Recently, I and other members of the Byron Residents Group, sat on a Byron Bay street and canvassed the thoughts and opinions of the passing local community members over a three-hour period on the issue of the West Bryon housing development.
We spoke to many people, and of these 68 went the next step to sign a petition opposing the development proposal for West Byron. Only two people in that time supported the proposal, one on the grounds of low-cost housing and the other just supported it and did not want to say why.
I personally spoke to around 20 long-term residents, some of whom I have known for 30 or more years, and every one of them did not approve of this development yet they feel disempowered to stop it.
Our council has rejected this development three times. Our community appears to be opposed to it. Who is not listening? The developers have taken the rejected proposal to the state government because they don’t like the Council’s and the community’s wishes.
Some of these developers are people I grew up with and I know them to be caring members of our community who have done and continue to do some wonderful work in the community.
But to me the proposed West Byron development in its present format defies logic and in fact could be described as an act of bastardry against the community.
To build a major village complex on what is an acid sulfate soil flood plain (75 per cent of the area), which acts as part of the head waters to the Belongil Estuary, has the potential to be nothing short of environmental vandalism.
Acid sulfate soil when disturbed/or is dried out generates sulfuric acid and leaches heavy metals into the water system that flows into the Belongil and on into the Cape Byron Marine Reserve. It has the potential to destroy the fish nursery and affect the whole wetland.
Why would you do that to your neighbours?
In peak hours, traffic and parking congestion in the Bay are as bad as metropolitan areas. From the Pacific Highway to the Main Beach along Ewingsdale Road commonly takes more than 30 minutes. From Suffolk Park to the main beach can take just as long when at its worst.
On any public holiday we are almost at traffic grid lock. Parking? What parking?
The West Byron rezoning will increase the Bay’s population by 25 per cent and does absolutely nothing about solving the already existing traffic chaos.
Contributions to the proposed bypass are all smoke and mirrors, they won’t improve anything when the destination of most of the traffic is the town, the Cape and the beach. When we get there, the same inadequate parking spaces will await us. Just add 25 per cent more cars circling, circling our choked streets.
The potential decimation of a core koala colony and the breaking of a critical migration corridor for the koala from Broken Head through to Tyagarah, do these iconic creatures deserve to be considered and protected by us?
Or do they get ignored by the developers proposing to remove their habitat trees and surround them with urban housing?
I ask myself how could I be responsible for that happening in my town and my community?
Low cost affordable housing? I don’t think so. The land will be sold at market rates. We are not talking about commission housing here, we are talking about the potential for speculators building units and rentals. It takes a government action to develop low cost accommodation not speculators.
Jobs, what jobs? The developers employ large contractors from out of the area to develop these sites at cut throat rates. South Queensland and their sub-contractors are only an hour up the road. I doubt that locals will get a look in.
Maybe the developers will trade down, from what we are led to believe is a proposed 1,100 houses, to 500 or some such figure, but the outcome on the environment and the Belongil estuary will be largely the same.
I say to our ‘local’ developers that: With land ownership comes custodial responsibility. With community membership comes a responsibility to care for and respect community values.
I urge you to take a step back and consider what could be done with this land with vision, courage and a sense of community involvement.
The Byron Residents Group is not anti-development. We are pro-community, which includes our ecology and environment in all its forms and we are prepared to talk to our ‘local’ developers who control parcel(s) of land that accounts for a reported 700 of the proposed 1100 houses on this development.
There is an alternative way of doing things that could make our ‘local’ developers beacons of our community and proud custodians of this piece of land.
Any residents who need to find out more on this issue can contact the Byron Residents Group via www.westbyron.org
Donald Maughan, Byron Bay