For me, the story began with the appearance of a notice in the Cessnock Advertiser of 30 October 2013."Temporary Event Comprising Annual Music Festival (5 Year Term)", it read, "(Up to 3,000 Patrons)". The notice gave the location as "LOT: 392 DP: 863124 60 Mitchells Road MOUNT VIEW".
Knowing Mitchells Road, I might try getting two or three hundred people down it, but only if I'm feeling lucky. I reckon trying to accommodate 3,000 in there is a disaster in the making. Not being able to place exactly where number 60 is, I didn't give it much thought; the idea shouldn't stand a snowflake's chance in Hell of being approved.
My attitude changed when a worried neighbour approached me. People more knowledgeable than I were seriously concerned.
About a dozen and a half of us met on the verandah of one of the homes at risk. One of those who attended later summed up:
Shortly afterward, a letter appeared in some letterboxes. I subsequently wrote: "On or about the 18th of November, a letter from the applicants, dated the 13th, was delivered to selected letterboxes in the neighbourhood. The observed delivery vehicle was one known to belong to the owners of the site of the proposed event." The vehicle in question is said to be usually driven by Bree Lewis or her partner.
Reading between the lines, it seems to me that the applicants knew of the verandah meeting, though not in detail. The timing also suggests that the letter was compiled after that meeting. The letter is dated before the meeting; are the applicants in the habit of falsifying such details?
The last dot point under the verandah meeting heading takes us back to a time before the notice. Apparently, around March 2013 Bree Lewis whose Facebook page describes her as "Manager and On-site concierge at Cedars Mount View" (as at 1 June 2014), approached selected locals to obtain written consent. The nature of that approach is described above.
The development reportedly began some time earlier, with Bree and/or her partner approaching promoters of S.A.S.H. Her subsequent involvement tends to support that account, as does her Facebook page, which (as at 1 June 2014) indicates a pre-existing relationship with S.A.S.H/Paved Way. Cedars Mount View is a tourist accommodation establishment at 60 Mitchells Road.On 25 November 2013, a close neighbour of 60 Mitchells Road emailed:
On 4 December 2013, another close neighbour of 60 Mitchells Road emailed:
"I had a long chat with Jenny Lewis today ...
Her position is as follows:
· She is against the DA as currently framed
o They had originally agreed to one night for one year – and that’s grown to 3 days and nights for 5 years – apparently driven by a combination of CCC and Paved Way – without their consent
· She believes that CCC will not approve the DA
o Roads can’t handle the event
o No emergency alternative
o Too much noise
· Whilst she has withdrawn permission to use her property for the event – she believes that democracy should be allowed to happen – and let CCC hear all the arguments and then they can make a decision – which she thinks will be a no
· She thinks that Paved Way should be entitled to go through the process given the money they have spent – she says it is $20k not $116k which we were previously told. She thinks that they need to learn a number of lessons the hard way:
o Not agreeing the scope of the project with Jenny & Ray
o Not communicating properly with neighbours
· They have not signed any contracts for this event with Paved Way"
On 21 November 2013, one of Cessnock's Councillors emailed: "We have had many representations on this issue. In the past Council has been opposed to events such as this in locations of this type, and I do not expect that situation to change". Indeed, a very similar development at Wollombi was rejected.
As a Councillor for the ward which holds the site of the planned event, Cordelia Troy (formerly Burcham) was initially party to discussions.
In an email dated 25 November 2013, Ms Troy
"Having now some details to hand, I'm inclined to be supportive of this event.
The DA is well put together and comprehensive, consent conditions allow a mechanism for council to control this event or any future event covered in the DA.
Recalling in the last term of council there was an almighty upheaval by some people surrounding concerts in the vineyards at Hope, Tempus Two and Bimbadgen Estates. Concerts have become a rich part of the social culture of our LGA. I supported those because I could see beyond the hysteria to the reality of the events as they have successfully become. I perceive we have a similar event here but much reduced in size. I look forward to the DA coming before council for determination".
