Brunswick Heads residents have welcomed Byron Shire Council’s move to regain public access along the riverbank at the Terrace Caravan Park, which had been encroached on by dwellings and other structures for years.
The decision means around 16 permanent residents have to be relocated off their prime foreshore sites within three years, with cabins and other infrastructure set back 10 metres from the top of the riverbank (Simpsons Creek).
The administrator of the town’s three Crown-reserve holiday parks, the North Coast Accommodation Trust (NCAT), now has to ensure the setback, plus a three-metre foreshore buffer zone, is implemented in that time.
The foreshore area of the park includes much unauthorised construction of carports, garden sheds, verandahs, patios, rock walls, hard paving, staircases, exotic gardens and boat moorings, which Council says exacerbates erosion.
Last Thursday Council, which sets the licensing conditions for the parks, rescinded an earlier decision that had given the permanent residents in the cabins encroaching along the foreshore at the Terrace choice as to when to relocate, which critics say was too open-ended.
Some of the cabin residents spoke against the move, one even asking for lifetime tenure, but Foreshore Protection Group (FPG) speakers told councillors the proposal was a fair and reasonable outcome negotiated by all stakeholders over several years.
‘Residents have long enjoyed the privilege of living on the riverbank, but this prized public asset is for all people to share and care for,’ FPG spokesperson Michele Grant said.
‘Reinstating public access along the foreshore is long overdue; it’s time land managers and residents bit the bullet and accepted the facts. It’s important for their safety and for public amenity that their sites and dwellings actually comply with current regulations,’ Ms Grant told Council.
FPG campaigners say several dwellings along the foreshore are in ‘clear and present danger’ of collapsing into the river.
Council reports back this up, citing severe erosion exacerbated by the impacts of residents and campers, as well as the obvious non-compliance and safety hazard of the foreshore sites.
Ms Grant said, ‘every effort has been made to ensure affected residents are relocated within the park whether in their current dwelling or a new one’.
‘North Coast Holiday Parks management is responsible for the relocation expenses and the development of new plans of management will enable permanent residents to be involved in the selection of alternative sites,’ she said.
Council also agreed to include the old Pacific Highway site and ex-Fins restaurant building within the Ferry Reserve Caravan Park, which adds more than 1.2 hectares of riverside land to that park.
Ms Grant said that would ‘more than adequately compensate for any perceived loss of sites or revenue from the proposed boundary changes’.
The council decision also retains the existing Ferry Reserve foreshore and walkway, previously part of the Roads and Maritime Authority land, as open recreational space for public use.
Ms Grant said public access and signage to the public boat ramp there will also be provided.
Riverside Crescent, which had been controversially barricaded off by park managers recently, would be included within the caravan park boundaries but Ms Grant said it was uncertain whether camping would be permitted during peak holiday periods on the Ferry Park foreshore.
At the Massey Green Holiday Park, the boundaries have shifted slightly with road-reserve lands included and part of the land adjoining the boat harbour retained for public use.
‘Overall it’s a great outcome for the community. Council has finally taken real steps to resolve longstanding encroachment, compliance and access issues that have plagued the parks for over a decade. The new licence conditions are fair and reasonable, enough to satisfy all stakeholders,’ Ms Grant said.
The new licence conditions were adopted, with Cr Sol Ibrahim the only one voting against them.