsulates Byron in music and art, as a sort of maverick approach to creating events,’ he said.
‘Splendour evolved out of Byron Bay, that’s where it was born and it continues to carry those traits through. It’s linked to an identity, and I think for Byron people and artists, there’s a sense of ownership. There’s a link to the festival itself.’
Richardson said that this positive sense of community is also reflected through the effect of arts on the local arts economy. ‘Apart from tourism, it’s the biggest show in town. There are lots of opportunities for artists and arts workers interested in the festival environment; partially it’s really helping to sustain the arts community in that region.
‘Obviously festivals do a lot more than just put on music. There’s employment, there’s creative and there’s businesses in that region,’ he said.
‘There’s this sort of far-reaching influence on the community itself. They rely on each other to deliver and continue a thriving arts community.’
Visit the Legendary Byron website for more details about the Greater Byron Bay region.
The northern rivers has the highest concentration of arts and creative industries outside the cities, and high profile members of our creative community have declared it’s time to remove regional barriers so that creative industries can expand and thrive.
A panel of northern rivers creatives, including Byron Bay International Film Festival director Jaimee Skippon-Volke and head of Arts Northern Rivers Peter Wood, spoke on a panel last week at Australia’s largest festival, Vivid Sydney.
Skippon-Volke says faster and more reliable broadband access in the region is a major hurdle for growth in creative industries.
‘There were days in the lead-up to the film festival when we were at 15 per cent of our productivity – upload speeds are killing us,’ she says.
Skippon-Volke says that while some businesses are finding inventive ways to get around the slow broadband, many are losing significant productivity because of limited upload speeds.
In another issue, a clear desire has been articulated by creative industries in the region to have more opportunities for collaboration and Skippon-Volke says television and film projects could facilitate this.
‘The beauty of film and television is that it’s a creative medium that employs people across many fields: sound, makeup, music, actors, writers, set photographers. Once a big job comes in it can hire lots of people that have lots of skills bases – and that makes it quite unique.’
Arts Northern Rivers’ Peter Wood says another factor holding the issue back is funding. While the region punches above its weight in terms of arts funding, the high concentration of artistic and creative people here means there is tough competition.
Wood is calling for Byron Shire to be recognised nationally for its exceptionally high concentration of creative talent.
‘If we are recognised as a creative industries hotspot it will bring more strategic support to the area. We need more grants,’ he says.
Wood says it is positive that the region’s local councils understand the benefits for creative industries both to wellbeing and as an economic driver.
‘This doesn’t necessarily translate into funding, but half the battle is done because the councils understand it,’ he says.
Regional Development Australia supported the northern rivers’ presence at Vivid Sydney, and CEO Kimmaree Thompson says it is important to let the rest of the country know about the concentration of creative industries talent in the region.
‘By showcasing the work of our creative professionals to the people in Sydney, our region can attract more national and international clients for our local businesses,’ Thompson says.
‘We are working on a number of projects that will link creative businesses in our region with sources of work from corporates and startups across Australia,’ she says.
‘To be a sustainable creative industries hub, we have to build businesses so that they employ local people,’ she says.
Anneli Knight is a media consultant for Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers
Lesson from Bentley
Winners are grinners (l-r): Rob Crossley, from the New Brighton Village Association, Byron shire councillors Di Woods and Basil Cameron, Kathy Norley (president of the South Golden Beach Community Association) and mayor Simon Richardson are all smiles as the manager of the Shores United Football club, Kim Fearnside, and its president, Marc Patten, jump for joy this morning (Wednesday) at the sports fields site at Shara Boulevard. Photo Jeff Dawson.
The long saga to find a suitable site for sports fields in the north of Byron Shire has come to and end with today’s announcement of by Byron Shire Council that it had bought a parcel of land at Shara Boulevard in Ocean Shores.
The seven-hectare block, on the corner of Shara Boulevard and Brunswick Valley Way, was bought by Council for $318,000 (excluding GST) and council says has potential for two playing fields, an amenities block, car parking, community play spaces and park furniture.
The purchase is considered a bargain given the land’s asking price when it first went on the market was almost $2 million.
Ironically, Lot 5 Shara Boulevard, was sold by the widow of the late Queensland-based developer Chum Vidgen, who died in 2012 aged 73 and was often at odds during the 1990s with council and environmentalists over his developments .
The site had a longtime approval for a service station and another smaller site of 1.7 hectares just across the road, also owned by the Vigdens and up for sale, has approval for a motel and restaurant.
Mr Vidgen developed the Ocean Shores Shopping Village as well as many housing projects in the shire. Eight years ago he sold land he owned at Yelgun to the consortium behind the Splendour in the Grass festival-site development.
Mayor Simon Richardson said the newly-acquired site was in early 2013 considered as part of a review of potential playing field sites for the north of the Shire.
‘With an initial asking price on the land at $1.95 million, it was out of our reach. But as the market changed, the block has come within Council’s budget and it’s a significant financial purchase for our residents,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘Plus the site is well positioned centrally and will service a number of local townships including Ocean Shores, Billinudgel, South Golden Beach, New Brighton and Brunswick Heads.’
Council is currently waiting on land rezoning confirmation from the state government as part of the Local Environment Plan (LEP) process and plans to consult with community groups over the next few weeks to lock-in design ideas.
