The Community Alliance for Byron Shire (CABS) says it has assessed the recent performance of Byron Council against the Community Charter for Good Planning and found them still to be failing.
The group formed in early February and consists of ten existing resident groups, progress associations and action groups shirewide.
Former councillor and member of Bangalow Progress Association and CABS, Jenny Coman, says the council endorsed the charter in December 2014, ‘but has yet to implement the principles it contains’.
‘CABS has compiled a second assessment of Council’s activities since we launched and we will continue to provide regular report cards’, she told The Echo.
‘Miserable 31 per cent’
‘Since February, council has scored a miserable 31 per cent when mapped against the five principles of the charter.
‘Council scored some points for the Clifford Street roundabout at Suffolk Park, but there are glaring examples of bad planning process which we believe are a dereliction of duty, particularly by the five dominant councillors: Ibrahim, Hunter, Woods, Cubis and Wanchap.
Significant decisions with long-term impacts for the whole shire are being made without community oversight, against staff recommendations and without even councillors themselves having sufficient time to scrutinise last-minute changes.
‘For example, the rushed approval of the Elements DA and the extraordinary acceptance of Cr Ibrahim’s amendments to the Rural Land Use Strategy.
‘The Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) continues to be a travesty of good planning.
‘It is evident that the council majority has no intention of openness, transparency or good governance when decisions are made on the hop at Council meetings, decisions that might have permanently damaging effects, in particular on the environment.
‘These decisions are clearly being driven by a pro-development agenda rather than any consideration of good planning for the community into the future,’ Ms Coman said.
Cr Ibrahim attacks group
In response, Cr Sol Ibrahim attacked the group and councillors outside his faction.
He told The Echo, ‘CABS have once again failed to engage constructively with councillors through appropriate channels.’
‘Rather than acting in accord with the charter they claim to uphold, they resort to populist placard waving at council and wild unsubstantiated press releases. In the absence of their scorecard, I can only comment on the three substantive issues raised.
‘The Elements S96 variation to a development approval [DA] received intensive scrutiny by planning staff.
‘All the relevant legal requirements were met. The proposed minor changes actually increased protection of the rare littoral rainforest and reduced the load on our sewerage system. There was simply no legal or environmental basis for a refusal and staff said so in the report.
Rural Land Use Strategy
‘The minor amendments to the draft Rural Land Use Strategy (RLUS) were the result of detailed consultation with executive manager Shannon Burt and those members of the community who had bothered to read the draft and made constructive suggestions.
‘The block of four councillors who voted against the resolution had not bothered to bring anything to the table, before or during the debate.
‘CABS did not bother to comment or make suggestions either! Councillors have held numerous workshops already on the RLUS, and all the block of four could do was argue for one more workshop.
‘The draft RLUS is now finally on exhibition, and CABS are invited to make constructive suggestions.
‘Presumably since they believe they are qualified to assess council’s planning performance, they will be able to make a valuable contribution that goes beyond criticism,’ Cr Ibrahim said.
‘The CZMP (Coastal Zone Management Plan) is not on exhibition yet, despite 12 years’ work. Given the fact that CABS have not seen the draft, and that the cost benefit analysis is not even complete, I don’t know how they can judge it as a “travesty”,’ he said.
‘It’s easy to abuse our language and councillors to score political points, but that is not how the charter requires the community to engage with their council.
‘The draft CZMP will be out in April for public exhibition and comment.
‘I look forward to reading the CABS formal submission.
‘The charter requires councillors to consider each development application fairly on its own merits by applying the law without fear or favour. This is what everyone who has to submit a DA expects.
‘Just because decisions are made that some don’t agree with doesn’t make them bad.
‘Whether we have nine councillors or 90, there will always be divergent opinions.
‘That is democracy,’ Cr Ibrahim said.