Byron Shire Council is sticking to its guns in its fight against a land grab by the state-run managers of Brunswick Heads’ three Crown reserve caravan parks in the face of locals’ fears the parks could be leased to private operators in the future.
But in a conciliatory move last Thursday, Council has paved the way for the mostly elderly long-term residents of cabins illegally encroaching on the foreshore to be relocated over time so as not to greatly impact on them.
Around 14 permanent residents of The Terrace Caravan Park are affected by Council’s new licensing conditions for the parks, which aim to maintain a three-metre foreshore buffer for public access right along the foreshore.
The North Coast Accommodation Trust (NCAT), which administers the public parks, is refusing to accept Council’s new licensing conditions, claiming they had not been consulted and would lose some cabin sites at The Terrace, Massey Greene and Ferry Reserve caravan parks.
But the parks, which already take up the bulk of the village’s public foreshore land, have expanded over the years with illegal foreshore and road-reserve encroachments.
The Ferry Reserve caravan park’s size has been substantially increased with old Pacific Highway land and the old Fins restaurant building included in its new boundaries.
The row erupted recently when NCAT used barricades to close off Riverside Crescent at Ferry Reserve, enraging locals who said it blocked access to a public boat ramp.
The locals took ‘direct action’ in protest and removed the large barricades and dumped them outside council chambers in Mullumbimby.
At Council’s meeting last Thursday, Foreshore Protection Group (FPG) spokesperson Patricia Warren urged councillors to ensure public foreshore access along the Brunswick River and its tributary Simpsons Creek was kept outside the operational area of the caravan parks.
Ms Warren said this would give ‘some certainty that in the event of the long-term commercial leasing of the parks access along the foreshore is retained for public use’.
She said there was widespread community support for the proposed caravan park boundaries in Council’s licence-renewal agreement with NCAT.
The longstanding issues over the boundaries, setbacks and non-compliance were addressed by Council in August with the proposed new licence renewals after 15 years of talks between council and park management and Brunswick Heads residents.
Ms Warren told a packed council chambers that NCAT could now not take the position ‘that it was merely “formalising” existing arrangements as though there has not been consistent opposition’.
‘The concerns of the permanent (park) residents will be addressed in the forthcoming plans of management where lobbying will continue to retain 30 per cent of sites for permanents.
‘We are aware that NCAT will, with Council’s licensing conditions, lose income-generating sites. But the affected sites are either/or on illegally encroached lands, in violation of legislative setbacks, or operating in violation of conventional licensing conditions.
‘What has been deliberately omitted by NCAT is that even after satisfying Council’s licensing conditions, the operators will have, because of compulsory acquisitions and land transfers to the Crown reserves, the opportunity to expand its future operational areas.
‘Thus, the notion of the economic viability of the caravan parks is a feign threat that deserves to be put aside.
Mrs Warren made a number of suggestions for amendments to the licensing conditions in order to help NCAT ‘overcome some of its non-compliance problems’, some of which Council took on board.
Mayor Simon Richardson succeed in his move reaffirming the August resolution and licence conditions.
‘Both residents and staff are clear about where we need to be. Our obligation is to create boundaries and licence conditions,’ he told councillors.
‘The foreshore area of each park must remain in public hands for unimpeded public access,’ Cr Richardson said.
The motion allows for the relocation of vans and mobile homes on the offending foreshore sites to be ‘planned now but executed as and when the long-term permanent resident vacates or chooses to relocate to an alternative suitable site within the park (ie residents personally occupying a permanent site as of park handover date in 2007 should remain undisturbed and their structure be relocated on their leaving the site, or before if the resident so asks, at park expense)’.
The motion also calls on NCAT and the Division of Local Government to defer development within the foreshore parklands (public reserves) at the Terrace and Banner Park, pending further talks with stakeholders.
FPG spokesperson Michele Grant praised Council, saying, ‘Why is it so hard to move mobile dwellings in a caravan park?’
‘There is clearly room as over 10 permanent sites have been vacated and NCAT is now leasing foreshore vans on a short-term basis,’ Ms Grant said.
‘A quick tour of the Terrace Park confirms the appalling state of riverbank with some vans/verandahs about to topple into the river.
‘It’s time NCAT dealt with their high-risk occupational health and safety problems instead of bleating about lost revenue.’