Zone of contention

By Sonia Isaacs

NOISE complaints have led to the closure of a community music club as organisers discover the popular monthly event falls outside of current zoning approval. Following a complaint to Sunshine Coast Council highlighting the regularity of the event, organisers of the Crystal Waters Music Club at Conondale were astonished to discover that in order to operate legally they would have to update their historically issued permit. They are currently looking into a Material Change of Use development approval; a process that could cost the community co-operative tens of thousands of dollars.
Music club coordinator Bernard O’Scanaill said he was scratching his head about why a complaint was made in the first place. He said the music club had been running sucessfully for the last five or so years and was “basically just a local music club for community members to come along, play music, and enjoy a pleasant evening together listening to tunes without having to drive to Maleny or the Coast.”
“It was never a big money maker; in fact, we didn’t ever want it to become too big. It basically just evolved as a way to fill the void when the Maleny Upfront Club closed a few years back, and was a space local musos and acts could play. It was never too risqué and we were always closed by 10pm,” he said.
Bernard said he was shocked when he received a phone call from committee members of the Crystal Waters Cooperative board saying that a Council compliance check revealed the music club was operating outside of the designated use of the space permitted for their monthly event.
“I think our little club just fell between the stools as it were, we are all now just shaking our heads how it was missed. We thought we all had the correct licences from permits obtained years ago to use this deck space but it appears the correct operating permit has been overlooked – it’s all been an innocent mistake,” Bernard said.
Secretary of the Crystal Waters Community Cooperative Inc. Sabine Wienand said the compliance issue had some complexities related to historical anomalies, and was currently with their lawyers. She said the co-op had decided to close the venue in the interim while they investigated compliance.
“We are all hopeful this issue can be resolved in the not-too-distant future in an amenable and cost-effective way,” she said.
Local Councillor Winston Johnston said he had been involved in the initial appraisal of the Crystal Waters eco-village back when it was part of Landsborough Shire Council, and had been given copies of the original approval documents from around 1986 which he said he has now forwarded to Council planning officers. He reiterated he felt the the music club was an essential community facility not available elsewhere.
“This club operates at a grassroots level and provides people in the music and arts an opportunity to come together. The community needs live music facilities like this, especially after the closure of other music venues around the Coast. We are currently working through the documentation and process to see what we can do,” said Cr. Johnston.
Local musician Linsey Pollak said it was a disheartening time for local music on the Sunshine Coast and Hinterland with yet another regular community music event closed down at short notice. He said the Crystal Waters Music Club ticked all the boxes by offering an accessible, family friendly, community supported, genre diverse music event and he questioned the long-term effects to the community if the closure continued.
“This is a sad indictment of the state of arts and culture in Australia. We all realise how important events like these are for the cultural life and wellbeing of community, this is part of their lifeblood and we should be looking at ways to keep these events going not stopping them from going ahead because of compliance,” he said.
A Council spokesperson confirmed a Council compliance officer had visited the Conondale property in response to noise complaints arising from music events held at the site and that Council would offer development advice services to help inform and guide operators and property owners about development requirements for such events/uses.
“In the Rural zone, an organised regular music event on site requires a Material Change of Use development approval, in accordance with the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014.
No formal compliance action was taken by Council in relation to the music event. Recent discussions with the representative confirmed they had decided to cease these activities. As a result, Council is not taking any further action on this matter,” the Council spokesperson said.