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Byron Shire
July 5, 2022

Brunswick wants ‘green corridor’ back

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Sean O’Meara, Terrace Residents Group, Brunswick Heads

North Coast Holiday Parks’ Jim Bolger claims they will lose over a million dollars in revenue if the Terrace Reserve riverbank is returned to its natural and original ‘open’ state with a riverside walking track. He also claims the town will suffer from loss of tourism as well. It is very debatable whether his proposed new ‘flash’ parks will benefit anybody apart from NCHP.

Far from helping the local tourist and accommodation industries (probably Brunswick Heads’ No 1 industry) many of our local accommodation providers and motel owners will be forced to compete with large-scale, cashed-up tourist-management companies whose first objective will be to put the smaller operators out of business. How will local family businesses compete with these mega tourist sites offering brand-new, upmarket, waterfront cabins and the exclusive use of parkland and swimming areas that once all tourists and townsfolk shared? Many tourists won’t bother visiting Brunswick anymore as they will be locked out of the areas they used to come to the town to use.

Byron Bay’s Lighthouse walking track won the 2012 Gold Award (Best Tourist Attraction) at the NSW Tourism Awards Gold Awards recently. This walkway attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists and is a must-do for all visitors. An ‘open’ riverside walking track in Brunswick would also attract thousands more tourists (and dollars) to the town. Such a walkway would be a real drawcard to the town and quickly become a destination point for locals and tourists.

This riverside walk was one of Brunswick’s best features for over 80 years until, during a period of poor governance, portable cabins were illegally dumped right on the riverbank forcing walkers to detour through the caravan park. Many still use what is left of the walkway today but it could be easily returned to its former glory if the encroaching (portable) structures were moved 10m back from the river (as legally they are meant to be) and the entire riverside was viewable and walkable again.

It is pretty clear that the holiday park revenue would greatly increase if the riverbank were clear and open to all instead of being blocked by a dozen riverside squats. All guests would have river views instead of just the select few and the park occupancy rates would increase accordingly. Tourists and locals alike would again be able to walk or ride along the entire river as they went between the town, beach, club, sporting fields, boat harbour, school, pub and the shops. This was Brunswick’s beautiful green ‘peoples’ corridor that was used by all for the majority of the last 100 years and should be returned to this state for the benefit of all as it was intended to be under its zoning of ‘public purpose recreation’.

Some current riverside occupants claim townsfolk are trespassing on ‘their’ land and want the entire riverside fenced off for their exclusive use. They ignore the fact that they plonked their portable home across a PUBLIC thoroughfare forcing walkers into the operational area of the caravan park.

The 12 or so riverbank sites Mr Bolger claims will cost hundreds of thousands in lost revenue in the Terrace Reserve in fact only make around $5000 pa each or around $60,000 all up. This is about the same amount generated by one of his holiday cabins so this ‘loss’ is easily accounted for by the addition of one cabin only! There are plenty of empty sites only metres away that these structures can be relocated to so there will be zero loss of revenue.

No matter what the cost, laws and safety regulations are being ignored and Byron Shire Council has the responsibility to make sure they are enforced.

Maintaining and enhancing the walking track along the entire river from Bayside to Ferry Reserve was the No 1 objective of last year’s Taking Care of Brunswick project that was well attended by a large cross section of Brunswick’s community. Better lighting and the addition of an exercise trail were other ideas that would truly make this one of the great coastal walks of the region.

Mr Bolger’s plans are all about directing the tourist dollar into his pocket and not towards the local businesses. His proposed fences are not just about keeping the locals out of the riverside parklands but also about keeping the money in. Mr Bolger has little vision and is taking the accountant’s stance that more sites mean more income when anyone with half a brain can see the opposite is the case.

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