Thousands of Byron Bay locals are voicing their disgust over a ‘tacky and trashy’ reality TV show they fear will cause further problems in the mega-famous tourist town – but not everyone is concerned.
A petition to boycott the docu-soap series ‘Byron Baes’ is gaining traction after Netflix announced the town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales would be the ‘perfect setting for our next Australian Netflix Original’.
The campaign to force authorities to cancel filming permits reached 4,000 signatures in three days, and some local businesses have already refused producers permission to film at their venues.
But a growing chorus of residents claim the coastal town was ruined long before TV producers came knocking thanks to its growing popularity amongst celebrities, Instagram influencers seeking the perfect shot, and sky-high real estate prices.
One fed-up woman who grew up in the Byron Shire responded to the outrage on Facebook by saying it didn’t matter to her if the show went ahead, as the region she once knew and loved had already slipped away.
‘F*** it, let them make the dumb Netflix show,’ she said.
‘The place is already too far gone and the conversation of ”Byron used to be better” has been going on since before I was born.’
Byron Baes was last week announced as the new Australian Netflix Original and will run for eight episodes in total
Elias Chigros, who is rumoured to feature on Byron Baes, was a breakout star on Love Island Australia back in 2018, but failed to find romance on the show
Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky reside in Byron Bay. The couple are seen after enjoying a barefoot breakfast at Byron’s Bayleaf cafe in September
‘These people want a taste of what the Northern Rivers has to offer but they won’t ever come even close because it’s not about white linen and Range Rovers.
‘It’s a mindset and a lifestyle and you just can’t replicate it unless you truly feel it.’
The woman recalled fond memories from her childhood around the nearby communities of Rosebank, Upper Coopers Creek and Federal, located west of Byron Bay.
‘I broke my arm in kindy at Upper Coopers Creek Public School where there was 27 kids, we didn’t have a uniform and almost never wore shoes,’ she said.
‘Hitchhiking around Mullumbimby and the like because we didn’t have a car.
‘Buying 5c lollies off Richard and Paul at the Federal store and almost breaking my head at the skatepark falling off my bike.’
Her experiences of a simple upbringing are a world away from the glitz and glamour of celebrities including Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky, The Block winner Elyse Knowles and singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte who have moved to the town. The Project host Carrie Bickmore owns a holiday home there and Matt Damon is a frequent visitor.
The increasingly expensive real estate and multi-million dollar properties are also beyond the reach of many who have grown up in the area.
Plus-size model Jessica Vander Leahy (pictured) is reportedly set to appear on the upcoming Netflix reality series Byron Baes
Elias Chigros is spotted following a surf in Byron Bay on Wednesday after he was revealed as a rumoured cast member of Byron Baes
‘I never expected to be tailgated by a 2019 Lexus SUV down Goonengerry Road heading to Mullumbimby or to have both a Tesla and Ferrari speed past me on the same trip closer to town,’ she said.
‘Felt strange being asked by someone with a posh Sydney “old money” accent asks me if I’m a local.’
Another local suggested people should ‘pull their heads in’ as the show would create jobs.
‘Stop whingeing, there’s no jobs in the town now, with the filming it will make jobs and businesses busy, attracting more people in town for local businesses,’ he wrote.
Another argued Byron Bay was deserving of a TV show – but to instead draw attention to problems plaguing the town.
‘Someone needs to make a real documentary about Byron. One showing all the greed and selfishness and all of the real life problems here,’ they wrote.
‘The place is plagued with greedy developers, is a magnet for shysters selling all types of quack “cures” and exploiting the desperate and gullible.
‘Then there are the problems of the unaffordable housing, the homelessness, the high rate of mental health problems, plus all the addiction to alcohol and all sorts of other drugs.
‘Byron desperately needs genuine help, not more promotion of the fake lifestyle being milked by all the shysters!’
