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Brunswick Heads locals take fight to Ombudsman

Greens candidate for Ballina, Tamara Smith (seated, centre) with Greens MLC Jan Barham (seated, right), Byron mayor Simon Richardson (seated left) and Cr Duncan Dey (top left) with Brunswick Heads residents at Banner Park yesterday.

Greens candidate for Ballina, Tamara Smith (seated, centre) with Greens MLC Jan Barham (seated, right), Byron mayor Simon Richardson (seated left) and Cr Duncan Dey (top left) with Brunswick Heads residents at Banner Park yesterday.

Luis Feliu

Residents campaigning against the controversial state-government approved makeover of Brunswick Heads’ foreshore parks will take their fight to the Ombudsman as the Greens added their voice to calls for management of the parks be given back to Byron Shire Council.

Locals, angered that the state lands minister Kevin Humphries (Nationals) has dismissed their call to suspend the works and investigate the process which led to the approval of the management plans for the crown reserve parks and reserves, will ask the Ombudsman to look into it.

At a meeting last week attended by around 400 people, residents were told there was a clear conflict of interest with the developer of the controversial plans, the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT), also in charge of processing public submissions and recommending approval, and that residents were not properly consulted.

A petition with more than 2,500 signatures was also ignored. The town’s progress association wants a stop to the plans till locals are heard, while the Foreshore Protection Group says the plans are legally invalid.

In a show of support for locals yesterday, Greens candidate fore the seat of Ballina, Tamara Smith, joined with Greens MLC Jan Barham (a former Byron shire mayor), Byron mayor Simon Richardson and Byron Cr Duncan Dey at the village’s popular Banner Park on the foreshore, where a huge 400-square-metre deck and enlarged playground and boardwalk are planned for the grassed area favoured by families.

Many locals say the plans for the parks, set to start after Easter, which include an 18-space car park to replace more grassed picnic area at Torakina Reserve, is an over-development, yet they have welcomed some aspects such as rock-wall, toilet and some footpath upgrades.

The Greens say the parks trust should cancel its plans to ‘commercialise the foreshore reserves’.

Ms Barham said the shady takeover of the parks by the previous Labor government and the parks’ current management under the Nationals/Liberals was an ‘abuse of power by both governments’, with ‘a commercial agenda’ set over the ‘wishes of the community’.

Greens candidate for Ballina, Tamara Smith.

Greens candidate for Ballina, Tamara Smith.

She said the trashing of heritage and environmental planning laws by the trust in their bid were all ‘at odds and against all the principles’ of the Crown Lands Act.

Ms Barham said Byron council was strapped for cash with the pressures of tourism, and managing the popular parks was an opportunity for the community to get some money back from them.

‘But here, that opportunity to get money from the crown reserves goes to the developer: how wrong is that?

‘It should all have been an independent process and not one where the developer is also the regulator and arbitrator, which is just outrageous and a classic abuse of power’.

‘It’s shocking that our crown reserves are seen as a cash cow by this government, if I was a business I would be outraged at having to compete with the government which has an unfair advantage’.

Tamara Smith said the trust’s plan ‘not only threaten the family-friendly character that the town is renowned for, but they are grossly un-democratic and have shut out the local community from meaningful consultation’.

She told Echonetdaily he loved the un-spoilt, natural character of the town which she knew well as her grandfather was a local fisherman in the village and she holidayed at ‘Bruns’ as a child.

‘The idea that the beautiful grassy picnic area behind Torakina Beach would be replaced by a car park and kiosk, and that an over-size deck would almost engulf Banner Park is unacceptable to locals who treasure Brunswick Heads for being a relaxed and low-key place to enjoy,’ she said.

The Banner Park playground received some new bark ground cover yesterday. But the old gum tree popular with locals near it which is a home for parrots and other birds, will be axed to make way for a huge deck and enlarged playground.

The Banner Park playground received some new bark ground cover yesterday. 
The trust says there are no plans to remove the Forest Red Gum near the playground. A spokesman told Echonetdaily arborist’s will inspect the tree at the end of the month and assess any safety risk it poses. The spokesperson said it would ‘not be removed for development purposes and users of the reserve will be able to enjoy the tree for as long as it is safe to do so’.

‘It’s time the state government stopped trying to make money out of public assets and returned the management of all Crown reserves back to Council.

‘The caravan park’s huge profits should be put into infrastructure that the community actually wants.’

Ms Barham said that across NSW, more and more decision-making was being removed from local communities ‘and handed over to bureaucrats or developers with a profit motive for public lands’.

She said the state government ‘needs to stop hiding behind their commercial arm, the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust and give the local community the power to determine the future of Brunswick Heads.

‘The proposed works at around the Brunswick Heads foreshore will fundamentally alter the character of the town and destroy the much loved atmosphere and environment of this small coastal community.

