The Terrace Reserve and Caravan Park was ‘occupied’ by Brunswick Heads residents on Sunday, who were joined by Byron Shire mayor and upper house MP Jan Barham.
The mayor and around 150 locals took a protest walk through to see firsthand how much the van park, now run by North Coast Holiday Parks, had encroached on public access walkways and buffer areas along the riverfront.
She told the rally she was ‘shocked’ to see the degradation of public riverfront land since the state government took over its running from Council five years ago.
The state government plans to redevelop the three former council-run caravan parks – the Terrace, Massey Greene and Ferry Reserve – but has been met by public anger with the parks’ encroachment of riverfront land and access.
‘It’s a real shock to see how much further eroded the riverbank is and how much the public have been locked out since we ran the park,’ says the Mayor. ‘We had a recognised management plan for the area but that’s no longer there.
‘It’s such a beautiful caravan park but they are creating a nightmare for the community in terms of amenity, privacy, traffic and access and for what? It’s not for public purpose, not when they are commercialising public land,’ said Ms Barham.
The Mayor, recently elected as an MLC in state parliament, was joined on the rally and tour by several other councillors. She said she would continue lobbying MPs on the issue but urged locals also to write to government ministers about it.
‘This is all about public land and we want to ensure it stays that way for public access.’
Lifelong local Darcy O’Meara told the crowd he was ‘born across the road’ from the park 80 years ago and the Terrace reserve. He said it was his ‘favourite schoolroom’ because the teacher ‘taught us all about nature’ in the open, including a disturbed Aboriginal midden site with shellgrit still visible.
‘We’ll lose our only public access to the beach from here,’ he said.
Rally organiser Michele Grant said a remnant, coastal cypress-pine community in the reserve and other trees had been cut down or branches lopped to make more room for caravans and permanent sites.
Ms Grant also said restricted access had affected local schoolchildren who used to ride through the reserve and park to get to school.
‘The state would prefer to see kids riding, as they did before, to town, school and the beach safely through the park, but when the fence goes up none of that will happen, they will be forced onto the streets,’ she said.
Additionally, she says locals living next to the Terrace have to be ‘extremely tolerant’ every holiday season as people camp within metres of their front gate and they have to bear the brunt of late-night drunken behaviour, due to the lack of proper buffers.
‘When I lived there I could hear them snoring and their TVs on they were that close, yet a promised three-metre buffer was never completed.’
Scooter-bound Sheila Riley, who lives next to the park, told the crowd the redevelopment plans ‘stink’, and locals’ driveways were usually blocked by campers’ vehicles. ‘I had to go to hospital last year and the ambulance couldn’t get in because the cars were parked across the driveway,’ she said.
Marie Stewart, a resident for more than 20 years, said the redevelopment threatened to change the face of the ‘family town, which makes extra money from tourists. The state’s stolen our reserve,’ she said.
During the tour, Ms Grant pointed out areas of riverfront access cut off by buildings or structures which encroached on foreshore and public access ways, as well as riverbank erosion and rubbish dumping on the river edge.
Colin Woodbury, the area manager for the North Coast Holiday Parks Trust, told The Echo that all the issues raised were ‘being addressed as part of a plan of management’ process, which had not yet been finalised. Mr Woodbury denied the public had been ‘locked out’, claiming a section of the riverbank access had been shut off to the public so erosion there could be fixed. He said that as soon as the plan was signed off, management would ‘fix’ the issues with help from relevant state agencies, including the concrete slabs on the foreshore, which would be ‘rectified’ as well.
Image: Resident Terry Hamill was at the public rally on Sunday at the Terrace reserve and caravan park, Brunswick Heads, to protest against the encroachment of the van park onto public access.