Local government minister Don Page says the controversy over encroachment of Crown land at Ferry Reserve in Brunswick Heads could end up in court.
Mr Page, the Ballina MP and also minister for the north coast, told parliament last week he believed Byron Shire Council and the Crown lands division within his department should have further talks to try and resolve the issue ‘because we do not want this to end up in court, which is a real possibility’.
Mr Page was quizzed on the encroachment by MLC and former Byron mayor Jan Barham during a budget estimates review committee hearing.
Last month, NSW roads minister Duncan Gay told parliament he would investigate whether the recent controversial closure of Riverside Crescent at Brunswick Heads was approved.
The closure with large bollards of the road at Ferry Reserve has outraged residents there who say it blocks their street and access to the public boat ramp, creating conflicts.
They have urged council to insist the North Coast Accommodation Trust (NCAT), which runs the Crown reserve parks, remove the bollards blocking Riverside Crescent, yet to no avail.
The locals maintain the trust had no authority to close the public road, which is also the main public access to a large part of the river foreshore there.
Ms Barham last week told Mr Page ‘the Crown has now taken the area and used it without approval’.
‘Council resolved specifically that the licence would not include the road area. It has now been blockaded, which means that people cannot access the foreshore. That is the concern,’ she said.
In reply, Mr Page said his department was assessing the new licensing conditions for the three Crown reserve parks in Brunswick Heads.
He said council was ‘seeking to impose additional conditions and the Division of Local Government is assessing the situation’.
He said Brunswick Heads locals had made representations to him supporting the council’s proposed conditions as well as ‘representations from Crown Lands about the impact’.
Mr. Page suggests the dispute over the closing of Riverside Crescent by North Coast Holiday Park may end up in court. It is therefore incumbent on the Minister to resolve the long running caravan park saga before serious penalties are imposed on Crown Lands Department and North Coast Holiday Parks over their many breaches of local government regulations and poor management practices in our crown reserve parks.
There is widespread community support for Byron Council’s proposed caravan park boundaries and we would welcome our day in court.
The use of road reserve lands for park activities has created significant safety and amenity issues for park users and local residents. Many camp sites are too small and fail to meet minimum standards. The parks also fail to provide adequate car parking, buffer zones and setbacks and there is a long list of compliance breaches in each park. The environmental impact on sensitive foreshore land has also been ignored.
Crown land managers have had 25 years to ‘upgrade’ Brunswick Heads caravan parks and bring them into line with current standards yet virtually all new works have failed to comply with legislative requirements. The Crown Lands Department believes it is above the law. The pursuit of profits has blinded management to their real responsibilities to uphold standards and ensure best practice in the operation of our crown reserve caravan parks.
We urge Minister Page to endorse Council’s new license agreement and save the CLD the personal embarrassment and financial cost of having to justify their appalling management practices in court.
The compulsory acquisition of part of Riverside Crescent (Lot 10 DP 116954) merely added that land to the Ferry Crown Reserve. It did not carry with it any legal right to use it as part of the operational area of the caravan park. The blatant closure of Riverside Crescent is a pre-emptive claim by North Coast Holiday Park and North Coast Administration Trust.
The former road reserve was 20m wide. Over 50% of its width is grassed and joins the Crown Reserve along the foreshore (Part Lot 2 of Lot 102 DP 851964) to make up the land along the Brunswick River that has long been seen as providing not only public recreational space for both the general public and caravan park patrons, but also forming part of the walkway ALONG the foreshores of the Brunswick River to the Bowling Club at the southern end of Brunswick Heads.
It is imperative that this land is kept outside the operational area of the caravan park. A confidential report to the DOL in Sept 2005 page 30 reads, in part, “the DOL could consider long term commercial leases for each of the four (4) parks.” If this is acted upon, now or in the future, then it is critical, in terms of the ‘public interest’ that foreshore land is kept outside the operational boundaries of the caravan parks.
Futhermore, NCHP and NCAT’s management cannot be relied upon to give credible advice to the Minister, be it legal or otherwise. Consequently, it will be up to concerted pressure by members of the community on Minister Don Page ([email protected]) to endorse in full, the licensing conditions of Council’s 9th August resolution. (Resolution 12.-627)