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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

‘Dodgy’ Bruns upgrade plans outrage locals

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Jim Bolger, NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust manager took many questions and comments on board from Brunswick  Heads locals on Wednesday. Photo Luis Feliu
Jim Bolger, NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust manager, centre, took many questions and comments on board from Brunswick Heads locals on Wednesday. Photos Luis Feliu

Luis Feliu

Brunswick Heads residents expressed their anger, disappointment and frustration on Wednesday at the state-appointed manager behind controversial plans to upgrade the town’s three public caravan parks and four Crown coastal reserves.

Several local mums were shocked to learn from NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT) manager Jim Bolger that under the plans for The Terrace Holiday Park, public access along the Simpsons Creek foreshore, or even through the park, by which children to walk to school, will be closed off or restricted.

The plan involves erecting a 1.8-metre-high steel mesh fence all around the boundary of that park, shutting out locals altogether.

‘This sends the message that children are not welcome in Bruns,’ one mum angrily told Mr Bolger, while another said the plans put children in danger as they would have to walk along or cross roads during busy periods rather than walk through the park.

A public information session in the town’s Banner Park on Wednesday where the parks’ draft plans of management were on view almost became a public complaint forum over some of the more contentious proposals that have incensed locals, including the blocking of public access along the foreshore.

Mr Bolger said the upgrade works for the three holiday parks and four reserves, which included boardwalks, footpaths and refurbished toilets, were estimated to cost around $10 million and would take around five years to complete.

The much-anticipated draft plans of management for the Terrace Reserve, Massey Greene and Ferry Reserve holiday parks are now on public exhibition until 21 February, along with draft plans for Banner and Terrace parks, Torakina and Simpsons Creek reserves.

Copies of the plans and maps were available for viewing by the public at the information stall at Banner Park presided over by Mr Bolger.

But many locals told Echonetdaily they’re outraged they were not consulted beforehand on what was proposed.

Dave Kolb said the NCHPT had breached its own plan of management guidelines by not consulting with the community as the draft was being prepared, rather than at the end of the process.

Encroachments

Mr Kolb and others questioned Mr Bolger over a proposed new two-storey manager’s residence at Massey Greene park, which they say is outside its operational boundary and intrudes into space/roadway for boat harbour users.

Other issues include proposed campsites on the foreshore at Ferry Reserve on what should be public access way.

One local said, ‘we want this town left in its more natural state, we don’t want to live on the Gold Coast’.

Residents say foreshore boundaries in the plans are ‘dodgy’ and not complying with council licensing for the commercial operation of the parks.

The public is also set to lose its usual access to the popular boat ramp at Ferry Reserve, as well as some parkland to make room for extra car parking spaces in Torakina Park.

‘You have not listened to the locals, you never have and you never will,’ one resident told Mr Bolger, saying his submissions on draft management plans for the parks had, like every other one by locals, been ignored.

Longtime local Ruth Fox told Mr Bolger she had written and emailed park managers many times over the years complaining about erosion in front of her place near Massey Greene Caravan Park and other issues but had never received a reply.

Mr Bolger said he would get a lands department officer to call her.

Former Byron Shire councillor Tom Tabart, who has long fought to stop the parks encroaching on public road reserves and outside their boundaries, said state government ‘didn’t care what the locals thought and would do just what they want’.

Mr Tabart attended the information stall at Banner Park along with Byron mayor Simon Richardson, former Byron mayor and MLC Jan Barham, as well as Crs Duncan Dey and Di Woods.

Mayor Richardson last year told Echonetdaily that public access along the foreshore was a must for locals and tourists and ‘non-negotiable’.

Public cut off

But Mr Bolger and his team have insisted on pushing ahead with the most contentious part of the plans, which cuts off access along the foreshore to locals and the general public.

Many locals told Echonetdaily they considered public access along a foreshore an Australian birthright and for many years locals have lobbied to have such continuous access along the Simpsons Creek foreshore guaranteed.

