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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Park managers mislead minister

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David D Kolb, Brunswick Heads

I have just read the notes in the Byron Council post for its meeting yesterday (Thursday) concerning its dealings with North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) and its endeavours to negotiate Brunswick Heads holiday parks issues. I do understand the frustration but NCHP are causing the bulk of this while continuing to mislead the minister. Here are a few of the main points of contention from the recorded correspondence.

To begin, NCHP make many claims of potential lost revenue. This may be true; however, they fail to mention anywhere the increase in revenue that they may receive from the eventual development of the new area they have been allocated between the Ferry Reserve and the Motorway.

They get a windfall here but make no mention of it. They also fail to mention likely increases in revenue if and when they refurbish the parks up to ‘standard’. This is never mentioned in their dealings with Council. No mention either of the possibility that down the track it may become freehold. No mention that our parks may at some stage be sold and gone forever.

The ministers will not see these omissions in these records. They also complain about the costs to them if they lose Lot 7005, the land adjacent to Massey Greene and harbour, in that they’ll need to, among other things, build a new amenities block. Their claim is that their costs at Massey Greene ‘could be over $8 million if all associated costs are included’.

They fail to mention that this ablutions block, like much of all the park infrastructures, needs replacing or upgrading in any case.

Someone built this toilet block partly over Lot 7005. Didn’t they do their research? This is old news. The costs are there regardless. This, along with other things I believe, is the reason the state government used to remove the parks from our local council. I guess they wanted the income. This requires investment and true, it needs up-grading

Now NCHP are using this as an argument by quoting excessive costs? The more one reads the more one has to ask, why do they appear to know so little? They also claim in their failing ‘negotiations’ with Council that Lot 7005 was always used as a camping ground, implication being that it should continue as such and be part of Massey Greene Park.

The minister concurred but Council, to its credit did not, but alas, this is all incorrect. It has not always been used as a camping ground. I mean, Lot 7005 was partly water at one time, with a jetty near the main road and a boat slip. True!

They again do not know the history while trying to bully Council and successfully, it seems, the minister, into believing that they know what they do not know. They are also failing to recognise or let it be known that regardless of these claims, times have changed and that what was once occasionally used during peak holiday times (lot 7005) in the past for overflow camping is not in the best interest of the community at large today.

The true history here is that the community turned a blind eye to this camping overflow for a few weeks a year for the benefit of holidaymakers and their own friends who were visiting. They cared for their mates. Then some bright spark saw the dollar signs and likely in collusion with the then-council, sites were marked out, they installed power and water on this ‘Lot 7005’ and wallah, more sites to make money from our public amenity

The public have been complaining to Council when they managed, and now to Lands/NCHP, about this squatting and boundary issue ever since it began over 20 years ago. Squatting does not change ownership unless one can get away with it. Management appears to know nothing of any of this as it hasn’t been mentioned except that it had costed Lot 7005 and the loss of revenue from it that would be about $141,000 per year. If they had actually consulted the community, as they claim, they would have been aware of this issue. Everyone knows but them

Next the Ferry Reserve: Management say that they closed access to the Ferry boat ramp road because of ‘hoons driving through the park at well over 10 kilometres per hour’ endangering the public/campers. This is not a valid excuse to close a road. Have they not heard of speed bumps to control vehicle traffic? They also claim that the boat ramp was never built to ‘spec’ and will have to close anyway. Well, again, sorry, but this is not on, and this argument is not valid.

If we are to go down this road and close all the ramps that were not ‘built up to standard’, then all the ramps on the Brunswick will likely be closed. They are also concerned about the loss of revenue at the Terrace because of the issues there. These are old issues so they cannot whine and claim to be in the dark on this, but they do.

What are they expecting? Is the minister, and it seems he may, going to allow NCHP to continue to not mitigate erosion to the river banks, continue to ignore buffers and all the many compliance issues because it will mean a loss of revenue? They say they’ll abide by the 10-metre buffer along The Terrace road, but not the whole length of The Terrace. What does that mean? They say they’ll not block our amenity along The Terrace road, but ‘security issues’ may mean they’ll have to fence The Terrace. Great news, so how high will it be? Another fight looming here.

They are also complaining that the buffer required along the river to mitigate erosion will cost them too much in lost sites and revenue. Everyone knows about setbacks from banks and riverbank erosion, and against a marine park! Are they saying they had no idea? This is a large business that manages parks up and down the coast, yet they seem to be unaware of what is. Of course it will cost money. Of course they’ll lose sites.

If the minister capitulates to the bullying of this organisation, taking their word without question, the minister will be complicit in bad practice and management of our parks. Surely the minister could be held to account wherever the river banks collapse through mismanagement. NCHP have, and continue to, through their lack of proper consultation and reluctance of any actual negotiation, show complete disregard for our community (read the Council trail of correspondence, it’s a painful read. NCHP were recalcitrant, in Paul Keating’s words).

NCHP have not shown themselves to be good citizens here and continue to cause distress to many members of our community. These are not rent-a-crowds or malcontents who are complaining, but caring people who are trying to have reason seen here.

I sincerely hope the minister, Don Page, will continue to assist the people of the Brunswick, back Council’s stand and lobby for us to have a successful outcome here that protects one of Australia’s little gems from the exploitation of its community’s and its visitors’ amenity. I’m sure many of us are willing to share our village providing it’s managed in a caring and thoughtful manner.

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