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Byron Shire
February 25, 2024

Federalists or separatists?

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Federal residents have been doing it tough, they say, with no ‘One Stop Shop’, having to buy the old church and the only restaurant closing.

In 2009 a small group of Byron Shire residents were all prepared with their first home owner grants, mortgages approved, sustainable building plans, permaculture garden designs with environmental waste water management concepts, to create Cornucopia Muse opposite the one stop shop in Federal.

Before purchasing the land owned by Solicitor Daryl Quigly, the Cornucopia Muse group held a public meeting in the Federal hall to share their design concept with residents for an opportunity for them to contribute ideas and opinions, and meet the group.

Cornucopia Muse had been looking for a parcel of land that was zoned residential as well as commercial, big enough for about a dozen apartments or small semi-detached homes, with a commercial component on the street side, and space for central orchards and gardens, also with a northerly aspect to enable full solar potential for all buildings. A mix of age groups, singles and families, we were all ready to go after finding the land at Federal that fitted the bill. Even the council were backing us as we would be helping them with an affordable housing outcome for the Shire. As a not-for-profit group of low-income earners this plan offered a fabulous solution to the housing shortage in the Shire, and also a commercial component to make it sustainable. Peter Smith, a lawyer from Ocean Shores, worked many hours weaving his way through bureaucracy and laws to create a community title plan that would fit this particular piece of land.

The public meeting at Federal: There were about 12 of us from Cornucopia Muse. We arrived early with story boards of drawings and plans of the muse, tea and snacks, and set ourselves at the front facing everyone so that they could see our faces and ask questions. Facing us in the front row were Cr Simon Richardson, a resident of Federal and very supportive of Cornucopia Muse, and also our would-be closest neighbour, Mayor Jan Barham and Cr Patrick Morrissey. Cr Basil Cameron from Goonengerry was sitting off to one side separately with other residents of Federal village and the surrounding area. There were a lot of people in the hall.

We had not been prepared for such a barrage of negativity. No-one wanted Cornucopia Muse opposite their one stop shop, that was more than enough commercial enterprise for Federal, they said. They came to Federal precisely because there was nothing in the village. They came from other places and didn’t want anything like that in their village. They didn’t want other commercial things, like community services or stores of any sort. They didn’t like the idea of affordable housing in their Federal village.

A doctor asked if we had a swimming pool could everyone come and use it? Cr Basil Cameron said the land should be a soccer field. Jan explained that it was private land and he could buy it for that if he wanted to, there was nothing stopping him, but it wasn’t actually big enough for a sports field, or a DA might not be necessarily approved for it.

Basil said he wanted council to buy it. Everyone agreed with Basil and said that they always had the use of the land (that was maintained by the private owner), and they didn’t want any changes to that. They said the kids liked playing there, even though there is a huge community playing ground next door with plenty of recreational equipment on it already. Everyone unanimously wanted the land to be left alone and ‘us’ to all go away. No-one stayed for tea and snacks or to introduce themselves. One man said we should not take it personally, as we looked like a nice group of people. A woman said when the people of Federal need anything more than their one stop shop had they are more than happy to ‘leadfoot it’ to Lismore!

From our side there was the feeling of, who would want to live near people so seemingly governed by fear that they could not embrace something new and creative and potentially fun and inclusive?

Now I hope that having had no one stop shop for a while and the pending demise of the one restaurant, that the Federal residents might take this opportunity to experience a moment to dream of what they could have had, and how something a bit different and creative just might have been a fun and an exciting thing in an otherwise vacuous life seemingly governed by fear and exclusiveness.

Chai ‘Cornucopia Muse’ Hicks, Talofa

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