Longtime locals recall such a pathway along the creek existed all the way to the bowling club before the park encroached on it, and many want to reinstate a continuous walkway along the foreshore around the town as a tourist drawcard.

But Mr Bolger said that during public and school holidays and weekends locals would be locked out of walking through the Terrace park to access the foreshore or get to town and would at other times have to use the internal caravan park road.

He claimed the permanent residents living in up to 15 demountable homes right on the foreshore at Simpson’s Creek did not want the public foreshore access and that’s why he included that in the plan.

This is despite previous commitments to gradually relocate them elsewhere in the park.

Mr Bolger claimed that a 2007 police crime audit was the reason for fencing locals out with the 1.8-metre-high wall, but locals told him they were more afraid of the caravan park tenants, mostly youth, who stayed there during music festivals and got drunk then wandered the streets.

‘I’ve had stuff ripped off from my backyard by some of those people staying in your parks over the summer, so don’t tell us that outsiders (non-park tenants) are the problem,’ one local told him.

‘When there’s a crime in Brunswick Heads, where’s the first place police look? The Terrace caravan park,’ another said.

Mr Bolger also claimed there was no legal requirement for a ten-metre buffer zone from the creek’s high-tide mark to any structures within the park, but locals fiercely disputed this.

But Brunswick’s Foreshore Protection Group (FPG) spokesperson Michele Grant said Mr Bolger’s suggestion there was no legal requirement was ‘outrageous’.

No compliance

‘The issue is compliance. Why does he believe he’s exempt from the law?’ Ms Grant said.

She said the foreshore walkway was obstructed by park sites and permanent residents and that ‘Byron Shire Council park rules (1991) also explicitly state pedestrian access is permitted along foreshore’.

‘The three-metre buffer zone and 10-metre setback has also been a Council requirement since 2000 via various resolutions and is included in the latest park licence agreement [August 2012],’ she said.

Mr Bolger also told locals seeking answers on Wednesday that ‘we can’t meet what everyone wants because there’s conflict between what tourists want and with what the local community wants’.

But several people took him to task on that, saying, ‘we pay rates and we have to have a say’.

One woman then asked him, ‘what’s more important, the tourists or local community? We have to live here. This is also about what we want; we clean up the mess after the tourists leave, we pay rates, we look after this area at our expense,’ one woman said.

Another woman told Mr Bolger, ‘Look what happened to Byron, it’s the absolute pits, full of sick teenagers and alcoholic violence because people like you want to take over areas like this for your own benefit to profit from’.

Another said, ‘Bruns is still old fashioned, and that’s why people love it, yet you want to pave paradise’.

Others asked Mr Bolger if their submissions ‘are going to be taken seriously, because they have been totally ignored in the past’.

FPG member and longtime local Patricia Warren  took a forensic interest in the plans, saying that in terms of The Terrace, it appeared managers were hellbent on keeping the 15-odd dwellings illegally encroaching on the foreshore, to further boost their profits.

Ms Warren said NSWCHPT seemed to be trying to use a clause in a 1986 ordinance of the Local Government Act  ‘to thwart not only the intent and spirit of the that regulation but the longstanding community’s demand for a reinstatement of the foreshore walkway along Simpsons Creek’.

She said the scale of the proposed upgrades of the caravan parks amounted to a ‘redevelopment’ and not as intended ‘to provide time to bring the caravan parks into compliance’.

It appeared to be ‘a politically motivated move with NSWCHPT intending to use the provisions to claim exemptions ‘to do nothing to reinstate the walkway along Simpson’s Creek now or in the future’.

Mr Bolger agreed there was a lot of dissatisfaction and ‘angst’ by locals over the plans, and assured Echonetdaily he would let the Trust know about such a response on the day.

Local residents involved in the Foreshore Protection Group set up a rival stall in the park to outline their concerns about the plans, while others staged a small protest performance.

