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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

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

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Brunswick Heads and its popular foreshore recreation areas and access to them could be fenced off from locals and visitors alike if the secretive state agency running the town’s three public caravan parks has its way with controversial plans now on public exhibition.
Video Sharon Shostak

Bruns locals rail against move to ‘steal’ their access

Hans Lovejoy

Why should visitors to Brunswick Heads have private access to public lands but not residents?

It was just one of many unanswered questions that were again covered on Saturday at the second public information session held by North Coast Holiday Parks’ (NCHP) manager Jim Bolger.

It comes as plans by NCHP to develop the town’s three holiday parks and five Crown foreshore reserves are under scrutiny after being placed on public exhibition just before the busy holiday period.

And like the previous meeting, residents expressed confusion, anger and exasperation as to why access they had enjoyed over generations should be taken away at NCHP’s discretion.

But it was not public access and boundary encroachments that were sore points for locals.

Resident Sean O’Meara told Echonetdaily, ‘the town is basically under attack from privatisation,’ referring to the state-run private corporation NCHP.

In backing the claim, elderly long-time Brunswick Heads resident and father of Sean, D’Arcy O’Meara, says that local NSW Nationals MP Don Page first brought to his attention ‘this scam’ between the then-NSW Labor government and a ‘network of public servants’.

‘He explained to me the danger of how they would take possession of [the public assets], isolating the community and eventually it would become the property of the state government so they could sell it or lease it to people such as NCHP and other similar things,’ Mr O’Meara Senior said.

‘Mr Page said “When we gain power in parliament, we will rectify this, we will dismantle it so it will come back to the local people”.

‘That was an election promise. In government they’ve gone to water,’ Mr O’Meara said.

Mr Page is yet to reply to Echonetdaily questions.

Meanwhile, a closed meeting between Byron Council and NCHP’s Mr Bolger was held on Thursday, presumably to negotiate the long-running public access and boundary issues.

While questions to Byron shire mayor Simon Richardson remain unanswered, Cr Di Woods told Echonetdaily it was ‘very intense’, and as a result of all councillors’ input ‘Council will form a submission for the Crown’s consideration, after it has received legal advice on many aspects in the proposed plans.

‘My desire is to see an outcome for the community, visitors and the caravan parks, that gives everyone most of what they would like, but importantly, it is Brunswick Heads and its residents that need assurance that the village will not become another Noosa,’ Cr Woods said.

‘There is only approximately 1,600 residents, and it would be criminal in my view to destroy their amenity, and to negate the very thing that people come here for and that is the “Simple Pleasures” on offer for families.

‘I believe that the proposed plans will enable the holiday parks to become more expensive (nothing wrong with commercial interests improving their bottom line), and could exclude those people that this community and business fraternity have worked so hard to attract,’ Cr Woods said.

The issue will be raised again at tonight’s (Monday) meeting (from 7pm in the town’s Memorial Hall) of the Brunswick Heads Progress Association, which is also worried about the NCHP proposals and how locals’ amenity could be affected.

Comments on the  draft plans of management close February 21 and are available at http://bit.ly/1kvpYov.

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

 


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17 COMMENTS

  1. That’s an excellent video summary of what’s going on with the caravan park rort in Brunswick Heads. Thank you, Sharon. Should be required viewing for the new trust packed with developers, the bureaucrats who brought about this abomination in the first place, and the look the other way MP, Don Page.

  2. A petition site has been set up for the community to voice their disapproval at these outrageous privatisation plans for Brunswick Heads. Visit the Change.org site at http://chn.ge/1fgggCQ and let the politicians know that public foreshores and waterways are for all to share not just the select few – 175 signatures in 2 days, keep them coming. We can stop this.

  3. It appears that once again private enterprise controls government. The move to close off our beautiful foreshore which has been enjoyed and respected by locals for generations is a serious threat to our lovely family oriented community. There are few places left which we are allowed to enjoy as we have for generations. This is another march fuelled by corporate greed and heaven help you if you are a poor local. I shudder at the future our children and their children will face.
    I am saddened by this disregard for local residents, for the quality of life we have had in the past which is being overridden by the onslaught of the all mighty dollar. We are galloping into a future which has no regard for the people who will have to live in it.
    Cindy Squire
    New Brighton, NSW

  4. Di Woods states there are 1600 residents affected by this scam to steal public lands. Correct, but wrong as there are many, many more residents of Byron Shire who love and enjoy The Brunswick River and the environment of Brunswick Heads and we want to continue too do so.
    We must stop this outrage

  5. Yes, that’s a great video indeed. There’s still a lot of conflicting ‘information’ from both sides that has to be clarified before the average observer really knows what’s going on. It was pleasantly surprising to see what a calm and persable gentleman Jim Bolger is. They could have sent a wolf after all. He appears to be noting the community’s concerns, let’s hope he acts on them.

