Brunswick Heads residents long opposed to any cut in public access to the foreshore by the managers of the town’s three state-run caravan parks say new grand plans for the parks and public reserves now on public exhibition ignore local input on vital issues such as boundaries.
The bold new plans for upgrades to the three parks, including well-used foreshore reserves such as Torakina, were put on display by the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust and Byron Shire Council just before Christmas, and are on exhibition for public comment till 21 February.
The draft plans of management have been prepared for the Terrace Reserve, Massy Greene and Ferry Reserve Holiday Parks, as well as the four public foreshore reserves (Banner and Terrace Parks, Torakina Reserve and Simpsons Creek Reserve).
It’s the fifth attempt since 2000 to prepare such plans by the secretive state-run body charged with running the parks after their takeover from Council by the state almost eight years ago.
The plans, available online, include four separate documents, totalling more than 800 pages, complete with drawings and photos to reflect the scale of the improvements proposed such as a new network of wide footpaths linking the caravan parks and other reserves.
But residents and members of the Foreshore Protection Group (FPG), which has long monitored the running of the parks, say the new plans remain contentious by ignoring Byron Shire Council licensing conditions on such vital issues as park boundaries, use of foreshore and encroached lands.
The new conditions were adopted by Council on 9 August.
FPG convener Michele Grant says the plans have no reference to Byron Council’s new licence conditions, which included new ‘negotiated’ park boundaries.
‘Once again park management has sought to maximise park encroachments and ignored the legal requirement to implement a three-metre foreshore buffer zone in Terrace Park to enable public access along the riverbank,’ Ms Grant told Echonetdaily.
‘Access is clearly important as the plans propose new formalised designated pathways around adjoining public parklands in Torakina, Terrace, Banner and Memorial parks.’
Longtime Brunswick Heads resident Patricia Warren says the new plans show the ‘utter contempt’ the NSW government has for Byron Shire Council’s resolutions on the parks’ agree operational boundaries.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson, who has been involved in negotiations with the state agency on the draft plans, recently told Echonetdaily that public foreshore access around all the Brunswick Heads waterways was ‘non-negotiable’ and he intended sticking to that.
Ms Grant said the plans also proposed to build a new two-storey manager’s residence and cabin precinct on disputed land at Massey Greene.
She said that, importantly, Ferry foreshore had not been retained for public recreation and ‘access to the public boat ramp will remain at the discretion of park management’.
‘Park management has again chosen to ignore community preferred outcomes and is intent on pursuing maximum profits without regard for the social or environmental impacts,’ she said.
The plans also propose improved public facilities including new playgrounds at Banner and The Terrace parks.
One of the most visible aspects of the proposed upgrade will be at the popular Torakina Reserve near the river mouth, where extra car parking, a new amenities building, picnic shelters and barbecue facilities are proposed to be built.
The plan also proposes to build a new foreshore walkway around the reserve’s perimeter to open it up more for public use.
Interestingly, the draft plan includes a ‘community safety audit’ of the Torakina Reserve/Banner Park area which shaped some of the recommendations, but it was conducted more than seven years ago.
The audit highlighted potential trouble spots, saying Torakina Park has no ‘activity generators to encourage legitimate use of the area’ and that ‘as a result it enables large groups of youths to congregate that often intimidate and keep other people away’.
It also noted an overall lack of ‘connectivity’ for pedestrians in the town with a lack of pedestrian facilities and others that are ‘confusing’ and make it ‘difficult to walk to other locations’.
The audit recommended wider footpaths.
It also said the ‘wooden bridge for vehicles’ was ‘often used by youth to jump off into the water, which can be dangerous’.
Ms Warren said under the draft plans, the old Fins restaurant building ‘is to be reconfigured as dormitory-style accommodation on the ground floor, with self-contained units on the second floor, shared amenities, a common room and guest lounge’.
‘The document labels this as “group accommodation” but it is a hard to imagine this as [anything] other than backpacker accommodation,’ she said.
‘It will be left to the Reserve Trust to determine whether or not a member of the public can continue to use the public boat ramp.
‘Such discretionary power in the hands of any manager prone to a short fuse and poor public relations skills would be devastating for those who have conventionally used the boat ramp to launch their tinnies.’
Ms Grant said a public meeting would be held later this month to discuss the proposed plans and prepare public submissions.
Chairman of the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust,Alan Revell, said in a release issued this morning that ‘the Trust understands that the ongoing use and management of Crown Land is an important issue for not only the people of NSW but also for the communities in which the Land is located’.
Mr Revell said the Trust board was ‘committed to ensuring that local communities, businesses and organisations, visitors, tourists and importantly users are both well informed and able to comment on the draft Plans for the upgrade of Holiday Parks and public recreation Reserves in their area.
‘The directions outlined in the draft plans of management will underpin the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the Holiday Parks and importantly Reserves into the future’, he said.
‘In doing so, the draft plans will ensure the Holiday Parks are able to provide needed funding for environmental projects in local reserves, community infrastructure and recreation facilities.
‘Ultimately they will provide a sustainable environmental and continuing economic asset for the community, visitors to the region and the people of NSW now and for future generations to come.
‘Without the economic support of the Holiday Parks the sustainability of Reserves would be in question,’ he said.
Mr Revell said that in preparing the draft plans, the board ensured that feedback received from the community and stakeholder groups following the exhibition of a previous draft Plan of Management in 2010 were considered.
To view the plans, visit www.northcoastholidayparks.com.au and click on About Us then Documents on Exhibition or the Crown Lands ‘Have Your Say’ web page at http://www.crownland.nsw.gov.au/. Hard copies are available at the Brunswick Heads Library.
Information sessions, with Trust staff available to answer any questions, will be held in Banner Reserve on Wednesday 15 January from 4pm-7pm coinciding with the fireworks night and 1 February 2014 from 9am-12 as part of the local market.
Written submissions should be sent to NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust, PO Box 647, Ballina NSW, 2478, or by email to: [email protected]