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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Bruns parks takeover ‘unacceptable’

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An artist's impression of the redevelopment of Banner Park (opposite the pub) in Brunswick Heads shows a more Gold Coast-style makeover rather than the natural character which locals and visitors alike love.
An artist’s impression of the redevelopment of Banner Park (opposite the pub) in Brunswick Heads which locals say is more a Gold Coast-style makeover with decking and formal footpaths, rather than the ‘Simple Pleasures’ (the town’s proud logo) evoked by a natural character which locals and visitors are drawn to.

Luis Feliu

The Brunswick Heads Progress Association has called for the return of the town’s three public caravan parks to local council control, saying the state government takeover of the management of its public parks, picnic grounds and crown reserves is ‘unacceptable’.

Public submissions for the draft plans of management for the parks and reserves close on Friday, 21 February, but already the plans have sparked outrage in the community on a number of fronts, especially the contentious proposals to fence the parks off from the town and to continue blocking public access along the foreshore at the Terrace.

And tens of thousands of people throughout NSW at the weekend read about the controversial re-development of the parks in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald headed ‘Fight to protect idyllic beachside town of Brunswick Heads’.

In its submission, the progress association says it is ‘extremely concerned’ that the newly established NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust set up to look after ‘our most valued public crown land spaces’ has ‘totally ignored the key principles of Crown Land for what appears to be pure commercial purposes’.

It says that as a result, Byron Shire Council should be given back control of the parks’ management.

The association says a three-metre-wide access along all foreshores of the Brunswick River estuary and a 10-metre setback for all built structures must be provided.

Deputy premier and Crown lands minister Andrew Stoner and local government minister Don Page have both gone on record saying they would guarantee public access along the foreshore.

Disgraced former lands minister Tony Kelly, who ICAC said engaged in corrupt conduct, approved the plan for the state to take over the parks.

But the draft plans pushed by parks’ general manager Jim Bolger continue to defy the government and community wishes by ignoring the call to move around a dozen cabins illegally erected on the foreshore at the Terrace, blocking public access along it.

Historical track

The residents say public access along the entire foreshore, via ‘a historical track, which has been in use for more than 100 years’, was blocked in 1998.

The association also wants to maintain 30 per cent permanent resident sites in all three caravan parks to ‘provide much needed affordable housing and add to the unique charm of Brunswick Heads. Visitors say that this adds to the overall security of the park.’

They also don’t want time restrictions on access by the general public to all three caravan parks and for the caravan parks to be given three years to comply with licensing conditions on boundaries and setbacks set repeatedly by Byron Shire Council in the past couple of years.

‘In keeping with the unique character of the town, maintain the historic simple flat grassed parks which hark back to simpler times which allow for traditional picnicking along the river’s edge,’ the submission said.

At the popular Torakina Park near the beach where proposals include a hailstone footpath all the way around, the residents group wants to maintain its natural character, saying they don’t want any lighting or security cameras as ‘lighting will have negative impact on nocturnal animals and endangered plant species’.

At the Terrace Park, the proposed relocation of the playground away from shady trees there is opposed and the submission calls for the footpath along the southern side of Fingal Street which provides safe access to the timber footbridge to be reinstated as it is currently obstructed beside the manager’s office.

They also don’t want any formal pathways or additional lighting there and grassed areas should be maintained.

At Banner Park opposite the pub, the association says it does not want a raised deck as it would be ‘totally out of character, blocks flow of the parks, would attract vermin, litter, maintenance, and overnight sleepers etc’.

The 10-metre setback from the riverbank should apply to all built structures there, they say, including the proposed riverside deck.

The association also wants the present large gum tree there ‘properly tended and maintained’.

Tree removal

Late last year park managers wanted to chop down the majestic river red gum which was in the middle of the proposed decking area, saying it posed a risk to the public, but reporting by Echonetdaily on its fate forced a rethink with some major branches lopped off instead.

At Memorial Park where the monthly village markets are held, the parks trust plans to build storage and hire facilities for water craft but the association says such facilities would be better located near the boat harbour.

Again, residents don’t want formal pathways or additional lighting there but for grassed areas to be properly maintained rather than neglected.

At the Terrace foreshore, the association says the 12 long-term occupants in the caravan park there should be relocated within that park and the several holiday vans and dwellings right on the foreshore must be removed.

The southern toilet block they say should also be relocated away from private homes nearby and a 10-metre road reserve which had been encroached on by the park, impacting on the nearby residents’ amentity, should be reinstated.

At Massey Greene caravan park, the association says it opposes a contentious plan to build a two-storey manager’s residence ‘on encroached land’.

And at Ferry Reserve caravan park, the association wants all of the foreshore, including Riverside Crescent (a public road) up to the mean high water mark, to be available for ‘multi use for the general public and park clientele’.

It also wants to keep the public boat ramp there open to the public and outside the operational area of the caravan park.

Charm threatened

The SMH article tells how residents say the charm and natural character of the town is being threatened by the plans which includes the removal of the popular playground at the Terrace Park and the decking of Banner Park.

‘Residents say the plans amount to theft of public land and rivers from the community for commercial use. They say the public would be denied access to foreshore parklands, walkways, swimming holes and boat ramps used for generations,’ the article said.

During the 2011 election campaign, Don Page, who is also minister for the north coast, visited Brunswick Heads to talk about the park issues as they affected locals, saying he could not ‘support any measure that denies public access to our public foreshores’.

Mr Page also said at the time that ‘Nor can I support the use of the state’s compulsory acquisition powers to acquire Council owned land to facilitate inappropriate development which is opposed by the Council and the community’.

* See David Lovejoy’s editorial ‘Stealing public land’ at https://www.echo.net.au/2014/02/can-don-page-stop-stealing-public-lands/

* Also, see the documentary video on the issue by Sharon Shostak at:

Bruns foreshore parks: one man’s plan against a community vision

The draft plans can be viewed at the Brunswick Heads Library and council offices in Mullumbimby.

Or you can visit the Crown Lands ‘Have Your Say’ website, www.crownland.nsw.gov.au or go to the North Coast Holiday Parks website, www.northcoastholidayparks.com.au/about_us/documents_on_exhibition/.

Written submissions can be addressed to:
NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust,
PO Box 647, Ballina NSW 2478

Email submissions can be sent to [email protected].

For phone enquiries, call 6686 5171.

Cabins illegally built right on the foreshore block access along Simpson's Creek.
Cabins illegally built right on the foreshore block access along Simpson’s Creek.

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