The reference to hysteria naturally provoked reactions. Whether that was calculated, I'll leave for the reader to judge.
One of the offended later emailed:
"We see this as a complete violation of the confidentiality that must exist between members of the public and our elected Councillors. A week ago we emailed Cordelia demanding an explanation but to date we have had no reply."
As at 4 May 2014, they report no response.
If Ms Troy/Burcham has done this deliberately, what else has she done? This isn't the first time her probity has come into question. Was she truly innocent in the past?
A number of those who had been active became far less so following this incident. The drop in the number of objections is mentioned on page 24 of the agenda for the 16 April Council meeting. On page 27, it is held up as a matter of some significance. I was puzzled until about six months later, when one of the no-longer-objectors indicated to me that they felt intimidated by the exposure of their details to the developers. Did Councillor Troy intend to scare people out of objecting?
In an email dated 26 November 2013, promoter Matt Weir asserted that they "were notified of quite a number concerns a week ago" and invited us to a meeting on the 5th of December. Attached was "a letter that I put together to go out to the immediate neighbours when we first got wind of objections 2 weeks ago". That last bit turned out to be not quite the whole truth, so what am I to believe of the rest?
Comparison of the attachment
and the letter that was
dropped in some letterboxes on the 18th revealed a couple
of extra paragraphs in the attachment:
"This will also be a fundraising event for the local Rural Fire Service. A portion of all tickets sales will be donated to the RFS. We have also spoken with the local SES about coordinating the car parks. There will be a fee that will be charged to park your car which will be donated to the Cessnock SES. A BBQ will also be run by either one of these two and will go directly back into their services.
A portion of ticket sales will also be
donated to Charlie Teo’s life saving charity ‘Cure For Life’."
While Charlie Teo's charity (now the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation) was mentioned in the original application, the list of beneficiaries is growing. Clumsy attempts to sweeten the pot? I wonder, if the event is held at a less problematic venue, how would that prevent donation or fund-raising?
With the exception of Ms Troy's details, the addressees and their order were identical to Cordelia Troy's email of the day before.
On the 28th, I emailed Matt Weir, asking: "Could you elaborate on the events you've run; names, venues & dates? How long have you been in the industry?" There was no response. The ABR record for Paved Way shows the company "Active from 05 Oct 2011". On page 5 of the (no longer available online) Statement of Environmental Effects which formed part of the Development Application, the applicants assert: "With almost two decades of experience ...". Two decades before the date the application was originally lodged, Matt Weir would have been twelve and Kerry Wallace eleven.
In the evening of the 5th of December, the meeting arranged by the promoters was held at the old Crawfordville school. Though I didn't count heads, it looked to me like more than two dozen attended, mostly opponents.
The directors of Paved Way provided a handout. In it they assert that they compiled the application themselves, though their performance showed that they were evidently ignorant of the content of the application documents (see below). They also gave an undertaking to respect our decision "either way". Subsequent events serve to emphasise the worth of their word.
A neighbour subsequently wrote:
"After attending the meeting last night at Crawfordville school, my feeling and others is that Matt Weir and Kerry Wallace(2 D.J's representing Pavedway) were definetly not aware of the contents of the DA, even after suggesting they had sat for months putting it together. The original DA has now been withdrawn and has been changed to 1 year and 1500 people but he added if it was a success they would try for more.
Initially it was stated there would be only two large trucks arriving through Millfield and progressing up the mountain then it became four or five. Could you amagine apart from all the tents etc. the amount of transport needed for 50 portable toilets and 30 showers as stated in the DA.
It was suggested that the conversations told by Barry and others with Bree re one day with a few hundred Upper Class people was false as Bree would have no reason to mislead people.
The statements by Jenny that they have not signed any contracts with Pavedway, was refuted by Matt Weir and agreed with by councillor Alan Stapleford, signed consent would have to be given before the DA went to Council."
