Managers of Brunswick Heads’ three public caravan parks have been accused of frightening long-term elderly residents into thinking they will soon lose their homes in their fight against Byron Shire Council’s proposed new licence conditions for the parks.
Tomorrow (Thursday), Byron councillors will debate the longrunning battle to retain public access to the foreshore and the dispute with park management over the illegal expansion and encroachment of the parks on public land and road reserves
Earlier this week, park management held a meeting with long-term residents at the Terrace Caravan Park where they were urged to write submissions to Council and local government minister Don Page on how the proposed licensing conditions, yet to be signed off by Mr Page, would affect them.
One of the ‘points’ suggested to them to include was that they ‘may lose their homes and be required to move from the park’ and ‘who is going to help them find another place to live’.
Another suggestion was: ‘You should emphasise that Council has not consulted with residents or the wider community on the proposed boundary restrictions even though they have the potential to dislocate up to 20 permanent residents from their housing’.
Foreshore access campaigners told Echonetdaily that residents, many of them elderly, are now fearful of their future as a result of the meeting, which they say aimed to use the residents as ‘pawns’ in the longrunning dispute with Council.
Residents are reluctant to comment on the issue, but it’s understood that those who moved in after 2000 knew full well the risk in buying in with the foreshore encroachment issue unresolved.
Many of those cabins have long encroached on the creek bank with paving, gardens, furniture settings and private boat ramps and moorings.
A number of them also are believed to be owned and used by absentee owners as holiday homes. Echonetdaily was told that one resident who bought in for $85,000 for a cabin after 2000 said he was prepared to take that risk and ‘enjoy the cheap rent for a waterfront location’.
The state-run North Coast Accommodation Trust (NCAT), which administers the Crown reserve parks the Terrace, Ferry Reserve and Massey Greene, is embroiled in the dispute with Council over the new licensing conditions Council approved in August.
NCAT is baulking at the new conditions, which aim to resume encroached foreshore land to ensure public foreshore access, saying they would impact on the caravan parks’ bottom line with park sites set to be lost as a result.
But campaigners say compulsory land acquisitions and land transfers by the state after the opening of the new Pacific Highway bypass added land to the Crown reserves, and there is plenty of potential room for long-term residents to be relocated in the parks.
The managers also have rejected outright a required three-metre buffer zone along the creek foreshore at the Terrace park, where around 16 long-term cabins would have to be relocated.
At the recent meeting, North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP), which runs the parks for NCAT, issued a ‘fact sheet’ to long-term residents, which points out that around 17 permanent sites would be affected by the proposed licences at the Terrace and Massey Greene.
The ‘fact sheet’, signed by NCHP manager Colin Woodbury, says NCHP has received ‘legal advice’ from the Caravan and Camping Industry Association which lays out the ‘best way forward’.
That ‘advice’ is to ‘negotiate with Council about maintaining the status quo’ and ‘continue to point out that parks have been existing for a number of years and these residents were allowed to build and reside on those sites while Byron Council was the Trust Manager overseeing the parks’.
Mr Woodbury says in the flyer that if Council ‘forges ahead’ with the ‘removal of these road reserves from within the boundary of the caravan parks’ then NCHP ‘have to terminate the agreements for the long-term residents based on the sites’ no longer being lawful’.
He says involvement of the caravan parks and tenancy tribunal ‘would nearly be guaranteed’ and compensation expected to be paid as a result of any removal or relocation of dwellings.
Mr Woodbury did not return calls from Echonetdaily yesterday.
Foreshore Protection Group activists, who back Council’s moves to restore public access, also support long-term residents’ rights, saying they should not be forced to move from the parks.
The FPG has long argued for rules along the lines of previous legislation, which guaranteed that 30 per cent of the parks would be reserved for long-term residents.
FPG supporters recently took ‘direct action’ in removing large barricades from Riverside Crescent in Ferry Reserve, which NCHP had used to block the road and dumped them outside Council Chambers as a protest.
They said the barricades obstructed public access to the road and public boat ramp and were erected without Council’s knowledge or any prior consultation in ‘willful defiance’ of the proposed new licensing agreement.
A negotiated agreement is looking less likely, with local government minister Don Page expected to intervene to break the deadlock between NCAT and Council.