A council spokesperson said that following the design completion, Council will lodge a development application and aim to start construction within a year on the first field, car parking, amenities block and lighting.
The spokesperson said Council had around $2 million in available funding from Section 94 developer contributions for the Ocean Shores/South Golden Beach sports fields programs.
The site already has sewer and water connections, road infrastructure and much fill material available to help with initial levelling works, which the spokesperson said amounted to savings in significant construction costs.
Cr Richardson said that as the the site was a corner block and had two street frontages, it also offered ‘great access for transport along with the added advantage of cycleways right to the entrance’.
The Shara Boulevard site has direct access to Brunswick Valley Way (the main access feeder road) which is linked to the nearby Yelgun interchange on/off ramps of the Pacific Highway as well as Billinudgel, Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads.
The council spokesperson said that as a result of the land purchase, Council would no longer pursue other potential sites for sport fields at Billinudgel.
‘Council is committed to sports field in the north of Byron Shire and today was a very exciting announcement,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘We will continue to talk to sporting and community groups and find ways to deliver health and social outcomes for our residents.
‘Today’s announcement is testament to the commitment of the last group of councillors, a testament to the risk taking can do altitude of the current council and staff, and a testament to the passion and advocacy of the community of Ocean Shores and surrounds,’ he said.
The history in the campaign to establish sports fields in the north of the shire is checkered, with a nearby block of land known as Lot 107 Shara Boulevard the subject of much political argy bargy over the years before it was finally scotched.
The then Greens-majority Council staunchly opposed moves to rezone the bushland there which some saw as a natural buffer for the highly populated areas surrounding it.
Other sites at Billinudgel were also considered but their flood-prone nature and other impediments appeared to rule them out.
Radio National: Why Byron Bay is proud to be a ‘community of black sheep’
Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson chats with Jonathan Green about the challenges of maintaining a balance between development and community in his coastal NSW town. He explains how this ‘community of black sheep’ has been able to withstand Schoolies Week, McDonald’s and Dan Murphy’s.
Give us a snapshot of Byron Bay shire
It’s about an hour or so below the border [of Queensland and NSW]. We’ve got some of the most amazing beaches, which have drawn people for decades, and we’ve also got a wonderful hinterland where there are waterfalls and beautiful cafes and galleries.
It’s a place that attracts people for its beauty, but importantly it also attracts people for the integrity of the community and the type of communities that live here.
The ocean is just exquisite at the moment. In fact, the rocks just off our coast are one of the best scuba diving areas in Australia as well, so it really is a Mecca for anyone who is interested in beautiful beaches and beautiful oceans.
We occasionally get blue bottles when the current is going a certain way, but it’s never a particular issue, it lasts a couple of days and then everybody gets back into the water.
Is there a certain consciousness specific to your part of the world?
Absolutely, I guess we’ve had it pretty much since the ’70s and early ’80s. We’ve just had people who wanted to live a life where the community was perhaps number one, the economy came number two, and the economy worked for the people rather than the people for the economy.
In a sense we’ve always had a real ethos and culture of trying to live in a way where we’re not bombarded with the same commercial pressures that others have.
We’re all perhaps potentially able and willing to earn a little bit less so that as a community we can have a whole lot more, and as a result we are a point of difference [compared to] most other coastal places around the country.
The town has been successful in keeping many major chain stores like McDonald’s and Dan Murphy’s out—how have you managed that?
We’re not perfect, and we’re certainly no nirvana, but I guess one point of difference is that we keep trying. The vast majority of our community don’t want some of the really famous chain stores.
For us it’s about supporting locals, it’s about being that place of difference, so when visitors come they can actually feel that they are in a different community and they interact and enjoy that and we know by surveys that that’s what visitors love about us.
How do you balance Byron’s dependence on tourism with its sense of community?
That’s my challenge, and a challenge for other community leaders up here, to get that balance right.
It’s not a question of just saying no constantly, it’s about saying no to inappropriate development, but yes to innovative, sustainable, world-class development.
We do want to be a place where we can help set the scene of what’s possible, and by doing that we need to have faith in a lot of our community that they will bring the right type of development for us, and so I think that certainly over the last few years we’ve begun to change that ethos again within Byron.
We are a community that will welcome innovative, sustainable, best practice development with open arms, but we still maintain that right to resist development which is there more to exploit us rather than to add to us.
How does the community deal with Schoolies Week?
Schoolies is a bit of a vexed issue. On the one hand they can run a bit amok in some of the suburban areas where they stay in holiday letting situations, but on the flipside they are actually a group of wonderful 18-year-olds.
As a collective group they’re generally pretty good, they’re also really appreciative of Byron and what we as a community do for them.
Quite often they come and get married here, or live here or come and visit with probably a little bit more money in their pocket over the following years.
We have a responsibility to make sure that we still keep ourselves open for visitors to have those same experiences that we’ve had but, but just try and balance it so it so it’s done in a way that doesn’t affect the community who live here.
Someone once said that Byron’s a place where every family’s black sheep has come to congregate, and we’re a community of black sheep.
I actually see that as a real positive because what it means is that it’s filled with people who think for themselves and are prepared to take a different slant of what life offers and collectively therefore we’re an interesting, exciting, creative community.