The first six months of 2012 as seen through the eyes of our reporters
Compiled by Chris Dobney
The year started dramatically, with a report on 4 January that a psychotic killer had been found asleep in a car at Byron’s Arts & Industry Estate after having escaped from a Sydney psychiatric institution where he had been admitted after murdering a man during a sex tryst gone wrong in a public park.
On the same page, we reported the tragic tale that a Mullumbimby local (later identified as motorised-bicycle builder John Foss) was killed in a hit-run accident that was subsequently found to be a murder.
On January 12, in the first of many articles on the subject of coal-seam gas for the year, we revealed that the government was set to spy on CSG protesters. Federal energy minister Martin Ferguson had bowed to the wishes of energy companies at the expense of local communities, and not for the last time.
On the same day we ran the first of many articles calling for state government to intervene over the Tweed’s contentious Kings Forest development.
Also in January
But it’s a case of ‘not a drop to drink’ for Tweed residents when the Bray Park water treatment plant fails after the flooding cause an electrical fault.
At the end of the month Wilsons Creek Road becomes another casualty when a landslip caused by the floods closes half the road (still closed!)
As the month opened, so did the state Planning Assessment Commission’s public hearings into whether Splendour should be allowed to conduct festivals at its North Byron Parklands site. Despite its location adjacent to the Billinudgel Nature Reserve causing concern among environmentalists, the Commission approved the development, leading one wag to tag it the Pass Anything Commission.
Two fires in associated Lismore wrecking businesses prompted a police arson investigation, with suggestions a bikie gang may be involved.
Another victim of the floods was Byron’s Sporting and Cultural Centre, which despite being finished had major problems with waterlogged grounds and lack of a management company. The hold-up caused grief for Byron’s Little League.
But the month ended on an up beat as a controversial Hastings Point Development was finally canned.
And an iconic Ballina fig tree was saved from the chop.
Also in February
Echonetdaily’s own Mungo MacCallum has his book launched by Kerry O’Brien.
Inghams announces more than 80 job losses at their Byron plant (formerly Sunnybrand).
MacDonald’s is approved for a development at South Murwillumbah despite resident consternation. At the end of the year, a proposed KFC at Byron would provoke similar outrage.
Longtime Ballina mayor Phil Silver announced he would not contest the September election, signalling the start to a long council election season.
Work commenced on Kingscliff’s long-awaited rock revetment wall . The project has an ultimate estimated cost of $5–8 million.
An inaugural free beachside film night as part of the Byron Bay Film Festival proved hugely popular, no doubt pumped up by the unannounced appearance of Jack Johnson on stage.
A NSW Aboriginal Land Council bid for a petroleum prospecting permit in the Tweed-Byron region met with substantial opposition, including from local land councils, which had not been consulted. The ALC initially denied the permit was for CSG.
And Byron’s much-debated ‘two-major-event’ music policy went on exhibition.
Also in March
Byron mayor Jan Barham is slapped with a ‘code of conduct’ complaint.
Lismore councillors back away from an alleged ‘take-over’ of the Richmond Tweed Library Service.
Ballina mayor Phil Silver uses his casting vote to push through a controversial Lennox foreshore land sale.
Tweed councillors deny their constituents the right to vote for mayor.
A spate of alcohol-fuelled street attacks in Byron Bay’s CBD saw police and local traders call for the installation of CCTV cameras but Byron Council declined. Debate around how to deal with the violence still continues while the attacks themselves spiral out of control.
A group of angry residents occupied a soon-to-be sold piece of Ballina Council foreshore land at Lennox Head to the North Coast Accommodation Trust for $1.3 million, reportedly a fraction of its real value.
Lismore Council announced it would conduct a poll of residents on election day to ascertain whether or not they support coal-seam gas mining in the LGA.
Also in April
On Friday 13 it emerges that Rally Australia still owed Tweed Shire Council more than $100k.
Splendour in the Grass has its North Byron Parklands site approved.
Tweed’s long-serving GM Mike Rayner calls it quits.
Byron places its draft market policy on exhibition following community outrage over the original proposal.
In many ways May was the month of the koala. Hopes for the north coast’s dwindling population were boosted by a $2 million grant to restore koala habitat after the federal government’s declaration of the marsupials as threatened.
Also in May, Lismore became the first local council to adopt a Koala Plan of Management.
And Tweed campaigners seized the chance to lobby the state for endangered status for the shire’s 144 remaining koalas.
May was also the month that the methane hit the fan. Planning minister Chris Hartcher gave the green light to the coal-seam gas industry in the state at a meeting of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association in Adelaide.
The announcement came just days after a massive rally of more than 7000 people at Rock the Gate in Lismore.
Also in May
The federal government promises $60 million towards the redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital.
Byron mayor Jan Barham conducts a one-woman on-site protest against her own council staff’s decision to cut down 87 trees along Broken Head Road.
Mullumbimby sees the first of a series of protests against the removal of the overnight doctor service at the town’s hospital.
The trial of Lennox Head man Warren Purtill for the murder of Byron businessman Jack Garda begins in the Supreme Court. Purtill is later convicted.
Despite news of six ‘major’ drug busts in the Tweed-Byron region, Nimbin’s annual MardiGrass goes off without a hitch.
Coal-seam gas opposition steps up after local CSG explorer Metgasco begins operations in earnest. The process of declaring CSG-free communities begins in earnest in Tweed and Lismore shires.
Metgasco is told by the EPA it may be allowed spray treated wastewater on crops.
Dunoon residents stage the region’s first CSG-free community celebration.
A fourth-generation local resident locks himself onto one of Metgasco’s bulldozers at its Shannon Brook test site.
And the deputy chair of the state’s CSG inquiry, Jeremy Buckingham, accuses Metgasco of misleading the inquiry.
Koalas were once again in the news, too.
Tweed koala campaigners urged extra federal protection for koalas in the proposed Kings Forest development by declaring it a controlled action, which was ultimately successful.
But an attempt by Tweed Council to enforce a ban on dogs in the new development was stymied by the mayor’s casting vote.
Also in June
Protesters march to save the region’s hospitals from state government cutbacks.
Doon Doon landowner Bennett Gardner is jailed for 13 years over a 6.5 tonne cannabis crop.
A last-ditch bid to stop the Lennox foreshore land sale fails.
Lismore’s liquor accord shows Byron businesses how it’s done, introducing a blanket banning policy for boozy troublemakers