Brunswick Heads residents are set to pack out the historic village’s memorial hall on Monday night to debate the controversial state-government approved makeover of the town’s popular foreshore parks.
The meeting at 7pm has been called by the town’s progress association which says locals have not been consulted at all over the proposed changes, some of which, including paving over the popular Torakina picnic reserve with a car park, road and footpaths have sparked anger.
Byron shire mayor Simon Richardson will attend the meeting but it is unknown whether members of the state-appointed NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT) or its affiliate, North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP), will attend.
The trust’s official spokesperson has failed to respond to Echonetdaily questions over Monday night’s meeting.
The Brunswick Heads Progress Association recently letter-boxed locals with a rallying-call leaflet for them to attend the meeting to look closely at the major changes proposed.
As well as a new 18-space car park, access road and pedestrian pathways to replace a swathe of well-used grassed areas, concerns have been raised by the progress association at ‘a new huge’ 400-square-metre raised timber deck with fencing along the foreshore at Banner Park opposite the local pub.
Members of the local Foreshore Protection Group, which has campaigned against controversial encroachments by the NCHP ever since the state government took over the running of the parks from Byron Shire Council nine years ago, say the deck will set a precedent as of building structures ‘right on the water, where there always had to be a buffer’, adding ‘once they do one , the rest then follow’.
The proposed car park inside Torakina reserve longtime locals say will also ruin and isolate the popular favourite ‘hang out’ spot for teenagers and young children for generations, with a nearby jumping-off spot on the wooden bridge set to be isolated.
One association member asked Echonetdaily ‘where will the children play?’
The grassed area is used by hundreds of people a week for blanket picnics and sit-down children’s birthday parties and it’s feared least a half dozen native shade trees there will be chopped down to make way for it.
Some locals also say it’s the first step to make paid parking around Torakina and other areas of the town.
While six of the two dozen historic Norfolk Island Pines lining the foreshore will be incorporated into the deck, a large old gum tree which locals have fought to preserve will be chopped down to enlarge the existing playground there.
A huge network of new pathways and lighting for all the foreshore parklands has also raised the ire of locals who say they have not been given any detail on what type of surface will be used for the paths or type and style of lighting.
The trust plans to start work after Easter. Other plans include a dedicated public walkway connecting the boat harbour to the foreshore and other minor upgrades at the trust managed parks at Massey-Greene nearby and Ferry Reserve further up the river.
The progress association has asked residents to fill out an online questionnaire to provide feedback to the trust, members of which have been invited by the progress association to attend the meeting.
While some Echonetdaily readers have welcomed proposed upgrades to amenities in the parklands as part of the plan, most fear Gold Coast style over-development will replace the natural charm of the seaside holiday village with its popular open green spaces famed for traditional picnics.
Foreshore Protection Group spokesperson Sean O’Meara said the car park plan was unnecessary as there were over 150 car parking spots within a couple of minutes walk from Torakina Reserve, ‘most of which are empty for 90 per cent of the year’.
‘The additional 18 carparks that are planned to be built inside the reserve will make absolutely no difference to the parking situation in Brunswick on peak summer beach days, which is the only time they will be needed,’ Me O’Meara said.
‘The grassed and treed area where this car park is planned is usually covered in picnickers, soccer and volleyball games, and most weekends at least half a dozen kids birthday parties.
‘It makes zero sense to reduce this heavily used and beautiful recreational space to a fraction of its size just to park a few cars. Thousands of families a year will be then be squeezed into a park 40 per cent smaller.’
Mr O’Meara said a reserve opposite Torakina which has been blocked off to cars by rocks should instead be used as overfill parking space during the peak periods.
‘ If there really is a serious parking issue, it could be fixed in under an hour by removing a couple of rocks and spending $100 on a chain and padlock that is simply opened on busy days,’ he said.
‘Local charities or the surf club would jump at the chance to run the car park on these days as happens in other open areas of Brunswick.
‘Why destroy much used Torakina Reserve for a car park when 20 metres away is a little used space that had been used for parking for years?’
The secretive NCHP Mr O’Meara says has ‘total control of 100 per cent of our towns public foreshore Crown Land’ and revenue mostly goes back to state coffers than locally.
‘This Trust is meant to ensure the protection of our natural spaces and vegetation but their Brunswick Heads plans of management are all about exclusion, cutting down trees, cementing over parks and building out any recreational space they can get their hands on,’ he said.
Locals have also been outraged that more than 2,500 objections to the plans of management were ignored by the trust when seeking approval and and only select groups of users, not resident groups, were cited as having been the ‘stakeholders’ consulted (such as the woodchop committee and local chamber of commerce).
The progress association proudly says it’s the longest-running resident group in NSW.
In a glaring example of the ‘lack’ of information provided by the trust, it mailed out a glossy brochure to locals a few weeks ago which only briefly mentioned (in two sentences) the proposed major works, yet gave more space in promoting recent awards the parks received.
For the residents’ questionnaire, email brunswick [email protected] (use ‘resident questionnaire’ for subject). For older people or those with no access to the internet can call 0410 024272 for a delivery/pickup within Brunswick Heads.
Full details of the plans of management for the reserves can be found at www.lpma.nsw.gov.au