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Meeting calls for probe on Brunswick Heads parks plan

A crowd estimated at around 450 attended the public meeting to air concerns over the foreshore park makeover plans. Photo Sean O'Meara

A crowd estimated at around 450 attended the public meeting to air concerns over the foreshore park makeover plans. Photo Sean O’Meara

Luis Feliu

Several hundred people filled the Brunswick Heads memorial hall last night, unanimously calling for the suspension of a contentious plan to add a carpark, deck, boardwalk and footpaths to two of the town’s popular foreshore parks.

They have also called for the state government to investigate the ‘flawed’ process which led to the trust it appointed drawing up the plans and the government itself in approving them.

Around 450 people rallied to the call by the Brunswick Heads Progress Association which says residents were never consulted over the plans, approved by lands minister Kevin Humphries in June last year.

The progress association, the longest-running in the state, says no residents were consulted and only interest groups such as the woodchop committee, carnival owners and the local business chamber were brought into the action.

Residents are opposed to some of the major works proposed, due to start after Easter, and which are believed to cost around $1 million.

The most controversial parts of the plans of management for Torakina Reserve at the river mouth is a proposed 18-space car park, access road and pedestrian pathways to replace a swathe of well-used grassed areas inside the reserve.  At nearby Banner Park opposite the pub, a ‘huge’ 400-square-metre raised timber deck with fencing and a boardwalk is planned to be built along the foreshore.

A network of new footpaths and lighting through the town foreshore linking two of the caravan parks at The Terrace and Massey Greene is also opposed, as no details of types of surface or style of lighting have been given.

Members of the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT), set up by the government to run the crown reserve parks in 2013, failed to take up an invitation by the residents’ group to attend the meeting and hear their concerns.

Members of its affiliate which operates the parks, the secretive North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP), also failed to attend, while only a couple of Byron shire councillors showed up.

The trust, through its media liaison officer, has repeatedly failed to answer questions or respond to calls by Echonetdaily over the issue for months, despite initially telling media soon after its members were appointed that it would consult more widely with locals.

Locals at the meeting, chaired by progress association president Leonie Bolt, expressed anger at the makeover planned for the historic village.

Lack of maintenance

The lack of maintenance by the trust over the years at the parks of services such as toilets or maintaining grassed areas came under fire from early on in the meeting.

Ms Bolt said both the trust and  Byron Shire Council, which also runs some of the public toilets (one at the southern entrance to the town is currently closed and fenced off), had ‘not done a good job’.

During questions, one audience member said the proposed carpark location at Torakina was already ‘too congested’ with many children playing there (near the bridge’s favourite jumping-off spot for children) and that the parking should be ‘spread’ elsewhere in the town, which drew loud applause.

Another said ‘not one cent’ should be spent on the proposed improvements till the existing old toilets were ‘ripped down’ and new ones built.

One said the car park would remove around 10 spaces already, meaning there would only be a net gain of 8 spaces, yet a big chunk of grassed picnic area would be lost.

Commercial interests

In explaining the plans for Torakina reserve car park, Ms Bolt said some of the native trees would have to go to make way for it.

She suggested the trust only looked after itself and not the community as just before last Christmas, NCHP installed new pre-fabricated toilet and laundry facilities at the Terrace and Ferry Reserve caravan parks which it also controls.

Ms Bolt was greeted with loud applause when she said those park toilets were renewed, yet other public toilets outside the parks managed by the trust were in a ’Third World’ condition.

‘What this says to me is that commercial interest takes priority over public facilities,’ she said.

She said ‘not many people minded’ a new pathway around the edge of the reserve, vegetation management and a new upgraded toilet block there, noting that the toilets had not been upgraded for almost 20 years, as far as she knew.

One elderly longtime resident said she saw Torakina reserve, and the area where the carpark is proposed, ‘full of families at weekends’ with children celebrating birthdays.

She was also loudly cheered when she said ’children and  motor cars don’t mix’.

Natural attractions

Another longtime resident said most people visiting the village did so because of its natural attractions and friendly village atmosphere and because it was ‘not complicated or overdone or fancy’.

‘We don’t need it (the makeover), we want to stay a family friendly village,’ she said to loud applause.

The woman also said she’d written to NCHP over the plan many times but ‘they only came back with outrageous BS’, and ‘had no idea about our concerns’ and that ‘its bottom line’ was ‘commercialisation’.

‘I believe we need sterner action than just this meeting, we need action,’ she said to big applause.

Another complained that Banner Park  had been let to degrade over time with grassed areas not up-kept or re-turfed and the toilets needed upgrading.

Ms Bolt said the deck would attract vermin such as rats and snakes as well as more litter and likely to impact on the historic Norfolk pines.

One man said the trust appointees were mostly developers and suspected the deck would set a precedent in which a the foreshore could be lined with similar structures, and commercial ventures brought in to use them.

One elderly person said she had no problem accessing the parks and felt they were adequate as is. ‘but a deck is not accessible’, a comment which also drew applause.

One respite worker said she often took disabled people to the parks and ‘we get around fine’.

‘It would be good to have that area grassed and some tree roots fixed, but the deck won’t be any better,’ she said.

