A move by mayor Simon Richardson to ask the state government to defer rezoning West Byron again has failed to get support from a majority of fellow councillors.
Instead, Byron Shire Council will request that concerns regarding one of Byron Bay’s largest ever urban developments be addressed to the minister’s ‘satisfaction’.
The mayor’s concerns, which are echoed by the Byron Residents’ Association, are that traffic and acid sulfate soils studies are inadequate. They are asking for them to be more specific and comprehensive.
Additionally, Cr Richardson asked that any decision be held off until the Byron Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) and the soon-to-be-completed Local Growth Management Strategy (LGMS) is released. The mayor also called for a baseline assessment of the Belongil Creek and estuary to be completed.
But an amendment by Cr Sol Ibrahim, seconded by Cr Rose Wanchap, saw a watered down request made to the state government. The motion reads: ‘That due to concerns raised by members of the local community, Council will write to the planning minister Pru Goward requesting that prior to making a decision regarding the rezoning of the West Byron Urban Release Areas the following matters will have been addressed to her satisfaction:
‘1. The traffic study has followed RMS guidelines and reasonably considered all the likely impacts of the traffic generated by the proposed residential and commercial developments.
‘2. The Acid Sulphate Soils Study has been produced and considered in accordance with the Department of Planning’s Acid Sulphate Soils Planning Guidelines.
‘3. That all koala habitat on the site has been identified in accordance with SEPP44 procedures and that it will be protected from damage and disturbance.
‘4.That all other environmental and ecological aspects have been considered in the rezoning.
‘Furthermore Council will seek funding for a baseline assessment of the Belongil creek/estuary from appropriate government departments, including from minister Goward’s.’
Disgusted: Cr Woods
During debate, the mayor said that the development is something that has waited ten years, and should wait a little longer.
‘This is not a discussion on merits; that comes later,’ he said. ‘This is about respecting the community’s wishes for it to be a clear, transparent and trustworthy decision.’
But Cr Di Woods spoke against the mayor’s deferment. ‘It reminds me of the fluoride debate. You say ten years in waiting – that is disgusting. We should be able to determine developments much sooner. Under the previous mayor it was refused, and council said we didn’t have the resources. The developers said they will supply the resources but it was still refused. I have seen people who own that land go bankrupt. It’s not the proponent’s fault that this is with the minister. Acid sulphate and traffic can be dealt with – let’s work with them, get the zoning and move on.’
At that point, the full gallery murmured ’shame’, prompting Cr Ibrahim to say it was unacceptable for the gallery to interject.
Cr Ibrahim then moved his amendment and spoke in favour of the development while also expressing concerns for due process and environmental protection.
‘None of us want to see the destruction of the environment, but we all want the bypass built… No one is talking about employment – how many tradies are in the room?’
On a Thursday morning, it would be fair to say none.
Cr Richardson spoke against the amendment: ‘My motion gives more details: this has no consideration of planning or local growth management; this doesn’t mention a koala plan of management but instead is vague and broad.’
‘Least appropriate place’
Cr Rose Wanchap reminded the gallery that the development will be released over 20 years. ‘The market is not dictated by the owner, but the purchaser. It’s so expensive here because there have been no new developments in years. We are rejecting the possibility that our children could buy here… I have studied the reports, and believe due process has been followed. This has been on exhibition twice. Let’s take the risk.’
In Cr Richardson’s right of reply, he agreed the need for housing and jobs, but said that the, ‘Development Control Plan (DCP) is useless as the state government has gutted it; it only has to be considered. To put faith into that is staggering.
‘What is the difference between the Sunrise estate and this? West Byron is on lower ground, which will give more issues. It’s not the same. This is the last and worst bit of land to build on and the least appropriate place for such a development,’ he said.
Amendment ‘lacks strength’
The Byron Residents Group, which held a meeting opposing the development on Wednesday night, says the altered motion ‘lacks the strength to achieve the community’s desired outcome’.
‘This amended motion doesn’t ask any hard questions of the department and gives the minister plenty of room to offer standard replies to questions being asked,’ group spokesperson Cate Coorey said.
‘Many of our supporters have already been getting these simple and dismissive replies from the department,’ she added.
‘The amendment removed from the mayor’s motion a request of the minister that the Growth Management Strategy be in place before a rezoning occurred.
The strategy, which is a condition of the gazetted Far North Coast Regional Strategy, would allow the community to have a say in how and where development occurs in our area.
‘The amendment also removed the mayor’s request that the Byron Coastal Koala Plan of Management be in place before the rezoning is done as the proposed rezoning would allow for significant building in core koala habitat,’ Ms Coorey said.