‘The Greens stand beside the community in calling for the North Coast Holiday Parks Trust to cancel their plans and hand all management responsibility back to Byron Shire Council, after being wrongly stripped away by the previous Labor Government in 2006,’ the MP said.

Mayor Richardson said Brunswick Heads i’s a special place where families come to swim, picnic and relax’.

‘Tourism is a vital part of the Brunswick Heads economy, but the needs of tourism need to be balanced with the desires of local people who live here,’ Cr Richardson said.

‘I’ve been approached by many locals who are concerned about the state government’s perceived “take-over” of Brunswick Heads, and who would simply appreciate some basic amenity upgrades, not the massive works currently proposed.

‘The government went to the last election saying that they would return planning powers to local communities. Well now is their chance.

‘Council would happily resume management responsibility for the Brunswick Heads foreshore reserves and ensure the community was at the heart of any decisions made,’ Cr Richardson said.

Ms Smith challenged her National Party opponent for the seat of Ballina, Kris Beavis, to ‘show his hand on this issue and let the community know if he supports these inappropriate development plans’.

But Mr Beavis, in an extraordinary response, told Echonetdaily he had not read the plans of management, yet claimed there was ‘misinformation’ being spread about the proposed deck.

Labor candidate Paul Spooner said he had taken the concerns of the public meeting at Brunswick Heads he attended last week to his shadow minister for crown lands.

Meanwhile, Ms Smith also said that if she was elected, the Greens would commit to funding $100,000 of improvements at Waterlily Park in Ocean Shores, across the river from Brunswick Heads.

These include a new children’s playground with safety fencing and shade structures, new seating, lighting, BBQ facilities and toilet block, additional tennis and net ball courts, improved pathways and interpretative signage, removal of aquatic weeds from the lake and installation of devices to filter storm water pollution.

‘Waterlily Park is an important recreation asset for the Ocean Shores community and it’s clear that a significant investment is needed to improve the playground, amenity and sports facilities there to benefit local families,’ Ms Smith said.

‘If elected, I commit to funding an infrastructure upgrade and amenity improvements at Waterlily Park in consultation with the community.

‘This will be funded by the Greens new $20 billion infrastructure plan that will raise revenue by restoring taxation measures on property speculators and poker machines in large clubs; not by privatising our electricity poles and wires like the Nationals plan to do.’


6 responses to “Brunswick Heads locals take fight to Ombudsman”

  1. Geoffrey Suthon says:

    Not a bad idea to get this all cleared up by the Ombudsman. He (his office) will make recommendations to the Government who may or may not follow them. Why don’t we get him to investigate if this latest move is a political stunt, while he’s at it. Why not get him to investigate who’s behind the massive mis-information campaign, including the petition, that this town has endured on this issue. He could also investigate why the councillors opposed to the changes, and using this issue for political gain, are also the same councillors that were in power when the Council mismanaged the Parks finances and infrastructure, leading to Crown Lands taking them over again. He could investigate the campaign of abuse against the Terrace Park residents, or how the 2013 council resolution was pushed through council using mis-information and without consultation with the park residents. Hell, the list goes on.

  2. Anne Shore says:

    Geoffrey Suthon I could not agree with you more, more of us should speak up and stop these undisciplined rabble who think they rule our town, ie the Foreshore Protection Group, an unregistered group run by a well known … local agitator, who would protest about anything.

    It really doesn’t need an investigation to see who is behind the massive misinformation campaign
    I never see any of these people out selling raffle tickets to raise money for Marine Rescue, Brunswick Rescue or the Surf Club, in fact every time there are photos in the Echo I don’t usually recognise anyone in them who we are told are locals.

    I love the way the Echo always quote “Brunswick Heads Residents” instead of “some Brunswick Heads Residents” because many of the locals look forward to the plans of management for our local parks being implemented, the ones that don’t have been sadly mislead by lies and misinformation. The idea of the deck and extension of the playground area with seating for parents to sit and chat while they watch their children is an excellent idea, I’ve never seen any of the people photographed in the park when I am there with my grandchildren.

    The tree in question is not a beautiful old gum tree, it is ugly, it is dangerous and should definitely not be anywhere near a children’s playground.

    Showing photos of kids jumping off the bridge and saying this will be spoilt for them, well, they should not be jumping off the bridge, it is a very dangerous practice and many accidents have ensued by the unsafe behaviour. They block the traffic off by lining up along the railing waiting for their turn to jump and will not bother to move in order to let the traffic flow through.

    I love how the Echo says it’s time the parks should be handed back to BSC, did you ever live in the parks? I doubt it, I have and I prefer the way things are now. Byron Shire Councillors should butt out of this issue, they mismanaged the caravan parks for years and were the ONLY cause of any boundary issues & placement of vans on the river front, all of which they now object to!!! They should spend their time resealing Fingal Street before someone goes down the potholes and disappears forever, it’s disgusting the state of the roads in Brunswick Heads and Ocean Shores, bet they are not like that in Byron Bay. Heaven forbid that they ever get the management of the Caravan Parks back when they can’t even manage the Shire, it’s time they stopped pouting about losing the parks, get over it and get on with it.

