AN extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday March 12 left business owners of the Emu Creek Extreme Retreat (ECER) devastated.
In the meeting the councillors agreed to follow the council's recommendations not to accept the application of the ECER in regards to their Noise Management Plan.
The council had consulted the acoustical engineers and this had resulted in recommendations that additional sound testing was needed, and different operation hours were necessary, recommendations the business owners said would mean the end of their business.
In front of a full public forum three speakers addressed the council. Adrian Nelson, past president of the Ballina Motocross Club and current vice president of the Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of business owner Blair Maxwell against the recommendations.
He raised concerns about the way the noise measurements had taken place and mentioned the noise measured could as well have come from different properties. Mr Nelson also wondered if the measurement system used by the council (LAmax, a method in which the maximum noise level over a period of time is measured) was correct in this case.
He also asked if noise was such an important aspect, why there hadn’t been more constant noise monitoring.
The second speaker was Mr Lavender, who voiced the opinion that there was a reason why the council had received 304 complaints and that if the bikes would not go, he was in favour of strict rules in regards to noise.
Mrs Maxwell spoke briefly, mentioning that her and her husband’s livelihood was at stake and that under the proposed recommendations they would not be able to operate their business.
The council’s director of strategic planning and environmental services, Mr James Ruprai and senior planner Tamai Davidson then addressed the council.
In their opinion the process had been a “unique assessment”, as no other motorcycle business in Australia has a 365-day permit. Mr Ruprai said that because the permit was for 365/11 hours a day, there were not many case studies to draw from. His advisors had used the LAmax method instead of the LAeq method the business owners use in their plan because the LAeq does not measure the peak level of the noise and was more a subjective method, whereas the council preferred to move towards ‘objective’ measurements.
Mr Ruprai also mentioned that in case of a sawmill for instance, internal buffers could be placed to temper sound, but that in case of a motocross park this was not possible, hence looking at a management plan was vital.
After discussion among the councillors, several amendments to the recommendations were raised in regards to work hours operating days- and lost and the recommendations as drawn up were accepted.
After the meeting, Mr Nelson said that the sound plan suggested in the report would cost the business owner about $120,000, which was more than their yearly net income.
“With the suggested operation hours you can’t run a business,” he added.
Blair Maxwell said that he was afraid that the decision of the council meant the death of businesses in general in the shire.
‘No business can keep to the 10Db (above ambient noise),” he said, adding that the car park, the sporting grounds, lawn mowers and the cattle saleyards made more noise than that.
The (304) complaints he called ‘completely vexation’. Having seen the complaint log, Mr Blair said to know 99 per cent of the complaints came from one source (Christine Baker), who he said had a personal vendetta against him, “because her family “used to run the business”.
He expected none of his customers would drive up 2-3 hours, to only be able to use the park for two. “We are open 365 days a year, he said, “But there are only bikes on, probably 200 days.”
The business owners called the decision unlawful, as under NSW law the council should have followed the LAeq method and they said they felt forced to fight it in court. Unfortunately “at the expense of ratepayers”, Mr Maxwell said.