Netflix reality show sparks protests in Byron Bay over ‘vacuous, fake’ series

Furious residents in the coastal Australian town of Byron Bay have lashed out against a planned Netflix reality show they say will damage their beachside paradise. 

The reality show, set to be called the ‘Byron Baes’ series, plans to follow the lives of social media influencers on the town’s beaches. 

Mayor Simon Richardson warned the town’s opposition to the show was strong and ‘you’d be struggling to find one person’ who supported the plan, in an interview with ABC.

Richardson said the ‘vacuous, fake show’ could damage the town’s reputation and bring ‘not just sensitivity challenges for us, but also economic challenges’. 

The town of 9,000 people has become one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there.

International celebrities who are based or spend time in Byron Bay also include Matt Damon, Zac Efron, Pat Rafter, and Simon Baker.  

The town of 9,000 people has become one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there

The town of 9,000 people has become one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there

The town of 9,000 people has become one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there

Elsa Pataky and husband Chris Hemsworth helped to transform Byron Bay into 'Hollywood 2.0' and attract other stars

Elsa Pataky and husband Chris Hemsworth helped to transform Byron Bay into 'Hollywood 2.0' and attract other stars

Elsa Pataky and husband Chris Hemsworth helped to transform Byron Bay into ‘Hollywood 2.0’ and attract other stars

The Hemsworth-Pataky power couple have built a mansion nestled on the ocean front bushland at Broken Head, near Byron Bay

The Hemsworth-Pataky power couple have built a mansion nestled on the ocean front bushland at Broken Head, near Byron Bay

The Hemsworth-Pataky power couple have built a mansion nestled on the ocean front bushland at Broken Head, near Byron Bay

The Hemsworth sanctuary has a hidden oasis including a fire pit, horse riding area, seating area, water trampoline, and cabana

The Hemsworth sanctuary has a hidden oasis including a fire pit, horse riding area, seating area, water trampoline, and cabana

The Hemsworth sanctuary has a hidden oasis including a fire pit, horse riding area, seating area, water trampoline, and cabana

Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron settled at Byron Bay at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic

Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron settled at Byron Bay at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic

Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron settled at Byron Bay at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic

Hollywood star Matt Damon isolated in Byron Bay earlier this year and are seen out enjoying the freedom after their quarantine period ended

Hollywood star Matt Damon isolated in Byron Bay earlier this year and are seen out enjoying the freedom after their quarantine period ended

Hollywood star Matt Damon isolated in Byron Bay earlier this year and are seen out enjoying the freedom after their quarantine period ended

Matt Damon poses alongside good mate Chris Hemsworth - both men call Byron Bay home

Matt Damon poses alongside good mate Chris Hemsworth - both men call Byron Bay home

Matt Damon poses alongside good mate Chris Hemsworth – both men call Byron Bay home 

Australian tennis player Pat Rafter joins the anti-Netflix Byron Baes paddle out on Tuesday

Australian tennis player Pat Rafter joins the anti-Netflix Byron Baes paddle out on Tuesday

 Australian tennis player Pat Rafter joins the anti-Netflix Byron Baes paddle out on Tuesday

Influencers and models have flocked to the coastal Australian town of Byron Bay in recent years

Influencers and models have flocked to the coastal Australian town of Byron Bay in recent years

Influencers and models have flocked to the coastal Australian town of Byron Bay in recent years

Around 100 surfers paddled to sea on Tuesday to form a cancel symbol off the coast of the New South Wales state town in the hope that Netflix will can the 'Byron Baes' series, about social media influencers

Around 100 surfers paddled to sea on Tuesday to form a cancel symbol off the coast of the New South Wales state town in the hope that Netflix will can the 'Byron Baes' series, about social media influencers

Around 100 surfers paddled to sea on Tuesday to form a cancel symbol off the coast of the New South Wales state town in the hope that Netflix will can the ‘Byron Baes’ series, about social media influencers

