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April 14, 2021

West Byron deferral tabled in NSW parliament

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Map showing the location of the proposed West Byron Project. Source westbyronproject.com.au
Map showing the location of the proposed West Byron Project. Source westbyronproject.com.au

Hans Lovejoy

The pressure is on planning minister, Pru Goward, and minister for the environment, Rob Stokes, to defer West Byron rezoning after a motion by NSW Greens MLC Jan Barham.

In her motion, Ms Barham says the deferral would, ‘allow for more detailed studies to assess the impact of the development and ensure that the relevant considerations are revealed prior to the rezoning, noting that the current application does not contain sufficient independent scientific studies and analysis to allow a determination and that the Byron Shire Council is in the process of developing essential strategic studies that consider the future impacts of development on that site.’

The motion asks the House note the application for the West Byron Urban Release proposal ‘contains omissions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies.’

It backs calls from the Byron Residents’ Group (BRG), which is also lobbying planning MP Pru Goward to ‘boost community confidence in the NSW planning process’ and, ‘look into the activities of her department regarding the West Byron rezoning.’

The group’s Cate Coorey said, ‘This rezoning has attracted criticism from all local MPs except Don Page… Liberals’ MLC Catherine Cusack, who lives in Lennox Head, has condemned the rezoning because it would destroy koala habitat. Local federal Labor MP, Justine Elliot, has also condemned it.’

But the West Byron developers say they ‘stand behind our application entirely’.

Through communications consultancy company Charliesierra, they told Echonetdaily, ‘We know that Ms Coorey is working to drum up community concern about the process, but the BRG hasn’t communicated their questions or concerns to us. We have repeatedly shown Ms Coorey where she can find accurate information. Much of this was dealt with in the public process that occurred prior to Ms Coorey’s decision to engage with it earlier this year. The proposal that currently sits with the department for assessment has been refined based on feedback received in two public exhibition periods and been reviewed by all relevant government agencies. We have followed the process laid down by the department of planning and infrastructure to the letter. We have engaged comprehensively with key stakeholders including Council, and ask that the proposal be assessed on its merits. We are pleased that the BRG is not opposing the proposal on its merits.’

Acid Sulfate Soil

The consultant said that, ‘Due process requires that when a Development Application (DA) is made, an Acid Sulfate Soil Management Plan must be submitted. We are not at DA stage now. The Acid Sulfate Soil Survey shows us where on the site this will be required. We submitted the Acid Sulfate Soil Survey to the department as part of our SSS application in 2010 and to our knowledge, it was put on exhibition with all of the other documentation at the first public exhibition in 2011.

‘All ecological work for West Byron was peer reviewed by Austeco. As was the Koala Report prepared by BioLink. In the interests of accuracy, we got our original koala survey peer-reviewed. This review showed problems with the methodology of the original report so a third expert was engaged to complete a new report based on best practice methodology. At the department’s request, this report was also peer-reviewed and we provided that peer-review to the department.

Traffic surveys

‘We consulted with the RMS regarding the methodology for the traffic surveys. This methodology involved establishing micro-simulation models of Byron Bay and Ewingsdale Road to the highway using peak season demands, both with and without the potential by-pass.

Not only does the proposal contain detailed and expert consideration of the traffic impact of West Byron, it contains provisions for substantial monetary contributions to infrastructure to address existing and potential traffic congestion. We used the 856 dwellings, as that was the model used for all servicing modelling. West Byron has never promoted 1,100 dwellings that figure has been promoted by the BRG and other detractors in the community.

‘We appreciate the opportunity to comment and felt it important to correct the record, but the proposal is with the department for decision and we feel that’s the appropriate place for it to be assessed.’

Debacle: resident group

In reply, Ms Coorey said the consultant didn’t address the withheld documents and that public process through the Community Reference Group was a ‘debacle’.

‘We did ask several questions of them early on in the process and their answers were incomplete and evasive.’

She also rebutted that the developers were aiming for 856 dwellings instead of 1,100 and pointed to West Byron’s own FAQ which suggests a ‘supply of between 800 to 1,100 dwellings’ under the heading ‘What are the possible benefits of the proposal?’

That document can be found here: www.westbyronproject.com.au/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/West-Byron_Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

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