FPG described the plans as ‘totally contrary to the principles of public Crown land and why it was zoned as such 100 years ago’.

Natural beauty

‘These public foreshore Crown land areas of Brunswick Heads is land that was reserved for all so its natural beauty and recreational offerings were to be kept in perpetuity and never monopolised or built out by anyone,’ the FPG says in its flyer.

‘Astoundingly these “protected” areas once controlled by the conservation-minded Department of Crown Lands is now controlled by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.

‘In late 2013 the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust was established to validate the actions of North Coast Holiday Parks and expand their agenda and business plan across all NSW.

‘It is clear from the new board’s makeup that it too will be nothing more than a development company intent on then commercially leasing these new developments to the highest bidder.

‘The new trust board is chaired by Mr Alan Revell, a senior property industry executive and principal of the Barton Property Group. Other members are Matthew Toohey, a former general manager, property, for Bunnings and Margaret Haseltine, professional board director and former senior executive with Mars Foods.

‘It is understood all the board are city based yet every single holiday park (more than 40 and increasing) they have been “entrusted” with is in rural areas.

‘The fundamental Crown land principles of environmental protection, conservation, ecological sustainability, public use and recreational enjoyment are the exact opposite from what this new trust plans to do.

‘What skills could these people possibly bring to abide by the principles of Crown land?

‘The obvious 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 or profit from.

‘The majority of this land is zoned “Public Purpose Recreation”, but the state 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 recreating on the land and river they have played, swum and fished in for generations.’

The plans are now available on the Crown Lands ‘Have Your Say’ webpage or on the North Coast Holiday Parks webpage. A document with frequently asked questions is also included on the North Coast Holiday Parks webpage.

Submissions can be sent to: NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust, PO Box 647, Ballina, NSW 2478 or by email to: [email protected]

Brunswick Heads women give a melodic voice to their concerns about plans for their town.
Brunswick Heads women give a melodic voice to their concerns about plans for their town.

Byron shire mayor Simon Richardson, left, former Byron councillor Tom Tabart and Cr Di Woods buried their political differences on Wednesday in their support for Brunswick Heads residents fighting to maintain public access along the town's foreshore.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson, left, former Byron councillor Tom Tabart and Cr Di Woods buried their political differences on Wednesday in their support for Brunswick Heads residents fighting to maintain public access along the town’s foreshore.

patriciajan
Former Byron Shire mayor and now MLC Jan Barham, centre, flanked by editor of The Echo, Hans Lovejoy, and Brunswick Heads Foreshore Protection Group member Patricia Warren, as they question Jim Bolger from NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust over the controversial draft plans of management.

 


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22 COMMENTS

  1. !.8m Steel mesh fences? Is this to keep locals out or to keep tourists inside? Why not go a step further and electrify the fences and put up some new signs at the 3 parks… like Long Bay, Pentridge or Alcatraz.
    Why is it we always have to fight in order to get a fair go?

  2. i so hope FNCHP plans to rob Brunswick of their beloved river access are exposed & rejected, so not only wealthy patrons can enjoy the parks & river. thanks to all defending public rights from insidious exploitation.

  3. Lennox Head and Ballina residents take note, Bolger and the newly appointed NSW Crown Lands Holiday Park Trust have now revealed in these plans they believe they can expand their caravan parks 100s of metres into once public parkland and fence off this parkland, waterways, swimming spots and walkways from local residents and communities who have used these recreational spaces all their lives.

    Remember the issue last year with North Coast Holiday Parks desperately trying and succeeding in getting their hands on the council land at the entrance to Lake Ainsworth? (and the interesting business connection that was revealed between Bolger and Ballina Shire GM Hickey). Now they own it they can close off the entrance to the lake whenever they decide and take control of as much of the park and lake as they want.

    At the time Ballina GM Hickey scoffed at these accusations saying this could never happen as it was a public road. Last year Bolger and his Trust did just that in Brunswick Heads and closed off a public road at Ferry Reserve. In doing so they “privatised” a public boat ramp and doubled the area of the caravan park onto riverside public land.

