The Byron Greens convenor has publicly called on renegade councillor Rose Wanchap to resign from council after she announced on Friday she was leaving the party.
Ms Wanchap, who has frequently been at odds with her fellow Greens councillors, crossed the floor on Thursday to vote with pro-development councillors to defeat an urgency motion over the proposed West Byron development moved by fellow party member and Byron mayor Simon Richardson.
In the fallout following that move she announced that she was leaving the party ‘by mutual agreement’.
In a brief statement following the announcement Byron Greens convenor Tom Tabart told Echonetdaily, ‘I welcome the news that Cr Wanchap has finally recognised the irreconcilable differences that have existed between her and the Greens for a long time’.
‘Now that she has left the Greens it is her moral duty to also resign as a councillor, having gained that position as a member of the Greens’ election team.’
Pecuniary interest denied
But Ms Wanchap has declined to stand down, saying, ‘I want to assure the community that despite not being a member of the Greens, I will continue to fight equally for social justice, environmental and financial sustainability that affects the health and wellbeing of the whole community, while striving to create access for the average person to rent or own their own home here in Byron Bay.’
At Thursday’s meeting members of the Byron Residents Group, speaking during public access, asked Cr Wanchap, who is a real estate agent, whether she had a conflict of interest in the matter.
But Cr Wanchap told Echonetdaily that she believes there are no pecuniary interests that need to be declared in relation to her voting on the development.
‘I was advised by staff that, as a realtor, there are no financial gains that I could make that relate to West Byron.’
She added that others on Byron Council with day jobs may benefit from the development, which were also not considered a pecuniary interest.
‘All of the restrictions West Byron faces are exactly the same as the Sunrise estate and our wonderful Industrial Estate. They sit at the same position above sea level, with the same acid sulphate soils, bounded by the same estuary in exactly the same topographical position and will most likely house the same number of people.
‘It is difficult to make the hard decisions to get the balance right between providing housing for our shire and protecting the environment.
‘With West Byron, we have had numerous workshops, the developers have worked diligently – as have staff at the state and local level – for years to get the best outcome for the community and this work needs to be recognised and respected.
‘It is clear we have a housing crisis. We need to come together and work on solutions rather than putting up obstacles.
‘I might add that the silent majority could just very well be in agreement. There were 245 submissions in support and 119 against when the application went on public exhibition. If the flooding and climate mitigation issue is addressed and an eco-friendly sustainable development can be designed to the satisfaction of all parties and key stakeholders involved, I believe this development will be a welcome bonus to our shire.’
But Cr Wanchap couldn’t resist taking a parting shot at unnamed people she described as ‘environmental fundamentalists’ while simultaneously calling for an end to bickering among councillors.
‘I have suffered deeply this past week in that my standing in the community, which has always been one of great integrity, has been savaged.
‘Fourteen years of working tirelessly for the underdog, supporting those who cannot defend themselves has been dragged into disrepute by those who I would call “environmental fundamentalists”.
‘I would like to see us all come together and work on the various issues that confront us with respect for each other.
‘Whilst we have varying opinions it is important that we recognise and respect each others’ opinion without [resorting] to slandering and bickering,’ she told Echonetdaily.
Byron Cr Rose Wanchap has quit the Greens after crossing the floor on an urgency motion over the proposed West Byron development, siding with pro-development councillors against her own party to see the motion defeated.