Michele Grant, Foreshore Protection Group
Byron Shire Council and our community have been trying to resolve encroachment, compliance, access and amenity issues in Brunswick Heads caravan park boundaries since 1998.
We’ve never been in any doubt about the Department of Lands’ preferred boundaries; they’ve been widely promoted in plans of management (PoMs) on five separate occasions in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2010.
Park management has spent the last decade trying to consolidate their claim on hotly contested encroached lands to maximise park profits, without any regard for the impacts on neighbours or the wider community, or the sensitive foreshore environment.
Our input on PoMs has been limited to submissions during the exhibition periods and we’ve never been consulted during any preparation stage; and we’ve repeatedly complained about the quality of the maps provided.
None of Council’s or the community’s preferred boundaries have appeared in these PoMs and recommendations have been repeatedly ignored.
The Lands Department, like the RTA and the Planning Department, is a powerful bureaucracy that appears to be a law unto themselves.
They don’t believe they have to comply with Local Government Act (LGA) legislation or uphold established standards like other developers.
No minister has ever been game enough to endorse their PoMs for The Terrace or Massey Greene caravan parks.
Many of the structures built during the 1990s, such as toilet blocks, roadworks and cabins, all failed to comply with LGA, and many new works since 2000 have slipped through without Council’s knowledge or approval, including the 2007 licence agreement.
I appreciate that Council is under considerable pressure to acquiesce to North Coast Accommodation Trust’s (NCAT) request for a 12-month extension to the 2007 licence agreements for the caravan parks.
Despite all the big honchos signing off on the deal – Council’s GM Ken Grainger, David McPherson of the Land Planning Management Authority (LPMA), and Jim Bolger of NCAT – Council was under no obligation to endorse this proposal.
We do not support NCAT’s request for Council to validate and detail the extended boundaries alluded to in the 2007 licence agreement, which Council has never previously endorsed or supported.
We believe the signed agreement will allow NCAT to continue to disagree with Council’s proposed boundaries and enable them to push ahead with the inclusion of extended park boundaries in the new PoMs, with or without Council’s agreement.
Council had its chance last Thursday to firmly stop this and clearly direct NCAT to adopt the new boundaries detailed in the new licence agreements.
The Office of the Premier has suggested there has been inadequate consultation.
Mr Woodward, the chief executive Local Government Division, wrote a stern letter to Council late last year saying he was ‘concerned that the council has not formally consulted with NCAT as it would appear that the additional conditions, if imposed, would have significant implications to the current operation of these caravan parks’.
But the only significant implication is a perceived loss of revenue that is more than adequately compensated by the inclusion of 1.5 hectares of prime foreshore land through the RTA handover of the old highway at no cost to NCAT.
A year earlier, in March 2011, during the proposed land exchange boundary ‘negotiations’, the Foreshore Protection Group received a letter from Mr Woodward, where he makes a completely contradictory claim that he was ‘aware these proposals have been the subject of lengthy negotiations between Council and LPMA as have the contents of the draft plans of management’, but he then buck-passes any responsibility to address community concerns.
You can’t have it both ways, and it’s clear the debate over park boundaries has been raging for years and LPMA has absolutely refused to negotiate.
We believe Council’s proposed new boundaries and licence conditions address a range of compliance and encroachment issues and well-documented community concerns, issues yet to be acknowledged, or effectively addressed, by NCAT or LPMA.
Council’s new licence conditions have the widespread support of the local community, which successive PoMs have yet to achieve.
Last Thursday, Council was urged to end the boundary negotiations and insist on the implementation of new licence agreements, which we believed was a fair and reasonable proposal that would be very difficult for local government minister Don Page to refuse.
But majority councillors failed to listen to their community and endorsed the 12-month extension.