  6. I will say two things about this. First, most of the people I have met in town who are anti Crown Holiday Parks Trust plans have not even bothered to look at, or read, the new Plans Of Management, they are just reacting to misinformation and hearsay. Second, I have talked to people who have lived in Brunswick Heads for 80 years, and read detailed histories from people, and talked to locals, who have holidayed in the Terrace Park since 1936 and the mid 1940’s. They all confirm that there has never been a walkway or pathway alongside the Simpsons Creek. in fact the bank was covered in lantana and bitou bush, until the Council cleared it and placed the current permanent cabins there. By the way if you actually look at the POM you will see that there are no plans at all to put hire cabins on this part of the Creek, there is only a plan to increase the number by two, next to where the present hire cabins are.

    • Our records show a rough but well used pathway did exist 80 years ago. Happy to talk to your historic sources to verify claims by you or any other residents of the Terrace (‘permanent’) foreshore cabins, who no doubt benefit under the draft plans of management as they won’t be relocated to other parts of the park, reducing the park’s short-term camping yield and the landlord’s coffers.)

  7. Nice video Sharon, but it contains Sean’s usual misinformation, which you didn’t check. You also failed to interview any of the Terrace Park creek bank residents, (very easy to demonise them if the are just an unknown group without faces) and you also failed to interview the members of the Bruns community who generally support the POM, and are actively working with CHPT to create an outcome for Bruns that works for the community. Some of Sean’s misinformation: there is no mention at all in the POM of a 500m2 deck. This is, however, a plan for a hardwood walkway, to allow access for people with disabilities and for older people. Public access is not denied in the Terrrace, it will be available during office hours of 7:00am to 7:00pm.
    The trees in the park are not bound for removal, unless they are a danger to the public. All of the trees in the park where tagged by Council arborists, not by the CHPT. This was to list where they are and to monitor their health. I have spoken to independent arborists and they have confirmed that many of the old coastal cypresses are nearing the end of their life, and are rotten.
    All residents of the shire, and visitors are able to make submissions on the POMs, and help create the Bruns you want. No point in drowning out views different to the FPG, or demonising the manager of the CHPT.
    It would be good if you also mentioned that CHPT manage Clarks Beach Holiday Park in Byron. There has been no complaints about how thats managed or about how it’s been upgraded.

    • Geoffrey, as the owner of one of the few remaining structures (not the land) that are encroaching on the riverbank and block the riverside walkway through the Terrace, I understand why you don’t want to give up your million dollar site. However, the truth remains that you live in a potable home or caravan and there are empty sites no more than 15m away that you can relocate to. You will still have a riverside frontage but you will just have to share this public land with the rest of the community.

      As you are very aware, the encroaching riverside structures have been an issue for years and the previous park managers, Byron Shire Council ruled that these structures had to be removed when the owners moved out to clear the foreshore. All the trouble started when NCHPs took control and instead of gradually clearing these encroaching structures they decided your precedent allowed them to monopolise the entire riverbank. No one is trying to demonise the remaining tenants but unfortunately you have become the meat in the sandwich. The more NCHPs demands the outrageous privatisation of our best foreshore land, the more people like myself trying to save public land must demand they obey the law.

      As to those who support the POM, there probably are some who prefer the Gold Coast style redevelopment of Banner Park but I find it difficult to believe that any one apart from the caravan park uses think it’s acceptable for over 500m of public foreshore be fenced off for the exclusive use of park patrons. The access you refer to is strictly through the back blocks of the caravan park, not along the foreshore and will be closed all holidays and at the managers discretion.