My own contemporaneous message reads:
"Two things stuck in my mind:
When asked about the events they run in Sydney, the only one mentioned was "The Ivy". I seem to remember that name featuring in the media. ;)
Of more concern to me is a comment that our information was emailed to the developer via a gmail address, evidently created for the purpose. That indicates a degree of premeditation verging on the criminal."
( The link was not in my message at the time)
Of the meeting, another who attended later wrote:
"I am writing in relation only to the meeting held on Thursday night and what Ross & myself took away
When Kerry & Matt where asked where they held there events as they protest to have ample experience in holding events;
Kerry & Matt stated they have a zero tolerance to drugs & that they hold a RSA
When asked why they feel they are different to any other event or licensed venue all they could say was they have a zero tolerance & they hold there RSA
In there opening statement they discussed trucks
coming in the area and mentioned only 2….but when questioned further they
then said there would be trucks supplying other items trucks needed to
pump out sewerage and so on.
As there DA & letters circulated since the objections have been sub-mitted they are very carful as to how they give there answers to certain questions and also when asked a similar question later on a different answer is given.
For example they said they have changed there DA to just one year but by the end of the night they stated that if they were given approval for first year that they would then be applying for the remaining years.
So despite them saying they have changed there DA there intentions are still to have this as a regular event."
Clearly, with those who pay attention, the applicants have credibility problems.
On 12 December, one neighbour emailed:
"If Lewis's were so keen to have this event, why approach two young DJ's, why not submit the DA themselves."
It does seem to me that the applicants are fronts for the true developers.
By interposing "two young DJ's", did proprietors of Cedars Mount View seek to minimise the risk of being required to contribute to the cost of infrastructure upgrades to support development of their property into an entertainment-industrial site? The subsequent pretence that the "music festival" is to be a one-off event merely adds a layer of obfuscation.
of the amended application appeared in the Cessnock Advertiser
of 29 January 2014. "Temporary Event
Comprising a Music Festival (Up to 1,500 Patrons)", it read. A
neighbour subsequently emailed:
"... despite the organisers changing their DA to only 1 year based on their initial intentions my concern is if they were to get the go ahead they would re-apply next year for it to be on-going (as they did state this as their intention at the meeting prior to xmas) and also don't feel that based on misrepresentation made by the Lewis's I am really hesitant to trust anything they say."
A small article was also published in the Advertiser of 5 February.
On 10 February, I emailed:
"On reading through the DA documents, Judy has found some fairly significant anomalies. The Statement of Environmental Effects, for example, still lists as giving consent, people who have withdrawn it. While not necessarily invalidating the DA, that does bring into question whether the applicants know what they're doing.
The issue of "unticketed patrons" has also been raised. The term (which I hadn't heard before; I hope I got it right) refers to people who get into a venue without buying a ticket. Where the venue is not sufficiently secured, "unticketed patrons" have apparently been known to swell the numbers to several times what was planned. Things have been known to get pretty ugly. With the effective advertising of the event to locals by last week's Advertiser article and the venue "secured" by four strands of barbed wire, we might have a problem."
On that last point, DP863124 shows that the periphery of the site totals about 2½ kilometres. A strip of Crown land running through the site adds more than 1½ kilometres, which aren't fenced at all (consent condition 47, on page 17 of the agenda for the 16 April Council meeting specifically precludes impediment to public access to the Crown land). The security plan, as exhibited, allowed for one guard per 100 patrons (15 guards, for the now-planned 1,500 patrons). Seven guards are at designated posts, and so won't be available for general duties. The balance will be on "Staggered Starts", most of them will be patrolling the interior of the site ("proactive regular sweeps"). That's a lot of perimeter for the few remaining guards to secure.
The application came before the 2 April Ordinary Meeting of Council. The Agenda (2.5MB pdf) includes the report and recommendations of Council's planners. The Enclosures document (~29MB pdf) incorporates scans of all 40-plus valid objections. The minutes list relevant motions and voting, but the verbatim transcript gives a more complete picture. A decision was deferred to the next meeting.
