A cabin on the foreshore at The Terrace Reserve. The Terrace Residents Group say Council and NCP should act to investigate the effects of riverfront cabins on the environmentally sensitive parkland, riverbank and protected mangrove areas.
Comment by Sean O’Meara, Terrace Residents Group
There is no area in the whole of Byron Shire as non-compliant of council regulations or where there is such blatant destruction of environmentally sensitive foreshore than on the illegally occupied riverbank of The Terrace Reserve in Brunswick Heads.
There is aggressive and continual destruction of the environmentally sensitive parkland, riverbank and protected mangrove areas of the Terrace Reserve and the managers of this parkland, North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) are not only doing nothing to stop it, but they are overseeing this destruction.
This land, riverbank and waterway was once a nature reserve and is currently a marine park.
Having seen the NCHP plans for intensive development of this area, I believe it requires clearing much of the parkland and riverbank areas of protected trees and mangroves.
In my opinion the NCHP plans are not interested in protecting any long-term occupants of these illegally encroaching structures who are paying $100 a week. However the NCHP are interested in using these structures as a precedent so they can monopolise the entire riverbank with exclusive waterfront cabins charging over $2,000 per week.
Council must act and they must act now to clear away or minimise the illegal occupation of this riverbank and enforce a clear boundary to stop the monopolisation and destruction of this prime and beautiful public land and waterway.
There is clear evidence that more erosion and destruction of the riverbank has occurred in the last five years since NCHP took control of this land from Byron Council than in the previous 80 years combined.
Council should also conduct an immediate review of all riverside encroaching structures in the Terrace Reserve as there are only a handful left that contain ‘true’ long-term occupants.
Many are being sub-let, others are weekenders and council should investigate whether any are being let as illegal cabins by NCHP (ie. additional to their approved number).
Contrary to NCHP claims, these structures are all portable and most only need to be moved less than 10-15 metres to available empty blocks to clear the riverbank and begin remediation work to ensure the survival of the foreshore vegetation and the bank itself.
There has been talk by some councillors that they need to ‘negotiate’ with NCHP.
The following points make it clear there are no areas to negotiate in such blatant non-compliance and environmentally destructive circumstances.
NCHP has shown over the past five years they cannot be trusted with this public land and council has every right to enforce its boundaries and environmental protection measures.
Council has little alternative to act against NCHP, as Council has been vigilant in policing similar compliance issues with respect to the general public and developers across other parts of the shire in order to protect our beaches and foreshore areas.
Council cannot be seen to turn a blind eye to exactly the same illegal activities carried out by the state government, when they have prosecuted others for doing the same.
There are many in the shire who could rightly point the finger at council for taking action against them for environmental damage, pollution of waterways, safety concerns or encroachments, yet allowing NCHP to do as they like.
On the foreshore of the Terrace Reserve in Brunswick Heads the following illegal activities are occurring which council is obliged to take action against. Enforcing an at least 10-metre boundary from the top of the riverbank would address most of these issues:
1. The illegal dumping and drainage of caravan waste and detergents directly into the Brunswick River and on public parkland.
2. The illegal occupation and expansion of camping sites well over boundaries onto environmentally sensitive areas and public land. This includes the illegal building of decks, sheds and boating structures on public land and in public waterways.
3. The complete destruction of sensitive mangrove areas for the illegal construction of private boat harbours and private access tracks.
4. Severe erosion to the riverbank due to spraying and encroaching occupants turning the riverbank into their own landscaped garden areas.
5. Severe erosion to the riverbank due to illegal excavation work including building out over the riverbank and clearing stabilising vegetation and trees to improve views.
6. Severe erosion of the riverbank and parkland due to campers digging large drainage ditches onto and down the riverbank. There is no stormwater drainage and at peak holiday times only five per cent of the parkland can absorb stormwater so the rest is now directed in torrents down the riverbank.
7. Severe erosion of the riverbank and parkland due to the intensity of camping and human intervention. There has been a 50-fold intensity of occupation since NCHP took this land from Byron Council. Campers are now trampling through mangroves and down riverbanks to store boats and canoes on public land. Up to 500 occupants are being squashed into a sensitive area about the size of a football field.
8. Blatant clearing and cropping of Coastal Cypress Pines to the point that over 50 per cent of the vegetation has been cleared from the camping section of the Terrace Reserve to make way for large caravans and increased numbers of occupants.
The riverbank needs immediate replanting and remediation work and large sections fenced off to stop destructive occupation. There are local volunteers like dune care ready to start this task as soon as the makeshift and illegal structures are removed.
Councillors must view this area themselves to see these actions. This is best done at low tide by walking along the low tide sand. They will then see why council needs to take immediate action.
There have been serious breaches of local and state legislation including the illegal dumping and drainage of caravan waste and detergents directly into the Brunswick River and parkland.
During Christmas 2012, over eight caravans (out of a row of 15) in the residential end of the Terrace Reserve had waste drainage hoses running out over the riverbank directly into the river. Others had drainage hoses running into the gutter-less street and into neighbouring sites and four other vans ran their drainage hoses into the private grounds of the CWA Hall.
This is totally illegal and highly dangerous and never occurred before NCHP management took the park over, as the residential end of the Terrace Reserve was only ever used as overflow primitive (tents only) camping for a few weeks of the year.
There is no proper drainage for caravans in this section of the reserve which is why they were never allowed there. Council records show this section of the reserve is only licensed for primitive tent camping and need to direct NCHP to obey this licence.
A clear 10-metre boundary back from the top of the riverbank will stop campers trying to hide any illegal drainage hoses as they were trying to do over Christmas.
They should also instruct NCHP to remove the more than 50 structures (power heads, taps and fire hoses) that they illegally installed over the last few years that breaks the council licensing agreement for primitive camping only.
A thorough environmental assessment of this reserve must be done to prove what is taking place is totally unsuitable for such a small and sensitive piece of parkland.
NCHP claims that to fix the riverside encroachment issues in the Terrace Reserve, around 14 permanent residents will need to be made homeless.
What they don’t reveal is how many of this group are real ‘long term residents’ and not ‘weekenders’.
They also fail to mention there are 20-plus vacant spots that these portable structures could be moved to and most would only need to be moved less than 20 metres to the other side of the street.
With major erosion on the bank (much of it being caused by the riverside residents) many of these structures are already in a dangerous condition and will need removal anyway.
The unannounced agenda here is that this land is being occupied, rezoned and groomed for privatisation.
The NSW government intends to make billions out of long-term private leasing of well-used public land they have no legal right to use in this manner.
The majority of this land is zoned ‘Public Purpose Recreation’, but the government now argues a town’s riverside parkland can be fenced off and built out completely with private tourist accommodation that provides no open space at all.
In doing so it excludes local families from enjoying recreational activities on the land and river they have played, swum and fished in all their lives.
This land was never meant to be monopolised, built out or privatised and was zoned as such years ago to keep it public and open to all.
The NSW north coast is facing huge population growth and its towns need all the green spaces they have.
To develop these into intensive tourist accommodation areas is against all rational thinking. Developments on strips of coastal parklands that link communities are also totally contrary to NSW planning guidelines.
NCHP wants the few remaining green spaces of Brunswick Heads developed into intensive accommodation precincts that only they will benefit from.