A newly-appointed ‘community advisory committee’ announced by the government-run corporation controlling Crown parks and reserves in Byron shire and the north coast has been dismissed as a sham which will ignore local concerns.
Brunswick Heads residents who fought for years for a say in developing management plans for their local parks and reserves say last week’s announcement by NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT) chair Alan Revell of the new tourism and marketing-focussed group only adds salt to their wounds.
Longtime Brunswick Heads local Patricia Warren says it’s because last month’s surprise approval by the state government of the Brunswick Heads holiday parks plans of management ignored residents association and foreshore protection group calls for full access along the foreshore at The Terrace caravan park.
The government also rejected longtime pleas by council and residents to re-draw the caravan park boundaries which had encroached on public road reserves as well as many other calls for improvements.
Ms Warren told Echonetdaily that locals’ recent experience with ‘community consultation’ in the leadup to the controversial approval of the the Brunswick Heads parks’ plans of management indicated such consultation was just ‘not wanted’.
‘This consultation was simply dismissed if it interfered with the state’s agenda’, Ms Warren said.
In 2006, the state government took control of all three of the Brunswick Heads parks and reserves along with Byron Bay’s Clarkes Beach holiday park from Byron Shire Council on trumped-up charges that they were being mismanaged, then handing management over to the NSWCHPT.
Revenue to council from the parks dramatically plunged after the state took control.
In Ballina, the state took over and controls Lake Ainsworth, Shaws Bay and Ballina Central holiday parks and is facing an angry public with its development plans at Silver Sands holiday park in Evans Head.
The trust chair Mr Revell said the new committee ‘will provide statewide advisory representation and a further link between community interests and the NSWCHPT board on matters relating to the management and development of the Trust’s holiday parks and reserves throughout the state.’
But Ms Warren said the management/development of Crown Lands, including the protocol for community consultation, ‘is clearly stated in the Crown Land Handbook’.
‘Creating this advisory committee to the board reeks of injecting yet another ‘management tier’ to enhance the illusion that community/stakeholder interests have any worth whatsoever,’ she said.
‘Remember, our experience gave the evidence of how these state-created bodies are prepared to deal/take care of “the community”.
‘They did this by refusing to make submissions publicly available; by collating those submissions using a highly questionable methodology; and by ignoring/dismissing the three most fundamental issues that have given rise to community objection since, at least, 1988: boundary issues, non-compliance and unfettered public access along the foreshores of the Brunswick River and its tributary, Simpson’s Creek.’
The 13 members appointed range from ecologist Dr Anne Kerle from NSW Nature Conservation Council to Malcolm Poole, chairman of the NSW Recreational Fishing Alliance and Tweed shire’s reserves trust manager Richard Adams.
Other committee members appointed have mostly tourism/marketing backgrounds.
One of the other appointees is Belinda Novicky, from the regional tourism organisation North Coast Destination Network (NCDN).
Mr Revell said ‘Ms Novicky understands the importance and appeal of parks and reserves, their place in sustainable tourism and their appeal to a growing number of eco-tourists seeking an experience close to and at the same time preserving a location’s natural attributes’.
Ms Warren said Ms Novicky ‘might like to begin in her new position by reporting directly to the local stakeholders, who were the advisers to the minister for his decision of the second of June and what was the reasoned evidence to give rise to his approval of the plans of management’.
‘Ms Novicky is further invited to explain how the macro position of state operatives has greater insight/information in relation to the micro-management of the Brunswick River foreshores?’ she said.
The trust’s public-relations rhetoric such as ‘we want local communities to have further opportunity to contribute to this development,’ is completely at odds with the recent decision to ignore Brunswick Heads chamber of commerce and other resident groups’ requests.
The new advisory committee, according to Mr Revell, ‘will provide state wide advisory representation and a further link between community interests and the NSWCHPT Board on matters relating to the management and development of the Trust’s Holiday Parks and Reserves throughout the state’.
NSWCHPT manages 34 of the state’s most iconic coastal and inland holiday parks and nine reserves.
John King, whose background includes international tourism marketing and management, has been appointed chair of the committee. For more visit nswchpt.com.au