LIGHTS OUT: Council pulls plug on Christmas display
Owners of a popular Coast Christmas lights “wonderland” have flicked the off switch on their massive display this year, stating a battle with council has “sucked the life” out of them.
Graham and Judy Lumley have run the Montville Christmas Wonderland for the past three years.
The impressive Christmas lights display was showcased in a 280sq m shed at their 11ac Narrows Rd property in Montville.
Mr Lumley confirmed they hadn’t set up this year after council advised the display was breaching zoning laws.
Council were made aware of the display in 2019.
“They agreed to let us open for the 10 days but they were quite firm they wouldn’t give us any further approvals unless we applied for a change of use,” Mr Lumley said.
Since 2017, thousands of people have enjoyed the display which cost in excess of $50,000 annually to run, including ten paid workers.
Despite a $10 entry fee, Mr Lumley said they were “not even close” to recouping the costs involved in running the display each year.
But for the Christian couple, running a profitable venture was not why they did it.
“We have created something that people tell us is truly exceptional,” Mr Lumley said.
“We are just trying to provide joy and of course we enjoy it too.”
Last year council advised Mr Lumley the display was classed as a commercial business because he was charging an entry fee.
If the Lumleys were to continue running the lights display on their rural property, they would need to apply to change the zoning.
This would require bitumen roadways, car parks, fixed toilets and an environmental analysis.
“We had to apply for a tourist type zoning,” Mr Lumley said.
With the assistance of a town planner, Mr Lumley estimated the costs required to make the modifications would be in excess of $150,000, before he could even put in the application.
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson said council approached the Lumleys after “community concern”.
Council advised the landowners in 2019 that “due to the nature, intensity, scale and duration of the activities” a development permit application for material change of use of premises would be required under the Planning Act 2016.
“Last year about 4500 people attended this event, which included the sale of food and drinks and an entry fee,” the spokesperson said.
“Where food is sold, a food licence would also be required – as required by all commercial operators selling food – for the health and safety of patrons.”
The Lumleys are enjoying a restful Christmas this year but have not written off showcasing their impressive display in 2021.
“This year we have decided we are going to have a break. We will revisit it for next year,” Mr Lumley said.