One businesswoman said she feared that with more concrete footpaths around, the town would become a skateboard ‘free for all’.

One young man said Brunswick Heads was ‘so diverse’ with many open and accessible areas for all to use from woodchop to fishers and picnickers.

‘Keep it simple, open and flexible… the deck would only be for people wanting to sit down and have something to eat,’ he said.

Another longtime local said the rock walls had been neglected over time since he was a schoolboy when they ‘always had a good safe edge to them’ and that ‘rather than a scheme of boardwalks, maintain what’s there as we all know, that’s quite a feature of Bruns.’

Gum tree to go

The Banner Park ‘upgrade’ involved removing an old gum tree as it gets in the way of a proposed new and larger playground, which some people said should ‘stay there’ as it was home to much local bird life.

Ms Bolt said NCHP tried three times to remove the tree but Byron council only allowed it to lop some branches, but now it will have to make way for the playground.

One man said the proposed network of footpaths was a sham as ‘half of Bruns doesn’t have footpaths, it looks like it’s for their (caravan park) guests so they can get to the pub a bit quicker’.

Byron shire councillor Di Woods told the meeting the parks’ management was ‘a commercial venture’ and nothing to do with which of the two major parties were in power.

Cr Woods urged people to lobby both Labor, which instigated the plans of management after it took over the parks from Byron council nine years ago, and the coalition government about the trust and its plans.

The meeting was urged to fill in a questionnaire being circulated about the plans by 13 March.

Three motions were moved, including calling for a suspension of the plans which the meeting considered ‘flawed’ as they had not followed due process as no consultation with residents taking place.

It also called on the NSWCHPT to suspend all work till the residents’ views were taken into account and in the plans and for the lands minister to suspend the plans of management pending an investigation of the process used.

Echonetdaily is waiting for a response from the lands minister’s office.

 


10 responses to “Meeting calls for probe on Brunswick Heads parks plan”

  1. Patricia Warren says:

    What a wonderful turnout at last night’s meeting and on a rainy night as well!

    This is not my idea, but the question is worth its weight in gold.

    Consider for a moment the network of pathways along the foreshores that NCHP has determined is good for Brunswick Heads. Now consider how they have outrightly REFUSED to have similar foreshore pathway in the Terrace caravan park! It raises the question why there along all the foreshores of Banner and the Terrace park but not along the length of Simpson’s Creek?

    To the person whose forensic reading of the POM, thank you for raising this pertinent point.

    As to what next?

    I can only HOPE that people use the upcoming March election to lobby each candidate consistently to have all the POM and proposed works suspended. Such lobbying action would be consistent with the motions which were passed unanimously (!) last night.

  2. Geoffrey Suthon says:

    Patricia,you may well get your walkway on the Simpson’s creek, but not while residents are there. As you well know Patricia, their rights are protected by current legislation and law, and the POM plan of natural attrition is completely compliant with the legislation and subsequent laws, (Crown Lands and all other bodies involved made doubly sure they were compliant before the POM was released.) No about of confected public outrage will change that.

  3. Geoffrey Suthon says:

    Last line should haVe read: No amount of confected public outrage will change that.

  4. Serge Killingbeck says:

    Be interesting to see what is going on at other NSWCHPT properties around the state, might find a bit of a tidy up going on. Some of these parks occupy some valuable real estate and building roads in Sydney costs a bit?

  5. Sarah Buchanan says:

    Last night meeting was refreshing as the important points and contentios issues were raised one after another, dealt with and the on to the next issue. Finally a sensible and well-thought out ‘Power Point’ show.
    This ‘Theme Park’ that is planned for our town doesn’t sit too well with us as we settled here years ago for the simple, low key and community-minded spirit of the place!
    I will be on the front line of our Brunswick Heads Progress Association Defence Force (B.H.P.A.D.F) trumpets and whistles blaring!
    p.s Geoffrey Suthern: If you think the NSWNCHPT gives two hoots about your dwellings, you’re dreamin’! Sarah Buchanan

  6. Sarah, in 2007 the Progress Association wrote to NSWCHPT requesting a road be built through the middle of Torakina Park, and two large car parks be built there. In 2013 the then Progress Association Executive board wrote to the State Government and lobbed on behalf of the Terrace Park residents, to have us left on the foreshore. The State Government has already conducted an independent review of the POM process, I doubt they will do another one. So if you think they give two hoots about what the Progress Association wants, your dreamin!!

    • patricia warren says:

      Geoffrey, you have stated a number of things that warranted comment/refuting:
      1 The BHPA never wrote to the State Government lobbying on behalf of the Terrace Park residents to leave you on the foreshore. The Minutes of 5th February 2013 read that BHPA continues to support 30% of sites being retained for long term tenants. I might add that this position has been consistent over a number of years. The Minutes of 6 May 2013 read: ” The consensus is that we will fight for the residents to be looked after but we cannot fight an illegal position”.

