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Backlash over Bluesfest cancellation

The NSW government has faced huge backlash following the cancellation of Bluesfest in Byron.

The cancellation of the festival, came with the implementation of new COVID-19 restrictions sparked by just one locally acquired COVID case connected to the latest Brisbane outbreak.

The locally acquired case was announced on Wednesday and detected in Byron Bay.

The man in his 20s had visited Byron’s Beach Hotel. He was infected by two unknowingly infectious Queenslanders attending a bachelorette party at the venue.

Since that case, there have been no new locally acquired cases in NSW.

Steve Borg, a local business operator who owns Belongil, one of the area’s oldest beach houses, is angry that the festival was cancelled over one case.

“I thought the NSW government was a rock in a sea of bed-wetter states cancelling everything, but to cancel a festival because of one case is outrageous,” he said.

“Coupled with the bad weather it has really ruined the buzz of Byron at Easter, which is the leaping board before we head into a quiet time over winter.”

Mr Borg estimated his accommodation business has lost close to $70,000  since the pandemic, while other venue owners were worried their staff would lose their jobs without the JobKeeper safety net.

Many popular cafes such  as Treehouse on the Belongil were closed due to the lack of tourists.

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said the disappointment was tempered by a feeling that it was better to be safe than sorry.

“It was a King Solomon’s choice ... most people would rather we over-reacted than under-reacted,” he said. “The last thing we wanted was a coastal Ruby Princess on our hands.”



Irit Jackson, 6th April 2021