There once was a time in Byron Shire where the tale of an irate developer cussing at a councillor standing up for koalas in a council meeting would make the front page of any independent thinking newspaper. This is no longer the case as perplexed readers of the letters pages may have come to realise in recent weeks. Has social media so overwhelmed our culture that even newspapers require participants to post the story from their own perspective with no independent reporting or analysis?
Yes, I am the councillor who asked the difficult questions about koalas that Cr Dey and Mr Noble have referred to in recent letters. So what happened?
During public access a researcher from the University of Queensland representing Bluesfest gave an optimistic assessment of koala behaviour and prospects. This seemed at odds with the well-documented deaths and dislocation of koalas at Tyagarah. The researcher was speaking on the proposed Koala Plan of Management, the aim being to delay adoption of the plan until commentary around koala management at festival sites was either removed or modified on the basis of this more positive assessment.
However, my questions revealed that the speaker had little experience with the Tyagarah koalas, had not reviewed all documents and was unaware of a January 2011 Council report critical of koala habitat management at the Bluesfest site. Mr Noble took exception to these questions as they clearly lowered the credibility of his preferred ‘scientific findings’. His angry outburst towards me was ruled unacceptable and only quelled when the mayor threatened to have him ejected.
The real story behind the 7–2 vote to defer the plan is that the increasingly vulnerable koala population in our shire remains the biggest loser.
Byron Shire councillor Basil Cameron