A petition of more than 2,000 signatures against the rezoning of land at West Byron has been presented to NSW local member Don Page by The Byron Residents’ Group (BRG).
The Residents’ Group also discussed their concerns about the proposed major mixed residential/industrial development. Meeting with Mr Page were Cate Coorey, president of BRG, along with other members Donald Maughan, Suzie Deyris and Wayne Amytage.
Ms Coorey Told The Echo, ‘With over 2,170 signatures – more than half of them from local postcodes – this petition is a true reflection of the community’s wishes.
‘Along with the petition we presented Mr Page with the more than 500 comments that people wrote on the petition; again almost all local people.
‘People are articulating very clearly that this is not what they want for their town.’
‘Business people tell us they are really worried that Byron would lose its unique character; the reason tourists come here.
‘If the traffic was so bad they couldn’t get into town, the tourism industry, our largest employer, would suffer. Mr Page acknowledged such outcomes were possible.’
‘We explained how the West Byron site’s designation as “state significant” took it out of Council’s and the community’s control and how ordinary people felt excluded from the process. But Mr Page told The Echo regarding the ‘state significance’ of the site that ‘The previous Labor government made the West Byron proposal one of state significance in 2009. Even if the proposal was approved, all DAs etcetera would be handled by Byron Shire Council.’
Mr Maughan said, ‘Mr Page was interested to learn that the site was an acid sulphate soils hotspot. We also informed him that when the West Byron proposal was originally on exhibition, the report on Acid Sulfate Soils (ASS) was not included in the exhibition documents.
‘That report identifies over 75 per cent of the land as Acid Sulfate affected. Mr Page has asked us to provide him with more information on this serious issue.’
Wayne Armytage, a Wiradjuri man who has lived in Arakwal country for over 40 years and worked in various support roles in Bundjalung and Arakwal affairs, pointed out his strong concerns for the burabi (koala). He also noted the inevitable impact of this development on the health of the Belongil estuary.
Mr Page insisted that he was very committed to protecting koalas and that he was proud of his role in supporting State Environmental Planning Policy 44 (Koala Habitat Protection). ‘The state government will not be abolishing SEPP 44,’ he told The Echo, despite Mr Armytage’s claim it may happen.
‘It will be retained under any new planning laws.’
As for the Byron bypass, Mr Page told The Echo, ‘It needs to be built regardless of the West Byron proposal and if it is not built, then the West Byron development should not go ahead because it will exacerbate existing traffic congestion.’
‘Also the West Byron landowners had indicated that they don’t want to make any S94 contributions up front.
‘They say contributions would have to be made as the land was released, so we have something of a stalemate there. However, the Council and the state government are still looking for options for funding the Byron bypass as a standalone project, regardless of the outcome of the West Byron rezoning process.’
The concerns of the group will be passed on to minister for planning, Brad Hazzard, and Mr Page says he will seek to arrange a meeting between members of Byron Residents’ Group and Mr Hazzard and with the minister for the environment, Robyn Parker.
For more information visit westbyron.org.