The confrontation between a truck and a resident, which was the subject
of some discussion at the Council meeting, took place on Mount View Road.
The resident had the presence of mind to photograph the scene:
Judge for yourself the width of the road. The truck was on Mount View Road and the picture was taken from the same road. Judge for yourself how tightly the road winds. Bear in mind that the proposed venue is on Mitchells Road, which is even narrower. Those considering attending the event would be wise to contemplate the odds of more than a thousand people, with hundreds of vehicles, getting out alive and uninjured in the event of, for example, storm or bushfire.
My subsequent comment reads, in part:
"They chose a local who is among the most experienced in heavy vehicles on these roads. They chose a time within a day or so of the roads being graded. There had been rain, but that had stopped about twelve hours before the exercise, so its effect would have been to consolidate the maintenance work. The condition of the roads was about as good as it gets. The trailer carried no load.
Is experience with a single unladen vehicle a reliable indicator of what we can expect of multiple fully-loaded semi-trailers, driven by drivers with less local experience, on probably less pristine roads? Given the timing, was the exercise a genuine effort to determine the practicalities?
The question is less of whether it is
possible than of whether it is wise. By all reports, at least one local
business has judged it unwise to take a large vehicle down
Mitchells Road. Council itself has judged it unwise to allow more than a
small number of vehicles at a time onto that road."
 They now intend to use slightly smaller, rigid trucks. Will that really make a substantial difference? Contemplate a truck going up to make a delivery, meeting another coming down after completing its run.
 A local bus company has reportedly refused to take a full-sized bus down that road.
 Council has reportedly rejected a development that would have generated far less traffic than the "music festival".
The credibility of the address in support of the development can be judged by the trustworthiness of the source of its assertions.
The application was decided at the 16 April Ordinary Meeting of Council. The Agenda (~11MB pdf) includes the report and recommendations of Council's planners at pages 7 through 40. The Enclosures document (~45MB pdf) again incorporates scans of objections. The application was approved, with amendments to change the dates for the event to late September, cease amplified music at 11:00 pm each night and provide an approved Bush Fire Emergency Evacuation Plan, among others. The minutes provide more details. The verbatim transcript gives a better feel of the meeting.
There do seem to be deliberate attempts to understate the residential character of the area. Could that be calculated to evade Regulation 2.8(3)(b) of Cessnock Local Environmental Plan 2011?
Issues relating to watercourses, both on site and affecting access to and egress from the site are so numerous that I've devoted a separate page to them.
What would motivate Council staff to such misrepresentation and negligence?
In the transcript, Councillor Troy feigns outrage at the concept of a lock-in. To quote from the letter sent by the applicants: "It will be a sleep out, with those opting to camp to go by a lock-in rule." The notion originated with the applicants, in support of whom Ms Troy is going to such remarkable lengths. Is her sham objection a tactic, to distract and obfuscate?
A rescission motion was promptly lodged by Councillors Wrightson, Olsen and Stapleford:
That Council refuse Development Application No. 8/2013/679/1 for the following reasons:
The Agenda of the 7 May Ordinary Meeting of Council (~20MB pdf) shows the full motion on pages 7-9. The minutes show the motion and the voting on pages 10 and 11. The transcript gives a better feel of the meeting. The motion was lost, on the votes of Councillors Gibson, Troy, Doherty, Hawkins, Campbell, Maybury and Pynsent.
Councillor Olsen mentions emails, sent by Councillor Troy to other Councillors. That touches on reports I've heard of, what sounds to me like push-polling or suggestive questioning by Councillor Troy. Is Councillor Troy using the corrupted results to lobby on behalf of the developer? Councillor Troy's reaction sounded to me like attempts to bully Councillor Olsen into silence. I'll leave it to the reader to judge why she might behave that way
Signed consent was subsequently issued, effective 16 April.