A petition to boycott ‘Byron Baes’ popped up online after Netflix announced the town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW would be ‘the perfect setting for our next Australian Netflix Original’
Ben Gordon, owner of The Byron Bay General Store (pictured), said he was contacted by the show’s producers to feature the cafe in the series. He declined their request to film at the venue and urged other businesses to do the same
Shops and businesses, including The Balcony Bar & Oyster Co, are seen in the centre of Byron Bay
One woman, who works in accommodation and has lived in the area for 40 years, told Daily Mail Australia she has seen a lot of changes over the last four decades.
‘In those 40 years the locals have protested a lot of things that in my opinion have been worthy causes,’ she said.
‘Things like keeping McDonald’s and KFC and fast food out of Byron, height restrictions, coal seam gas drilling.’
The woman admitted that the whole community wasn’t going to be able to agree on everything, especially a TV show on the town.
‘This show does seem pretentious and shallow but we need to keep in mind that the world evolves and influencers are a part of this new world,’ she said.
‘It is not the type of culture Byron wants to portray and it is insipid and shallow but they have the right to do it.’
The woman argued there are other issues people could spend their time protesting – rather than the Netflix production.
‘We need to remember there is a place for everything and if people want to protest, make it a protest that will make a notable difference,’ she said.
‘Protest the high cost of housing, protest for the homeless and the housing shortage.’
Zac Efron reportedly met his Australian girlfriend Vanessa Valladares while she was working at The Byron Bay General Store
Mr Chigros is a a personal trainer and model from Melbourne, who now lives in Byron Bay
By comparison, owner of The Byron Bay General Store Ben Gordon said he was contacted by the show’s producers to feature his cafe in the series.
He declined their request to film at the venue and urged other businesses to do the same.
Zac Efron reportedly met his Australian girlfriend Vanessa Valladares while she was working at The Byron Bay General Store.
While Mr Gordon recognises that social media is a ‘big part of our lives’ and his venue is regarded as an ‘Instagram cafe’, he believes the show is ‘crossing the line’.
‘This show is unashamedly promoting the culture that is giving rise to a whole plethora of mental health issues, and then saying it is what Byron Bay is all about, which is completely untrue,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The reason myself and most of the Byron community are against this show is the trashy and tacky nature of the content.
‘Going by the Netflix press release, this show has no integrity, no values and does not represent the Byron Bay community in an authentic way whatsoever.’
A press release for the program describes Byron Baes as a ‘docu-soap series’ and calls it ‘our love letter to Byron Bay’ that will also offer audience ‘fights, flings and heartbreak’.
It continues: ‘It’s not just Chris [Hemsworth] and Zac [Efron]’s backyard; it’s the playground of more celebrity-adjacent influencers than you can poke a selfie-stick at.’
Elyse Knowles shut down rumours she might be appearing on the show by sharing a video to her Instagram last Saturday
Pictured: Surfers are seen waiting for a wave at the Pass in Byron Bay
Byron Baes is being produced by Eureka Productions.
Emma Lamb, who is known for her work on Married At First Sight and The Real Housewives of Sydney, will serve as the executive producer.
Chris Culvenor, Co-CEO of Eureka Productions said: ‘With a compelling cast, spectacular settings and some truly addictive drama, Byron Baes has all the binge-worthy ingredients.
‘Eureka is thrilled to be working with Netflix on this love letter to one of the world’s most perfect playgrounds.’
Mr Gordon said he understands the people who have been chosen for the show are not actually from Byron – and any real local would not want to be a part of the series.
‘To portray Byron as a vacuous influencer hub where everyone only cares about their ‘likes’ and how many followers they have is a complete misrepresentation of what we are as a community,’ he said.
‘We are so much more than that.
‘Myself and many other local business owners have banned together to refuse Byron Baes from filming in our establishments after being approached by them.
‘Our hope is that all local businesses will say no and as a result, they will cancel the show. Or at least go back to the drawing board with a better concept.’
Mayor of Byron Shire Simon Richardson said he also shares ‘concern and frustration that yet another entity from outside the shire seeks to profit from us’.
The mayor said there are more possibilities that the show could damage the Byron Shire and its reputation with ‘our housing accessibility already on life support’.
