I was disturbed to notice several dead banksia trees up here on Cape Byron. They stand stark and brown, shrivelled with the herbicide with which they have apparently been liberally sprayed.
On inquiring about this, I was informed that these native trees have been destroyed because they did not fit some people’s idea of what is supposed to be ‘heritage’ up here.
Frankly, this bewilders me. I cannot see that there was ever a consistent state in this area.
Some years ago there was a small herd of local goats, descendants of the lighthouse keepers’ animals. These were duly removed, supposedly to protect the native plants of the area. With the departure of the goats, the shrubs and trees grew back.
Now it seems natives, such as banksia and other species are condemned, as unwanted intruders in this area.
Working up here as a volunteer, I frequently see the place being sprayed with chemical herbicide. Indeed, despite the reservations and protests of local informed people about the dangers of such herbicides, they continue to be sprayed around the area like scent in a brothel.
It seems to me that there is a convenient double standard about the so-called ‘heritage management’ of the place.
There seems little problem for the various managing bodies in accommodating commercial innovations such as the new proposed cafe alterations to their concept of ‘heritage’.
From my own perspective, I find the huge numbers of vehicles that drive up here not in keeping with the more tranquil past that even I can recall from the 1980s. It is like Piccadilly Circus up here, especially during public holidays and at weekends.
The old peace one could find when walking up here can only really be found early in the morning. Traffic simply makes the Cape quite dangerous; and certainly the vehicles that speed recklessly up and down to it. But this is welcomed, of course [heritage?]
The dead banksias symbolise for me the whole shebang of contemporary Byron Bay. It is simply being degraded by tourism and over- development and by the greed so encouraged by our various governments today.
This, I believe , is not the natural change of time: it is a forced and deliberate attempt to make the town serve the pecuniary interests of certain people.
All the talk of ‘iconic’ places and beaches (also commercially exploited now), all the myth of ‘natural’ Byron and the whole idea that it is somehow special and different, is shrivelled like those dying banksias.
The coming proposed developments (West Byron and Ewingsdale) will finally sign the death warrant of a beautiful and indeed once uniquely ‘special’ place. It may as well become part of Queensland, as in some ways it is already, de facto, as it were.
David Morris, Byron Bay