Outraged Australians have threatened to boycott Netflix over its plan to film a new reality series on the beaches of Byron Bay

Outraged Australians have threatened to boycott Netflix over its plan to film a new reality series on the beaches of Byron Bay

Outraged Australians have threatened to boycott Netflix over its plan to film a new reality series on the beaches of Byron Bay

Instagram models flocked to Byron Bay last year after news Zac Efron had moved to the town broke

Instagram models flocked to Byron Bay last year after news Zac Efron had moved to the town broke

Instagram models flocked to Byron Bay last year after news Zac Efron had moved to the town broke 

Byron Bay surfers staged a ‘paddle out’ protest on Tuesday as locals rally against the planned Netflix reality show.

Around 100 surfers paddled to sea to form a cancel symbol off the coast of the New South Wales state town in the hope that Netflix will can the ‘Byron Baes’ series, about social media influencers. 

In a statement announcing the show on April 7, the streaming giant said the ‘docu-soap’ would follow Instagrammers without the filter of social media, promising ‘fights, flings and heartbreak’. 

Netflix said the show was ‘our love letter to Byron Bay’, saying the town was not just the backyard of Hollywood stars like Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron but also ‘the playground of more celebrity-adjacent-adjacent influencers than you can poke a selfie-stick at’. 

Others held placards calling to 'Give Netflix the flick' and calling on the streaming giant to 'consult traditional owners'

Others held placards calling to 'Give Netflix the flick' and calling on the streaming giant to 'consult traditional owners'

Others held placards calling to ‘Give Netflix the flick’ and calling on the streaming giant to ‘consult traditional owners’

Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson warned the town's opposition to the show was strong and 'you'd be struggling to find one person' who supported the plan, in an interview with ABC

Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson warned the town's opposition to the show was strong and 'you'd be struggling to find one person' who supported the plan, in an interview with ABC

Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson warned the town’s opposition to the show was strong and ‘you’d be struggling to find one person’ who supported the plan, in an interview with ABC

But many residents of the popular tourist town, about eight hours north of Sydney, believe the series would be harmful to the local community, which is dealing with the fallout of its rapidly rising popularity.

An online petition calling on local councils not to grant filming permits to the producers in the ‘exploited paradise’ has attracted almost 8,000 signatures, while some businesses are refusing to allow filming on their premises.

‘They are proposing to drag our name through the mud and make millions of dollars without offering anything back to the community and completely misrepresenting who we are, and it’s totally wrong,’ Byron Bay cafe owner Ben Gordon told Channel Nine. 

‘There was no consultation whatsoever. They just came in unannounced,’ Gordon added. 

Many residents of the popular tourist town oppose plans to film the series at Byron Bay

Many residents of the popular tourist town oppose plans to film the series at Byron Bay

Residents believe the series would be harmful to the local community, which is dealing with the fallout of its rapidly rising popularity

Residents believe the series would be harmful to the local community, which is dealing with the fallout of its rapidly rising popularity

Many residents of the popular tourist town, about eight hours north of Sydney, believe the series would be harmful to the local community, which is dealing with the fallout of its rapidly rising popularity

The town of 9,000 people is one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there

The town of 9,000 people is one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there

The town of 9,000 people is one of the most famous in Australia, partly because acting couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have built a mansion there

Mayor Simon Richardson said the community was concerned over the harmful affect of the series, telling public broadcaster ABC ‘it’s potentially going to threaten businesses if the portrayal of Byron is as absurd as I guess a lot of the doco-soap-reality shows are,

‘As a community, we should have a right to be able to not be exploited and to go about our business and also just have a community that has its real and genuine concerns and challenges shared rather than a picture postcard filmed with people who have potentially been here for five minutes’. 

Richardson said the region was already attracting 2.5 million visitors a year and did not need the kind of tourists who ‘might be turned on by a vacuous vision of who we are’.

