Just over a year ago, Byron Council adopted new licence agreements for the Brunswick Heads Caravan Parks.
The licence agreements for The Terrace, Massey Greene and Ferry Reserve included clearly defined park boundaries and new conditions that many in the community hoped would finally end the decade-long dispute with Park Management over encroachments, non-compliance, access and amenity issues.
Unfortunately North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) refused to concede to the new licence conditions and has willfully continued to operate and undertake new works on disputed lands.
It has been changing and intensifying the use and maximising park revenue without regard to regulatory standards and clearly exacerbating adverse impacts.
Park management has never been willing to negotiate caravan park boundaries and appears determined to retain all encroached lands for park use, regardless of the impacts or Byron Shire Council and community preferred outcomes. There was no consultation or opportunity to negotiate boundaries during the land exchange proposal in 2010.
The ‘compulsory acquisition’ of road reserve land valued at $3.8 million has been forcibly imposed on our community by minister Andrew Stoner, without any financial compensation to Council and now the minister threatens to undermine Council’s determination of caravan park boundaries.
Deputy Premier Stoner should have extended his regional tour to include the Brunswick Heads caravan parks before proclaiming recently that NCHP are good ‘managers’.
NCHP has failed to improve standards and address longstanding compliance and OH&S concerns.
Many short term sites fail to comply with minimum requirements and reinstating public access along the legally required foreshore buffer zone in Terrace Park is still being fiercely resisted by our Crown land managers. It appears NCHP is above the law in refusing to comply with local government regulations.
NCHP has failed to address environmental concerns and is currently threatening to chop down an endangered and protected community of coastal cypress pine trees remaining in Terrace Park.
A Lennox Head contractor was recently fined $1,200 for removing a significant mature native tree from the seriously neglected and degraded foreshore adjoining Ferry caravan park.
It was also provocative and inappropriate for Ferry Park managers to place barricades across Riverside Crescent, brazenly defying new park licence conditions that retained ferry foreshore, the boat ramp and roadway for public use.
Park management took it upon themselves to close a public road during sensitive boundary negotiations, without informing Council or providing the required public notification and signage.
We’ve yet to see any evidence of best practice from our Crown land managers.
Apparently the only performance indicator used by Deputy Premier Stoner in his assessment of NCHP is an increase in park revenue since 2007.
Unfortunately ‘commercial in confidence’ embargoes make it impossible for the general public to assess these spurious claims.
Instead our community has endured the flagrant disregard for due process and statutory requirements, the resistance to compromise or negotiated outcomes and the thuggish, bullying determination to impose the state government’s expansionist, profit seeking agenda, regardless of the impacts.
Bruns Foreshore Protection Group has so far incurred over $3,500 in legal expenses following our intervention to retain Ferry foreshore for public use.
After removing the unapproved/unauthorised obstruction on Riverside Crescent and returning the offending barricades to Byron Council, the Police swooped in.
The charge of ‘disposing of stolen property’ is a conviction this convict will wear with pride.
Unfortunately it appears the police were more eager to crack down on aged ‘vigilantes’ and failed to investigate our serious allegations concerning the status of the road closure or determine whether it was appropriately authorised and approved.
A matter the court also refused to consider in determining my guilt.
Council’s request for the removal of the barricade was refused last September and no further action has been taken.
A year later the road remains closed, Ferry Park remains unlicensed and we’re awaiting new plans of management for the caravan parks.
Sincere thanks to the many friends and supporters who have generously contributed to our fighting fund.
We’re hoping to raise enough to develop our ‘community preferred’ plans to exhibit alongside NCHP and need your help.
Donations can be made to Foreshore Protection Group at Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062665, Account No: 10155801.
Michele Grant, Foreshore Protection Group