      Quick points
      – No walkway or pathway along Simpsons Creek?? I have been walking and riding along the foreshore for 50 years and still do today. Before the bitumen was laid people just walked along the grass (no concreted path thank God) but the southern half of the reserve had a very distinct and worn track that all the town used walking through the Terrace to the shops, beach, school and Bowling club(It was also a good cricket pitch) The Terrace Reserve has been the towns main walkway for nearly 100 years .
      – Deck is located right opposite the pub 50m x 10m, very clear on plans. Must be raised as it surrounds trees so don’t see how this will benefit the old and handicapped when currently it is a flat grassed area. Deck is also the reason why the pirate is being evicted.
      – POM says majority of trees are “at the end of their life “ and 12 must go immediately. Arborist is NCHPs man not council. Trees are only dangerous if people camp under them and have been there much longer than any campers.
      – No issues with Clarks Beach Caravan Park, plenty of access to the beach – if it tried to close off the main access beside the café there would be similar community uproar.

  8. Geoffry Suthon is incorrect and should check his facts!

    Terrace Park rules (adopted by BSC in 1991) clearly confirm that a “natural” walkway exists along Simpson’s Creek and “is not to be interfered with in any way”. Unfortunately Terrace Park Management interfered with pedestrian access along the riverbank with the construction of concrete slabs (Sites W1-10) in 1998.
    Permanent residents also obstructed public access along the walkway with “unauthorised & non-compliant structures” (see Independent audit report tabled 9 Aug, 2012 BSC agenda)

    BSC ordered the reinstatement of a 3m buffer and 10m building setback in 2000 (in line with requirements of Local Government (Moveable dwellings, caravan parks and camping grounds) Act 1993-2005. Council has reiterated their support for public access in Terrace caravan park on multiple occasions since including the new caravan park licence agreements adopted in Aug 2012.

    Unfortunately NCHP/NSWCHPT have ignored Council directives and not implemented the recommended boundary adjustments in new POMs. Mr. Bolger has refused to reinstate this “natural” walkway along the riverbank during his “info sessions” claiming there is no foreshore boundaries in any parks and he doesn’t have to comply with setback regulations. Permanent sites at risk on the eroding riverbank will not be relocated – because “council didn’t do it when they were in charge”. (efforts were underway when BSC was sacked as Reserve Trust managers)

    Strategic planning is clearly not NCHP’s forte! Why Mr. Bolger thinks he is above the law and doesn’t have to comply with licencing conditions or LGA is perhaps a reflection of his “management style”.

    The Bruns community has been complaining about the caravan parks encroachment onto adjoining lands, their non-compliance and obstruction of public access at Terrace, Ferry Reserve & Massy Greene for over a decade. Unfortunately our Public Trustees are deaf to our appeals and remain defiantly determined to continue operating outside their licenced boundaries.

  9. NSW government legislation clearly protects permanent residents rights, including the right not to be moved against their will. Regulations regarding setbacks do not override these rights. Permanent residents also have contracts to remain where they are, these can be, and will be, contested in a court of law if needed. CHPT is trying, rightly so, to avoid that situation. There is also NSW State legislation that states clearly that in a State significant sight, of which caravan and holiday parks are deemed to be, the building and resident set-back rules do not apply. The FPG don’t want to quote that, or understand it. Unfortunately for the FPG all of the NSW government departments and ministers involved in this issue do understand it. And please bear in mind that all the permanent residents are part on the Brunswick community, and have been for many years. They also have lots of support in Bruns, and are just as much a part of the decision making process over the POM as anyone else.

  10. I should have added that the POM for the Terrace Park does contain provision for removing the permanent residents dwellings off the Simpson’s Creek bank. It’s called natural attrition, which means as the residents pass on or sell up, their houses are then removed from the bank. This is the fairest and most common sense approach, and works for the entire Bruns community.

  11. The Residential Parks Act makes provision for the Termination of site agreements and in most instances residents are entitled to 90 days notice. The park owner may have to pay compensation to cover relocation costs. In February, BSC amended their licence agreement to provide a 3 year timeframe for the relocation of riverbank sites in Terrace Park with NCHP to cover all costs associated with the relocation.

    A comprehensive independent audit of the parks was commissioned by BSC and is included in 9 Aug 2012 council agenda (available online). The report indicates many of the permanent sites fail to meet Local Govt. regulations – including: minimum site requirements, overdevelopment of sites, using hazardous materials that don’t meet fire ratings, inadequate setbacks from roads & adjoining sites, fencing and gardens that obstruct access (also an OH&S issue).

    Permanent residents have erected fences, staircases, gardens, sheds, carports, verandahs and patios along Simpson’s creek that obstruct public access along the legally required buffer zone.
    Brunswick Estuary Management plan called for a 20 – 50m setback along all waterways.

