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Proposed Splendour Site An Environmental Insult?

Written by Daniel Clarke on July 27, 2009

Well, Splendour is over for another year and with the wrap-up comes the news that organisers are once again pushing for a new site to be used for the festival. The proposed site, in the North Byron shire parklands at a place called Yelgun, is of significant ecological importance, and some say the use of the site will have far-reaching consequences for endangered wildlife species in the area.

The proposed Yelgun site contains the Marshall’s Ridge wildlife corridor. This is a strip of habitat that connects several nature reserves in the area and provides a passage for endangered wildlife populations. It serves to moderate the effects of habitat fragmentation already brought about by rural development in the area, with approximately 26 threatened species that use the corridor.

The site also includes areas regarded as the highest quality habitats for koalas. It is estimated that there are only 100 000 koalas left in the wild, with local extinctions regularly occurring in areas where habitats are destroyed.

The Byron council had agreed on a one-off trial of the venue this year but that decision was later overturned on a technicality by the Land and Environment Court. The state government has stated that the scope of the proposal is outside that of local government. Splendour organisers are now pushing for a permanent move to the new site and are confident that government will approve the plan. The infrastructure proposed to facilitate such a large event will leave a lasting impact on the area including road upgrades, tree removal and a resource centre.

That the State government would be so willing to approve a site like Yelgun for music festivals doesn’t necessarily surprise me. I don’t particularly trust any politicians. What concerns me is that the Splendour organisers would be prepared to risk long-term damage to an area that is obviously of environmental importance. It’s more than a little hypocritical when they’ve been offering ‘green’ tickets to those who wanted to neutralise their carbon emissions for the weekend, and pushed to achieve 100% recycling of bottles and cans.

Given the number of festivals that grace Byron each year, this development might encourage year round use, and further environmental destruction. If successful in their bid, in order to prepare the site for next year, construction will soon be underway. That means at least a year of loud construction, machinery and human intervention.

With the looming spectre of climate change constantly on everyone’s minds, there has been a significant push in the music world for more ecologically sound ventures over the past few years. Many big name acts like Coldplay and The Rolling Stones have begun striving to make their concert tours carbon neutral, as have most of the big Australian festivals.

I doubt that many potential acts for next year’s festival would be too impressed if they knew of the conservation concerns related to the new site at Yelgun. Some music fans might not be too concerned either way, but the festival organisers have presented the event as an environmentally sensitive venture, so to embrace such a move without providing the public with assurances that the area will remain viable for the populations of native wildlife that live there would be terribly destructive to the reputation of the event. Environmental action against climate change involves both reducing emissions and promoting sustainable living as well as protecting in perpetuity the natural world that still remains.

For more information on the backlash to the new proposed site, check out the Byron Environment Website. We’ll have to wait and see whether there will be a response from organisers to these concerns.

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