Peter Noble: 'People Said Bluesfest Was An Ecstasy Ring'

10 July 2012 | 4:07 pm | Scott Fitzsimons

The Bluesfest director gives his view on the actions of Byron Shire Council.

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Byron Bay's Bluesfest were claiming a "major" victory last week after the Byron Shire Council received a directive from the state government that essentially blocks them from aligning the controversial Byron Events Policy, which resticted the region to two events annually, to the existing 1988 Land Environment Plan.

Today Bluesfest director Peter Noble, who has led the opposition of the Byron Events Policy, told that he'd had a celebratory drink over the weekend. Previously he said that when he bought the Tygarah Tea Tree Farm site in 2002, he was encouraged by the then-council to develop an events site. Spending $10 million of his own money on the site, he today claimed to have spent $100,000 in legal fees to fight the council on the Events Policy, which he holds firm on branding as "illegal".

"There is no other policy like it in our country," he said today, "nothing comes near what they were trying to do and unfortunately the majority of people trying to vote for that were Greens. And I vote Green but I don't vote that kind of Green. People trying to create nanny states."

He claimed that fear mongering amongst these "maverick" councilors, who claimed that Byron Shire would be overrun by rock festivals, had even got to the point that it was alleged that Bluesfest was a vehicle for ecstasy distribution.

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"This is where the opponents have attempted to hijack the event agenda by saying, 'That if you allow us to get approvals up to do multiple events on the site... you will have multiple rock festivals such as Soundwave and the Big Day Out... and you don't want that do you?'

"That's the kind of stuff we've had to deal with. I've actually had the Local Progress Association at a public meeting claim that I have a festival called Bluesfest with the expressed purposes of dealing ecstasy to my clients. That's how bad it got up here."

Following the note from Sam Haddad, Director General of Planning and Infrastructure, the matter is now out of Noble's hands.

"[The Council] cannot proceed on what they were attempting to do," he said. "We had given the council legal advice on a number of occasions, barristers advice that what they were attempting to do was illegal under Australian law and under our consumer acts. Put on top of that thirteen and a half thousand submissions against it, these councilors were basically out there as a maverick team, batting on their own without support. Anywhere, even our community, the majority of our community did not support them."

He continued, "They knew it was illegal, they did not get their own legal advice, it cost our community probably hundreds and thousands of dollars in man hours from our council staff working on a policy that was illegal... They took away the rule of law there by where somebody can put in a development application whether it's to build a swimming pool in your house, or a building and have it judged on its merits and if you don't like the outcome, the determination you get from your local council.

"You have the right as an Australian under law to go to your land environment court and let a judge decide. That's what they were trying to take away. They wanted to take away our democratic right to say we don't agree with you, let's let a court decide."

Noble confirmed that he will now be looking to host more events in the future, both promoted by himself and others who want to use the grounds.

"We're available for the right events. We're not available for events that we don't think are appropriate. I've certainly had other conversations with other potential events including the Jimmy Little foundation which is presenting the Boomerang Festival under artistic director Rhoda Roberts – that's the next event coming in and there will be more.

"And when you say events they could be any size, they could be quite small. They could be a wedding, it could be a scout jamboree, it could be a Corvette owners convention, it could be anything 'cause that's what I've built, an events site. And there will be music happening for sure, I can guarantee you that.

"It's not about me anymore, it's about the ability for the arts to flourish and council recognising that it's just so bloody difficult to do anything in Byron Shire."