    Residents were horrified and after many unanswered complaints a group of locals removed the roadblock and deposited the barricades back to council as a reminder something had to be done. Astoundingly, one of this group (a middle aged mum) was charged and then convicted of “disposing of stolen goods”.

    North Coast Holiday Parks controls the Lake Ainsworth and Shaws Bay Caravan Parks (and over 30 others) and considering their proposed huge ‘land-grabs’ of public land and waterways in Brunswick it appears much of Lake Ainsworth and Shaws Bay are also destined to become privatised and only accessible to the fee paying guests of the Tourist Parks with locals fenced out for good.

    • Carl Simms is absolutely correct. Jim Bolger sits on his big bulging wallet and [it seems from his behaviour that he] could not give a damn about the locals. He even charged every caravan owner who had to remove their smashed up vans after the tornado struck in Lennox Head. He charged them to restore the ground to pristine grass level. Some of those vans were there for 40 years !!!

      He is … a land grabber and he is ‘best mates’ with some Council GM’s up and down the coast as he used to work for council himself.

      There should be a public enquiry into this man and [North Coast Holiday Parks] !!!

  4. Get the feeling that the “public domain” is being privatised ? What’s next ? What about the streets of Bruns ? When will they be sold off and a new line item added to the Rates Notice ( it’s not a “Bill” or an invoice ). Wake up folks. Once it’s gone it’s most probably gone forever.

  5. Such shortsightedness by … selfish people who have no other interest in Bruns other than lining … pockets… The foreshore does and should belong to the people, who do they think they are?? They can [go] to Goldy where they will fit in nicely.

    • Hi Chris,
      It is already up there…..browse foreshores and you will find reference to stop government ‘privatising’ foreshores….you will see Brunswick Heads
      Please sign and CIRCULATE the link on your network.
      Thanks

  6. Folks, this is AGENDA 21 in the making. Please, please inform yourself about Agenda 21. And it is the councils who will be implementing this UN directive. Common Core is part of Agenda 21. Study and understand AGENDA 21 and how dangerous it is for the common folk.

    BREAKING!! Australian Politician Ann Bressington Exposes Agenda 21 and New World Order!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrdmjBAX0E0

    Agenda 21 For Dummies –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzEEgtOFFlM

    The councils are the gangsters for Agenda 21.

  7. It is a disgrace! Just who does Bolger think he is? He has to go.
    The people don’t want this theft of their rights and access to what is rightfully ours.
    Time to man the barricades and protest! I’ll be there.! We must stop this

  8. NCHP is also planning to erect a large timber deck on the riverbank in Banner Park (opposite Bruns Hotel).
    The deck will be around 50m long and 8-10m wide (no dimensions supplied) wrapping around the Norfolk Pines. The deck includes fencing along the rock wall, overhead lighting, 3 picnic tables and 6 bench seats.
    All the park plans have 2m wide – all weather pathways along the riverbanks (except in Terrace Caravan Park where public access is obstructed by non-compliant campsites!) The proposed path passes right through the new deck. An extended playground will consume remaining land between the housie shed and road bridge leaving very little open space or grassy bank for picnickers.

    Years of neglect and intensified use has worn out the grass around the playground area and along the bank.The blue metal and woodchip dumped recently on exposed tree roots hasn’t helped. There’s subsidence along the rock walls and compaction from cars and foot traffic. There’s also setback rules – 10m for built structures and not much room between the tree trunks and riverbank for a pathway and picnikers.

    Customer and community “resistance to change” was listed as a “constraint” in the POM,
    The simple pleasure of sitting on cool grass beneath a shady tree overlooking a beautiful river clearly escapes our Park Managers. This “existing use” will be relocated onto a timber deck.

