Michele Grant, Ocean Shores
The future of Ferry foreshore remains uncertain since the new Byron Shire Council resolved to include Riverside Cres within the caravan park on Dec 20 and March 14. Effectively handing over around 1000m2 – half the foreshore area – for commercial activity. In December, camping was to be restricted to Xmas and Easter, and the March motion sought to maintain the area as designated open recreational space within the caravan park.
However on March 15, Byron mayor Simon Richardson, Cr Diane Woods and staff members attended a meeting called by Michael Pearce from the Office of the Premier and Cabinet, with Jim Bolger, administrator of North Coast Accommodation Trust (NCAT) and David McPherson from Dept of Lands (DOL) to discuss caravan park licence conditions.
Minutes of the meeting provide ‘a summary of agreed actions and/or discussion points’ including that:
• ‘soft camping’ be permitted on the Ferry foreshore and the use ‘not be subject to seasonal restrictions’
• a 10m buffer zone be established along the foreshore, measured from the top of the riverbank (not medium high water mark as previously) – and that the existing bollards be relocated to define this buffer zone.
So the public retains a 10m strip along the foreshore and the caravan park acquires a 15m strip (part of Riverside Cres road reserve lands) – for year round camping activity. This may seem like a fair compromise, but it’s not a fair exchange of public assets.
The proposed expansion of Ferry Caravan Park and the inclusion of Old Pacific Hwy site and ex-Fins building will add an additional 12,000m2 of public lands to the caravan park, at no cost to NCHP/NCAT.
Is it unreasonable for the public to expect park management to relocate 24 foreshore sites to enable public land to remain as shared open recreational space for park patrons and the public? The foreshore camp sites clearly create a traffic hazard along Riverside Cres and safety issues for park patrons trying to access the river and foreshore.
NCHP is required to provide 10 per cent open recreational space within the park boundaries for park users, an area currently defined along the Ferry’s western boundary and routinely used for overflow car parking.
The caravan park currently relies on the foreshore buffer zone and adjoining reserve lands to provide recreational space for park patrons and in the expanded park pressure on these public areas will intensify. It makes good sense economically, environmentally and socially to retain this narrow 2000m2 foreshore strip for public recreation.
The state honchos have placed Council under enormous pressure to concede the Ferry foreshore for commercial activity, and possibly future sale and privatisation.
Byron Council has received no revenue from the caravan parks since the takeover by DOL and appointment of NCAT in 2006 – money once used to maintain our Crown reserve parklands is now fed back into state coffers. Council also received no compensation following DOL’s ruthless compulsory acquisition of public road reserve lands – valued at $3.8 million.
DOL has reaped huge profits from the inappropriate encroachment of caravan park activities onto adjoining Crown reserve and road reserve lands and now seeks permission to continue their commercial operation on highly valued public foreshore land through Council’s new licence agreement.
Let’s hope our new councillors have the courage to reconsider their position and not relinquish prime foreshore land for commercial activity and retain our irreplaceable public recreational land for public use.