It’s not only tourists – or even residents – who don’t like the state of Byron’s public toilets or the sight of graffiti. Even Mayor Jan Barham has had enough.
According Cr Barham, her staff have not followed councillors’ resolutions, some of which go back to 2008. Furthermore she claims that a rate-rise specifically aimed at maintenance is available for such projects.
The mayor’s exasperation became apparent at last week’s Council meeting as she went up against the general manager and fellow councillors, claiming years of ignored requests.
‘Every year I have sent emails to staff asking for action and have had little to no response,’ she said.
‘I recognise our responsibility to tourism and agree with the Byron United’s (Byron’s Chamber of Commerce) consistent claims to clean up the town’s image.’
A motion put forward by the mayor called for the re-establishment of a Byron Bay town centre works team, which would provide ‘ownership over the maintenance of the town.’
‘There used to be work teams; both a north and south team. Whitsunday Council has one, but we are using contractors,’ she says.
The Byron Bay maintenance and risk assessment motion was knocked back and instead an amendment was put forward by councillors Staples and Tucker, which passed.
It asks that Council receive a report with updates on Byron Bay Landscape and Renovation Plan works implementation since 2009, and identify the balance of expenditure for the plan and an overview of annual maintenance funding for maintenance of Byron Bay, including previous specific rate increases, footpath dining and crown reserve commercial funds.
A report is also requested on a risk assessment analysis and disability access of Byron Bay town including the Main Beach Reserve area.
Some councillors were clearly uncomfortable with the mayor dominating the chamber during the debate.
Cr Basil Cameron at one point said to the mayor, ‘Maybe this suggests you need a different approach – perhaps less talking over others and listening would be more helpful’.
At another point, Cr Ross Tucker barked, ‘Mayor – don’t interrupt the speaker!’ Upon speaking against the motion, Cr Tucker said, ‘It won’t be done… and [a report] will achieve nothing’.
Cr Diane Woods also said she was against, and ‘astounded’ with, the mayor’s motion. ‘We have asked for this every year.’ She added that Ocean Shores residents told her they make up 25 per cent of the Shire’s ratepayers and have complained to her about Council being Byron-centric. ‘We need more staff and more money to clean up the filth and graffiti,’ she said.
Cr Simon Richardson, however, offered the mayor support. ‘At least the mayor is trying,’ he said. ‘I can’t recall any other councillors pushing for this.
‘The motion is to ask for an update after two and half years.’ While admitting that staff could be overworked, he says, ‘Councillors have waited a long time for the report’.
In its defence, Council’s executive manager of community infrastructure Phil Holloway told Echonetdaily that since July 2008, more than $334,000 had been spent on improving Byron Bay town centre.
‘This included an accumulative $200,000 from the 2008 special rate variation and an additional $150,800 from Section 94 developer contributions. There is still approximately $27,000 available from this year’s allocation to spend.’
He said a report on the Byron Bay Town Landscaping Plan and Maintenance Plan will be reported to Council in December, detailing previous works completed and possible additional works.