Influencer Ruby Tuesday Matthews slammed the upcoming series and made it clear she wouldn’t be making an appearance on the show
Pictured: Sunrise at Cape Byron, the easternmost point of the mainland of Australia
According to Emerald City, Love Island star Elias Chigros and plus-size model Jessica Vander Leahy are set to star on the upcoming show.
Elyse Knowles shut down rumours she might be appearing on the show by sharing a video to her Instagram last Saturday.
The 28-year-old model said she’s focusing on motherhood and has no time to do a reality TV show.
‘Just putting it out there, I am not on Byron Baes, no, no, no… I’m not,’ Ms Knowles said in a video of herself while at the beach with her newborn.
‘I’ve given birth to a baby, got leaky b**bs, screaming at every hour during the night, I think I’ve got enough going on don’t you?’
She added in a sarcastic whisper: ‘Yeah, no.’
Influencer Ruby Tuesday Matthews slammed the upcoming series and made it clear she wouldn’t be making an appearance on the show.
Ruby posted a promotional image for Byron Baes on Instagram stories, and wrote: ‘For everyone asking if I’ll be on this show, I declined the offer.’
‘Goodbye Byron, you are officially cooked. How embarrassing,’ she added.
Ruby also used the hashtag #ShireRepeat?, in reference to Channel 10’s short-lived 2012 reality show about the glamorous residents of Sydney’s Sutherland Shire.
A press release for the program describes Byron Baes as a ‘docu-soap series’ and calls it ‘our love letter to Byron Bay’ that will also offer audience ‘fights, flings and heartbreak’
THE ‘WHO’S WHO’ OF BYRON BAY
While several big name stars call Byron Bay home permanently, the trendy seaside suburb has also become somewhat of a revolving door, with an endless stream of A-listers and local celebs spotted in the region.
The Hemsworth Clan:
Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky arguably started the ‘Hollywood 2.0’ craze.
The 37-year-old Thor star relocated to the area from Los Angeles in 2014 with his wife of 10 years, Elsa Pataky, and their three young children.
They now reside in a $20million mega-mansion in the area, situated on 4.2 hectares. The home boasts six bedrooms, a game room, gym, steam room, media room and a 50-metre rooftop infinity pool.
Chris’ younger brother Liam soon made the leap as well, dividing his time between Byron and Malibu during his marriage to Miley Cyrus before making the move more permanent in 2020.
Matt Damon is thought to own a holiday home in Byron Bay.
Efron hunkered down in Byron during the global coronavirus crisis.
The Hollywood hunk then started dating local waitress Vanessa Valladares.
Nicole Kidman, 53, was living in Byron Bay on-and-off with her husband Keith Urban and their two daughters while filiming Nine Perfect Strangers, based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel of the same name.
It stars several A-listers including Melissa McCarthy, Samara Weaving, Luke Evans and Bobby Cannavale.
In July, Nicole told the Daily Telegraph she’s ‘thrilled’ to be able to bring the $100 million production and hundreds of jobs to the local film industry after it was sent crashing down by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘It is a great opportunity for me to give back to the community that nurtured me through so much of my career,’ she said.
Elyse Knowles bought a $2.3million beach house in Byron Bay in early 2020 after more than a year of renting in the coastal town with her boyfriend, Josh Barker.
Their new 1960s built property is located in the old part of Byron Bay town, just a short walk from the main beach and surrounded by tranquil greenery.
Last year, Elyse told Daily Mail Australia that the couple moved to Byron Bay from Melbourne while chasing a more sustainable lifestyle for themselves.
‘Everyone always smiles and always say hello. That was one of the first things I noticed living [in Byron].’
‘The community is more environmentally conscious. It is conversations that people have every single day… talking about the ocean and the marine life.
Isabel Lucas first purchased a home in Byron Bay in 2016, but the Australian actress has lived on-and-off in the region for the better part of a decade.
She has been spotted at protests against 5G towers in the area and has contributed to the belief that Byron Bay is the ‘anti-vax’ capital of Australia.
Hollywood actress Natalie Portman was spotted on several occasions holidaying in Byron Bay ahead of filming Thor: Love and Thunder.
She seemed to relish ‘living like the locals’ for her short stay, visiting the beaches and buying clothes from local stores.