      2. There are NO Minutes from BHPA 2007 or elsewhere supporting a road through the middle of Torakina and two large car parks. However, I would be interested in knowing where you got this information from as I am well aware of the history of why the foreshore parklands were cordoned off to stop vehicular entry. Just to bring you in the loop, the foreshores parks were being savaged by all types of vehicles using them as car parking spaces…you name it….from semi-trailers down to motor-bikes and anything in between. The inherent destruction was heart wrenching.

      3. To my knowledge there hasn’t been an independent review of the POM process and indeed it is definitely warranted. Hopefully, the motions, carried unanimously from the meeting of the 2 March will start that process.

      4. Long term residents in caravan parks are rightly protected under the Residential Site Agreement. However, they must also be compliant. Independent assessment reports, of which you would be well aware, available as annexures 11(n), (o) and (p) to the BSC meeting of 9th August 2012 will identify non-compliance problems.

      5. I strongly suspect you would be aware of BSC’s licensing resolutions, reaffirmed 9th May 2013 in relation to the foreshore.

      6. The POM lack credibility on a number of legal grounds foremost of which they are in breach of BSC’s licensing authority under s68 F2 of the Local Government Act 1993.

      7. Geoffrey, we both know you took up your lease in 2006 and acknowledged in public address at BSC meeting that when you took up that lease you could be expected to be relocated. I doubt that equates to ‘natural attrition’. You would also be aware that thee has been long lobbying for any relocation to be within the same park and at park management’s expense.

      8. Hopefully the aforementioned points gives facts and evidence to out rightly refutes the statements that you have made.

  7. Geoffrey Suthon says:

    Patricia, on point1: I personally, along with Gary and Wayne representing the Park residents, met with the Progress Association executive members (Treasurer, President and Secretary), in 2013. In that meeting they committed the Progress Association to lobbying the State Government on our behalf, to ensure we were left on the foreshore. Perhaps you were, and remain, unaware of that meeting. On point 2: Jim Bolgers’ office has a copy of that letter on file, you are obviously unaware of that too. On point 3: It states clearly in the POM that an independent review of the POM process was undertaken for the State Government, as a part of the POM finalisation. That fact was commented on in a previous Echo article, look it up. Point 4, There are many non-compliance issues noted in those reports. Being on the foreshore is, to my knowledge is not mentioned as a compliance issue. The POM addresses all of those other compliance issues. The legislation that requires foreshore setbacks is not retrospective, i.e does not apply to parks set up before 1989, and “natural attrition” complies with all current legislation.
    On point 7, all foreshore residents are now required to comply with natural attrition, regardless of when they took up residence. The POM requires any homes that are moved to be done so within the Park and at NSWCHPTs expense. The Council resolution passed along these lines (in 2013? or was it 2014?) was never ratified by the Minister for Local Government on was therefore dead in the water the day it was voted in.

  8. Michele Grant says:

    Geoff Suthon must have missed BSC resolution in Feb 2013 which endorsed the relocation of all foreshore sites to other sites within Terrace Park within 3 years. Certainly not a popular outcome for residents or NCHP. BSC park boundaries and conditions were not included within the POM which suggests NCHP/Crown Lands has usurped Council’s role as License provider. We contend the endorsed POMs misrepresent the facts, and provide no evidence to support the case for obstructing public access along the riverbank or the proposed expansion of Terrace caravan park into a protected SEPP 14 coastal wetlands (misrepresented on map in POM!) – or their redevelopment plans for public parklands.

    for your information, the ”natural walkway’ existed along Simpson’s Creek prior to 1986 (so no exemptions apply) and was documented in Terrace park rules in 1991. Park Rules clearly states no one, including management or residents are permitted to obstruct or hinder access along the public walkway which “remains outside the caravan park boundary”. The walkway was obstructed in 1997 and BHPA wrote to Park Manager, Mike Rodgers initiating the community’s ongoing efforts to have this highly valued public asset reinstated along Simpson’s Creek.
    Council has been calling for the implementation of 3m buffer zone and 10m building setback since 2000 – yet it has failed to appear in any POMs (2000, 2002, 2007, 2010 or 2014). There are plenty of other contentious issues that were not acknowledged or addressed in the POM endorsed by Minister Kevin Humphries in June 2014 and we will be referring NCHP’s “consultation and planning processes” to the proper authorities for investigation and performance review.

    Michele Grant
    Foreshore Protection Group

  9. Geoffrey Suthon says:

    Michele, re your first point, please re-read the comment I made about point 7. I not only attended the January 2013 Council meeting, I also have a copy of the CD transcript of the entire meeting in regards to the resolution.(so does the NSWCHPT)That resolution required the Minister for Local Government to “sign off” on it before it came into effect. I attended a meeting with him not long after the Council meeting where he stated clearly that he would not sign off on it.He has given the same commitment to the Crown Lands dept. I guess the FPG want to keep the myth of the resolution being in force alive, for your own agenda. As I said, it was dead in the water the day it was voted in. The Council simply can not make a resolution demanding the conditions of the Crown Lands that that resolution imposed.Cr Sol Ibrahim was the only one who had the common sense to understand that crucial point, that’s why he voted against it.As for your second point, the policy of natural attrition covers all legislative rules in regards to set-backs, that’s why it’s in the POM.

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