    Permanent residents in Terrace Park have been aware of BSC directives requiring a 3m buffer zone and 10m building setback along the degraded and eroding riverbank since 2000. Surely 14 years is adequate notice – all residents will be relocated to a nearby site no cost to the tenants. It’s a far better deal than many other private renters receive.

    Connectivity is the buzz word in NCHP Plans. The plans propose 2m wide all weather pathways along the riverbanks through our public parks to link up the town. Yet the wider community continues to be denied access along the one section obstructed in Terrace Park.

    So 12 permanent sites and 2 weekenders remain with exclusive use of the riverfront – stubbornly clinging on, without regard for the consequences for those very supportive friends and co-residents and Council who have ensured they’ve got a very good outcome for all permanent residents.
    .

  12. Thanks for the article Hans.The D’arcy O’meara/Don Page revelations about the.”the network of public servants” were unexpected as I’ve always suspected a link between “the network of public servants”and Australian Tourist Park Management…….A company headed by John Tilton a former employee of Byron Shire. .I think his contract was terminated early(cant remember) One of your correspondents alluded to this recently in regards to crown land in Ballina.There’s no doubt there’s a push to privatise crown land.and shut the public out of the negotiations;
    Getting back to the article….the response has been good particularly from Michele Grant and Geoffrey Suthon We all Know who Michele Grant is – who’s Geoffrey?

  13. Sean: yes you are correct that the arborist was appointed by NCAT/CHPT, and not Council, but they are an independent operator, not aligned with NCAT/CHPT.

    Michele: wrong, storage vans, otherwise know as holiday vans, have a contract that states their lease can be terminated in 90 days. Permanents are on a completely different contract, and are governed by different clauses in State legislation. They can not be moved against their will, rules of relocation have now changed, and new legislation, already passed but not in force yet, means they can not be forced to sell either.

    Sean and Michele: we have clear evidence from Bruns residents, not residing on the creek bank by the way, who have lived and holidayed in Bruns from the 1930’s and 40’s, that state clearly that there was never a walkway alongside the creek where the residents now live.

    Johnnyboy: I live on the Simpson creek bank, moved here in 2005. I respond to the comments in these articles as during the time I have lived here I have become increasingly alarmed at the impact on residents health, wellbeing and peace of mind that the huge level of misinformation and vitriol directed at them by Sean, Patricia Warren, and Michele has caused.

  14. Check the Residential Park living booklet – put out by Dept. of Fair Trading.
    The cover states: “Laws about living in a manufactured home estate, relocatable home park, mobile home village or caravan park in NSW.”
    Termination of Residential sites agreements is detailed on pages 32-35.

    Residents can be asked to leave their sites for the following reasons:
    change of use, repairs and upgrading, relocation, hardship or site is not lawfully useable.
    Between 14 days and 90 days notice is required and in some instances compensation must be paid to tenants (though usually not for tenants in Crown Reserve parks)

    I also regularly walked along the Terrace riverbank during the 90’s and watched permanent residents obstruct the pathway. Pedestrians had quite a few confrontations with park residents and Mike Rodgers Terrace Park Manager during this period which is why BHPA took up the case – to minimise conflict and deal directly with Council’s Reserve Trust – who were ultimately responsible for compliance.

    NCHP proposed access plan will continue to generate conflict – instead of providing a separate distinct pathway for public access – outside the caravan park boundary. The public have every right to insist on the reinstatement of pedestrian access along the riverbank buffer zone.

    Permanent residents have no claim for the exclusive use of the riverbank – and never had the right to obstruct public access – they just aggressively took it without regard for the impacts on the wider community.

    NCHP plans to take more foreshore land at Ferry Reserve and Massy Greene. Mr. Bolger believes the ongoing encroachment on neighbours land somehow grants them “existing use rights”.
    No other developer would get away with that one!

  15. I won’t put anymore posts on this blog. but I will say this:

    There is a plan to remove the Creek bank dwellings,its called natural attrition.
    It’s in the POM.
    It complies with current NSW Government Legislation.
    It complies with current BSC regulations, rules and licensing conditions.
    The licensing conditions, and the resolutions that contained them, of December
    2012 and January 2013 no longer exist as they were never signed off on by the
    State Government. This is because they were way out of the scope of conditions
    the Council is able to impose on a Crown land park.

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