A once-secret report reveals that the controversial takeover by the state government six years ago of four council-controlled caravan parks in Byron Shire was orchestrated because council ‘got in the way’ of the lands department’s agenda to expand its commercial activities, council was told this week.
But after six years of the state government running the parks at Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay, widespread and longstanding breaches of compliance, access and encroachment have yet to be resolved – despite the department labelling these breaches as ‘extreme risk’ in its excuse for the takeover.
Brunswick Heads residents at last Thursday’s Byron Shire Council meeting applauded councillors and staff after progress association and foreshore protection group spokesperson Michele Grant thanked them for their ‘relentless efforts’ in ‘battling the awesome and determined power of the state’ in order to negotiate a fair and reasonable outcome for the parks residents and the community’.
The once-confidential report produced by the then Department of Lands (DoL) was tabled at the meeting in what staff said was an attempt to give councillors insight as to the reasoning behind the decision to resume direct control of the four caravan parks (The Terrace, Massey Green and Ferry Reserve at Brunswick Heads and Clarks Beach at Byron Bay).
Ms Grant said the public release of the 2006 report on the parks’ management ‘finally lays to rest years of speculation’ and provided council and the community with some insight into the department’s justification for the sacking of Byron’s Reserve Trust. ‘Some may be disappointed DoL’s report reveals no salacious slush fund scandals or damning evidence of corruption, fraud or inappropriate dalliances, just the usual casual negligence when it comes to compliance,’ she said.
‘The report is fundamentally a brazen manifesto that clearly spells out DoL’s agenda and ruthless intent to take over administration of Crown parks and other significant crown assets along the NSW coast’ after it had adopted a commercial business focus.
‘The plan is maximise profits for DoL, privatise our prized public assets and disregard any adverse impacts. This is the vision, the future for our caravan parks under DoL’s current management team.
Ms Grant said the many photos submitted in recent years by the community showed the ‘perilous high-risk activities continue with the usual overcrowding, inadequate carparking, traffic, noise amenity issues, lack of open space and “overflow” onto adjoining lands, and the ongoing absence of legally required setbacks and buffer zones along park boundaries, roadways and along the foreshore.’
She said they were issues ‘we are still locking horns over today with park management and DoL, and most remain unresolved in the most recent plans of management’.
‘It’s obvious from the report that council’s big mistake was it failed to share the vision and got in the way of DoL grand plans. This is the ultimate betrayal underlying DoL’s decision to replace reserve trust management with a more malleable administrator.’
Ms Grant said the department’s ‘latest heavy-handed manoeuvre seeking the compulsory acquisition of hotly contested encroached road reserve lands is simply another demonstration of their thuggish, bullying tactics and the complete absence of due process or negotiated outcomes’.