‘What we need now is a moment for our community to take stock, try to find support with the state government to get low-cost housing, to get support for our rough sleepers, etcetera,’ he said.

‘We don’t want an intensification and a heating up of our tourism economy right now.’

An online petition calling on local councils not to grant filming permits to the producers in the 'exploited paradise' has attracted almost 8,000 signatures, while some businesses are refusing to allow filming on their premises

An online petition calling on local councils not to grant filming permits to the producers in the 'exploited paradise' has attracted almost 8,000 signatures, while some businesses are refusing to allow filming on their premises

An online petition calling on local councils not to grant filming permits to the producers in the ‘exploited paradise’ has attracted almost 8,000 signatures, while some businesses are refusing to allow filming on their premises

Byron Bay is home to about 10,000 people and in recent years has attracted a string of Hollywood stars to its shores.

Already high house prices have surged with an influx of new residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving some locals unable to afford accommodation.    

Netflix said its first Australian reality series would ‘aim to build a connection between the people we meet in the show and the audience.’

‘The show is authentic and honest, and while it carries all the classic hallmarks of the form and embraces the drama, heartbreak and conflict that makes for such entertaining viewing, our goal is to lift the curtain on influencer culture to understand the motivation, the desire, and the pain behind this very human need to be loved,’ a Netflix statement said.

‘The reason behind choosing Byron Bay as a location was driven by the area’s unique attributes as a melting pot of entrepreneurialism, lifestyle and health practices, and the sometimes uneasy coming together of the traditional `old Byron’ and the alternative `new,’ all of which we’ll address in the series,’ the statement added. 

Byron Bay activists have successfully stood up to big business in the past. The town has prevented KFC and McDonalds from opening restaurants there after protest campaigns.

In a statement announcing the show on April 7, the streaming giant said the 'docu-soap' would follow Instagrammers without the filter of social media, promising 'fights, flings and heartbreak'

In a statement announcing the show on April 7, the streaming giant said the 'docu-soap' would follow Instagrammers without the filter of social media, promising 'fights, flings and heartbreak'

In a statement announcing the show on April 7, the streaming giant said the ‘docu-soap’ would follow Instagrammers without the filter of social media, promising ‘fights, flings and heartbreak’

Byron Bay is home to about 10,000 people and in recent years has attracted a string of Hollywood stars to its shores

Byron Bay is home to about 10,000 people and in recent years has attracted a string of Hollywood stars to its shores

Byron Bay is home to about 10,000 people and in recent years has attracted a string of Hollywood stars to its shores

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:

Matt Damon is thought to own a holiday home in Byron Bay.

The actor says he is thrilled to be spending time Down Under as he joins the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder.

‘I’m so excited that my family and I will be able to call Australia home for the next few months,’ Damon, 50, said.

Zac Efron:

Efron hunkered down in Byron during the global coronavirus crisis.

The Hollywood hunk started dating a local waitress, who he has reportedly since separated from.

While he is currently filming a movie in South Australia, it is presumed that he will return to his ‘second home’ in Byron Bay when the project is completed. 

The 32-year-old actor reportedly has no plans to return to Los Angeles any time soon, after extending his tourist visa from three months to a year, and shopping around for property in the area. 

Nicole Kidman:

Nicole Kidman, 53, has been living in Byron Bay on-and-off with her husband Keith Urban and their two daughters since filming for her new show began earlier this year.

Nine Perfect Strangers is 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:

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.

The couple are now expecting their first child.

Carrie Bickmore:

The television presenter and radio host owns a $3million holiday home in Byron Bay.

She recently took her daughter to the holiday town to celebrate the new year. 

Isabel Lucas:

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.

While filming her feature film Bosch & Rockit in Byron Bay earlier this year, she ‘opted out’ of Covid testing, after previously admitting she ‘doesn’t trust’ the past of vaccination. 

Natalie Portman: 

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. 

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