I received an alert that a liquor licence application had been lodged. The applicant is one Paul Finch of 40 Park Street, Pascoe Vale, VIC, 3044. The application reference is 1-2577036679. Closing date for submissions is the 4th of September.
An application was lodged to amend Condition 46 of the consent.
A resident subsequently wrote that the traffic management plan could not be reported to Council within the 28 days required by condition 46, necessitating amendment of that condition.
3 June 2014
Emails sent, inviting comments from Jenny Lewis, Bree Lewis, Cordelia Troy, Matt Weir and Kerry Wallace.
Complaint emailed to NSW Information and Privacy Commission, regarding Cordelia Troy's breach of trust.
Referred to ICAC by email.
24 July 2014
ICAC responded to my referral. The response is In Confidence, so I can't publish details. Suffice it to say that the Commission's Assessment Panel found "no specific information" to support investigation.
I gather that a number of residents have complained to Council. Below are details of some of those complaints.
30 April 2014
A resident complained to the General Manager of Cessnock Council about Cordelia Troy's betrayal.
16 May 2014
Public Officer Robert Maginnity responded. In my eyes, the response is bureaucratic, dismissive and evasive. It serves only to reinforce the appearance of systemic negligence among Council staff. To my mind, it could be seen to raise questions as to whether the negligence may wilfully abet corruption.
The blank following "Our Ref:" in the response leads me to wonder whether Council bothered to keep any record of the complaint, which leads me to wonder whether they keep records of any complaint.
6 June 2014
I Emailed Robert Maginnity in response to his letter of 16 May, providing further detail of Councillor Troy's offence and suggesting liaison with other authorities.
10 June 2014
Robert Maginnity responded that he would be providing no further response. I've heard it said that wrongdoers are most often brought undone, not by the initial wrong, but by the subsequent cover-up.
4 July 2014
At about 15:00 hours, I lodged another complaint at the counter in Council's chambers. This one is worded with all the clarity I can muster and targeted squarely at the behaviour of Councillor Troy.
Ms Kim Appleby responded
to my complaint. The response is
remarkably economical with the truth. It avoids addressing the issues, in
the process violating the privacy of a third party. The text appears to be
largely copied from earlier
correspondence to another resident. Is Ms Appleby attempting to
exploit negligence and ineptitude as camouflage for corruption? The fact
that it took Ms Appleby a month to copy and paste does tend to indicate
incompetence, that I'll grant.
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 22 October 2014: Council needs to monitor development compliance
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 15 October 2014: Festival approval put money before families
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 1 October 2014: Impressed by music festival
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 9 July 2014: Mount View festival poses too much risk
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 2 July 2014: Bushland festival poses a huge risk
Cessnock Advertiser 28 May 2014: Organisers delighted at festival's approval
Cessnock Advertiser 21 May 2014: Music festival approved (not online, as far as I can tell)
Cessnock Advertiser 30 April 2014: Mount View music festival back on the table
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 30 April 2014: Mount View an area for families, not concerts or music festivals
ABC news 16 April 2014: Mount View residents concerned about music festival
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 16 April 2014: Councillor stands by comments regarding music festival
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 16 April 2014: Bushfire risk and noise laws among the issues
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 16 April 2014: Family-friendly area is not an entertainment zone
Newcastle Herald 16 April 2014: Alice in Wonderland festival decision due at Cessnock
Cessnock Advertiser 9 April 2014: Mount View music festival decision deferred
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 9 April 2014: Festival should have to abide by development control plan
Newcastle Herald 3 April 2014: Council defers decision on music festival (not online, as far as I can tell)
Letter to the Editor of the Cessnock Advertiser 2 April 2014: Music festival will diminish the beauty and tranquility
NBN news 29 March 2014: Residents oppose music festival near Cessnock
Newcastle Herald 28 March 2014: Mount View residents oppose Cessnock music festival plans
Cessnock Advertiser 26 March 2014: Mount View residents concerned about festival traffic
Cessnock Advertiser 5 February 2014: Music festival planned for Mount View (not online, as far as I can tell)
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