    NCHP can obstruct a “natural walkway” along a riverbank with commercial activity and erect structures without reference to the mountains of legislation prohibiting such activity on crown land.

    Instead of seeing best practice in action, NCHP POMs fail to comply with minimum standards
    required by Local Government Act.

  9. The suggestion above, from Chris Kelly, is a terrific idea. change.org is an effective people power tool and the good folk of Bruns should use it.
    With a few thousand signatures on an online petition, you could have more clout and they will have to pay attention.
    We all want Brunswick Heads to retain its current character and I want to be able to walk on the riverbanks and use the launching ramps.

  10. Stop this insanity now, we don’t want you in our town destroying a treasured way of life just so you can make more money [ your greed is a sickness and the Brunswick Foreshore environment is not the place to poison with it.]
    This land is public space and we the public demand a ICAC inquiry into the possibility of Corrupt relationships with local councils, Jim Bolger, NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust manager and the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.

  11. I agree with Carl, Maria and Greg. It’s time to have a look at … what this mob gets away with, thats for sure…
    I don’t know how to get [the proper authorities] interested though.

  12. I lived on foreshore for 10 years in the 70’s, 80’s.
    Back then it was illegal to block public access, has the law changed ?
    Do all residents of Bruns who live on foreshore allow public access ?

    • Good point – what does the law say? Look it up people and study it. Don’t just whinge, do something constructive. If the law still applies (it should) then write a notice to them asking them how their plans will not illegally block public access.

  13. Time for the community to act. Time to organise just like ‘lock the gate’ and lock them out. It is clear that the number of crooks and racketeers are forever increasing. Organise, leaflet the area, blockade n keep them out. Enough is enough.

  14. Protect your parks and foreshore by signing the Change.Org petition. Visit http://chn.ge/1fgggCQ
    Objections must be lodged by Feb 21 2014. For more info visit http://www.savebrunswickforeshore.com
    This is a battle for Brunswick Heads but if North Coast Holiday Parks win, then it will set a precedent and we will soon see this theft of our reserves all along the NSW coast. This is a far greater issue facing all of NSW so everyone should help fight this battle before the war for public land escalates.

  15. Those opposing reinstatement of the foreshore walkway along Simpsons Creek may argue it never existed. Fortunately Jeoffrey Suthon, a long term occupant in the Terrace, wrote in Byron Shire News 14 March 2013 p39
    “Many of these residents (along the foreshore)were invited by the then council GM in the mid 1980s to occupy their sites and told they could live out their lives there. This was done as the public did have access and caused considerable damage, to the creek banks and used the banks and mangroves as a rubbish tip. The residents were placed there to restrict these practices, basically as foreshore guardians.”
    In Public Access at an Ordinary General Meeting of Byron Shire Council, I believe I witnessed Mr Suthon, when questioned by Councillor Di Woods, stating that when he took up occupancy on the foreshore in the Terrace in 2006, he had been advised that he could expect to be relocated. I would invite Mr Suthon to confirm the aformenioned content i.e his letter and advice from Council.
    My understanding is that there are currently 14 occupied long term sites. Two are occupied by holiday vans, two will be removed under the POM (V11 and L120) leaving 12 long term occupanats needing relocation 10m from the top of the riverbank, inclusive of a 3m buffer zone. The Residential Parks Act does not provide existing use rights and I doubt if Ordinance 71 would not give exemptions for any occupant if they arrived on their site after 1986.

  16. I am the Treasurer of the SaveSealRocksCommittee & it appears we have common issues to your group & the other 40+ parks along the coast. We have had dealings with Mr Bolger, & like you find him a very arrogant, non-compromising man. We have seen the gradual ‘gentrification’ of our special paradise over 20 years or so with the final steps about to be undertaken along the ‘upgrading’ justification they tell us me need..
    It is more obviously to do with “privatisation of public assets” emanating not only from our state government but the Federal Abbot government as well.
    Perhaps we need to form a united body of concerned citizens to fight our common threats??

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