    18 extra car parks will certainly be welcome and Torakina will still be a park, it will just be smaller and to be honest, when have you ever seen it so packed that there is not room for more people – never!

    Importance is put on the opinion of the Brunswick Heads Progress Association, they have very few members and have now been taken over by the local rabble of agitators that just object to whatever anyone tries to do.

    I have lived in Brunswick Heads for 20 years and prior to that have been coming to Brunswick Heads to visit family since 1955, I love the place as do my family and many, many friends and aquaintances who are local and really look forward to these changes take place. We just hope that there is no backing down and that these changes take place for all to enjoy.

    I guess this letter will not get printed as the Echo is so in the pocket of the minor amount of people who object.

    A Shore

  3. Geoffrey Suthon says:

    Thanks Anne, so nice to see a local finally voice the same opinions that many other locals have said to me. Tamara Smith, you have really lost a lot of credibility by aligning yourself with this issue, the facts of which you obviously know nothing about.

  4. Kelly says:

    I have read the POM so I am not misinformed but rather, I am using my judgment and thinking carefully about the consequences of these plans of management and the not- so- hidden agendas of the public servants who have written these plans….and they certainly do not live in Brunswick Heads. This profiteering of public parks and Crown Reserves is rife throughout NSW so it is a far greater beast than just a local issue. The Trust has no idea how we use our parklands. They sit in their city offices only discussing the $$$$. Would you rather sit back and take every order the State Government shouts out or would you like to have a voice. Maybe this makes me an “agitator” along with over two thousand other “agitators” who spoke out against the POM but whose voices NSWCHPT has not listened to. This is the collective voice of far more than “one local agitator”. The “undisciplined rabble” sounds most exciting! I want to be a part of that gang please – how dull would our history books be without such lively characters!

    It seems a couple of people hold cars and traffic to be of greater importance than children developing imaginative play. I wonder if the children would choose jumping off the bridge and climbing trees and fishing off the riverbank and running around the open parklands playing cricket or football with their family …..or would they prefer a wooden deck for their “parents to sit and chat and watch them play”. Must we succumb to this sedentary observer lifestyle? I intend to be a far more interactive grandmother, and hope that there is still some open space and parklands for me and my grandchildren to play together. By the way – my grandchildren might be 6th generation locals so please do not ruin Brunswick Heads before they can enjoy it.

    Thank you for pointing out how very local you are. You must look out for me in the park in the future…I will be that girl with the enormous smile hugging the “ugly dangerous old gum tree” that won a pardon from execution just 14months ago due to local public outcry. I am surprised that you havn’t yet noticed the other people photographed- walking dogs and riding bikes and picnicing on the grass and playing football and dancing on the beautiful open parklands under the shady bird filled trees. But this is not just a local issue. Most tourists love Bruns because it is so natural and untouched – “Simple Pleasures” and “Rustic Charm” are some of the common descriptions of our town. Will these new catch phrases attract the tourists – “Brunswick Heads – We’ve Got A Deck! Leave your Picnic Rug Behind and Come Enjoy our Brand New Car Park!”

  5. Kelly says:

    To summarise – I do not mean for this to be an argument about who is local or not or precisely how many locals are pro versus anti Plans of Management. The consultation of these plans with the community of Brunswick Heads was very sketchy. Yes many people both locals and visitors love Brunswick – I wonder how the the people whose ancestors have been here the longest, the Arakwal, feel about this use of thier land? Were the elders consulted? Are they happy with the management of their foreshores by North Coast Holiday Parks? How do they feel about North Coast Holiday Parks riding lawn mowers over their middens, crushing the shells with disregard? The State Government needs to dismantle this corrupt Trust which currently manages the parklands of NSW. The saying goes – two wrongs dont make a right – so lets get the management of the Crown Lands and Reserves back to the local councils who better understand their communities. Otherwise we will soon witness the face of our foreshores and parklands change into something that is very un-Australian.

  6. Sean OMeara says:

    Geoffrey and Anne

    The so called minority and “undisciplined rabble” that you disagree with has once again been proven to be the vast majority of Brunswick Heads townsfolk and they come from all walks of life, ages and political persuasion. Last week the Progress Association organised a community event that over 300 townsfolk attended and explained very clearly (and neutrally) exactly what was about to happen to Brunswicks foreshore parklands. Clearly most of the attendees hadn’t read the 600 page Plan of Management that was purposefully this size to deter anyone from going anywhere near it.

