A new peak body of Byron shire organisations has used this morning’s public access meeting to hand the council a ‘report card’ based on what it says is its ‘epic failure’ to adhere to the Community Charter for Good Planning that it signed in 2014.
The new organisation, Community Alliance for Byron Shire (CABS) describes itself as ‘a collection of community groups who are dissatisfied with council’s unsatisfactory procedures and practices and the unplanned and unchecked development that is taking place across the shire.’
The body consists of ten existing resident groups, progress associations and action groups shire-wide, as well as some individual direct members.
CABS looked at the council’s processes and decisions on 20 key issues of the past 12 months against the five principles of the charter and found only one, the Byron Bay Masterplan, on which it addressed all five (click on image to enlarge).
Sunrise Residents Association’s Bethany Hudson, said CABS wanted to convey the message that the council ‘must put the community and environment first’.
‘The dissatisfaction, frustration and anger that people are feeling about what is happening in our shire has reached critical mass and we are all pulling together to make council accountable to us,’ she said
‘In December 2014, Council resolved to adopt the Better Planning Network’s Community Charter for Good Planning. Since then multiple decisions made by council have flown in the face of the principles outlined in the charter.
The group cited examples including:
- Council agreeing to allow a change of usage for rural land at Ewingsdale for 260 ‘retirement’ homes and a commercial development;
- The exclusion of the community from the decision to build a rock wall at Belongil;
- The censuring of a committed volunteer via a code of conduct complaint and the ignoring of serious breaches of the code by councilors; and
- Complex development applications being put on public exhibition for only 14 days.
‘Many of us in Byron shire feel we are being ignored by council. In some cases residents are being treated like nuisances and even opponents of some councillors and council staff. We are ratepayers and it is our shire,’ Ms Hundson said.
‘We deserve respect and outcomes that benefit the environment and the majority of the community — not just a handful of people who are in the long run will only take from Byron shire, not give.
‘We must see the Community Charter actually implemented. That means proper planning being done, underpinned by a growth management strategy that considers the environmental values and future needs of the shire and which involves genuine community participation in planning processes.’
Donald Maughan, president of the Suffolk Park Progress Association said his group had joined CABS largely as a show of support.
‘While I can’t say that there is a particular Suffolk issue at the moment, the proposed West Byron and Ewingsdale developments are issues that will impact on the greater Byron residents,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘The “pro-development five” [councillors] just seem to be riding roughshod and we are concerned they could do so again, particularly in relation to the Broken Head Quarry, which has just submitted a new development application.
‘The Byron community has been divided and conquered by this council in the past and we are determined that’s not going to happen in the future. We support the whole Byron shire community. We need to think globally in terms of the shire,’ Mr Maughan said.