    It was obvious to all at the meeting that the vast majority of residents were totally opposed to the plans to develop our foreshore parklands and wanted them left in their beautiful and natural state. The residents and the meeting survey made it very clear they did not want Brunswick to become another Gold Coast where foreshore and beachside areas are stripped of trees and become concreted carparks and built out with commercial structures. ONLY 3% of attendees supported the proposed Torakina carpark and 13% supported the deck in Banner Park.

    The fundamental issue here is a very simple one so I don’t see how you justify your claims of people being “misled by lies and misinformation”. Your landlord, North Coast Holiday Parks has embarked on an aggressive agenda that will see large amounts of Brunswick Heads best public foreshore and beachside Crown Land developed and built out. Many protected and healthy trees will be cut down and thousands of square metres of public parkland will be concreted over for carparks and footpaths (that lead only to the caravan parks). Most alarmingly local families will be restricted from accessing riverside parklands, walking tracks, boat ramps, fishing spots and swimming areas they have used all their lives.

    This agenda totally disregards the Crown Lands Act that was establishes years ago to ensure our best public parklands remain for the use of all and not just the elite few.

    Why you, Geoffrey and Anne, think that Brunswick Heads residents would even contemplate supporting such an agenda beggars belief.

    Further FACTS that totally disprove your claims that just a handful of “agitators” are the only ones against these developments include:

    – The over 2500 people who signed an online petition last year totally rejecting the blocking and development of the Brunswick Heads Foreshore. Of these over 600 wrote their own comments. It is still online, have a read and you will see just how wrong you really are about what the locals really want.

    – The 2013 “Taking Care of Brunswick” initiative (Government funded) which found the number one issue of its very representative attendees (both Business and Community) of over 60 townsfolk was to keep the entire Brunswick Heads Foreshore open and accessible to all so residents could walk from one end of town to the other along the river (like they had for 80 years).

    – Over 3 public rally’s against foreshore developments over the last few years that attracted well over 150 locals.

    – Both previous and current Byron Shire Councils agreeing unanimously to fight North Coast Holiday Parks on its predatory plans for the Brunswick Heads Foreshores. (Possibly the only thing Council has unanimously agreed on in years).

    – The Crown Land is Our Land Movement. Go online and see the many community organisations springing up all over NSW determined to stop the current Government commercializing Crown Land that is a well loved and used public spaces.

    The real minority here Geoffrey and Anne is obviously those who think it is fine that a towns best public foreshore land can be developed and become the private property of a few. As you are both caravan park dwellers who will benefit from entitlements that most rate paying and “real” Brunswick residents could only dream of, including your own private riverside frontage, free swimming pools, curb and guttering and new footpaths leading from your gated communities straight to the pub, it is understandable why you desperately desire these plans to proceed. The fact that you couldn’t give a rats about how this impacts on the rest of the town, particularly the well-loved recreational areas of its children I find very sad indeed.

    Geoffrey, your claims about Byron Council mismanaging the parks and finances so that the State Government had to take them over, we all now know to be a complete fabrication of facts. The State basically took over any Crown Land Holiday Park (around 40 to date) they thought they could make serious money out of and in the process denied local councils and communities millions of dollars in revenue.

    From what I understand (and correct me if I am wrong), the person in charge of finances at Byron Shire Council for many of these years was Jim Bolger. If he really mismanaged the finances of the Holiday Parks that badly then how could he possibly have be appointed as General Manager of North Coast Holiday Parks not long after?

    The comment that todays Councillors are hypocritical because they are now against actions approved by council years ago is ludicrous. Most current councillors are amazed and appalled at what went on in the parks previously and how opportunists were allowed to build structures virtually at the water line. They are now determined to try and right the very poor and illegal decisions made by some very questionable previous council staff.

    But what takes the cake Geoffrey is you claiming Greens candidate Tamara Smith has “ lost a lot of credibility by aligning herself with this issue, the facts of which she obviously knows nothing about”.

    How a Greens candidate could lose any credibility by making a stand against privatisation and vowing to protect and conserve Brunswick’s most valuable natural parklands, trees, mangroves and foreshores from destruction and development is clearly beyond me. Tamara Smith is also the Granddaughter of a local trawler fisherman and has been coming to Brunswick all her life. To claim she knows nothing about the issue is again ludicrous.

    Personally, Geoffrey I think you are seriously backing the wrong horse by becoming the “resident mouthpiece” for North Coast Holiday Parks. If Council regains control of the Brunswick Holiday Parks they will ensure they remain a viable option for elderly residents and affordable housing. NCHPs or whatever commercial entity they lease the parks to in the not too distant future will have no interest in low revenue “residents” and will charge top commercial rates for all sites. They will not be interested in your $150 a week when they are getting $2500 a week for the cabin next door.

    Byron Council may move your potable home 10m back from the water so the foreshore can once again be shared and accessed by all, but at least you will still be able to afford to live in Brunswick.

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