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Byron Shire
April 11, 2021

Page mute over govt’s plans for Bruns parks

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North Coast Holiday Parks GM Jim Bolger faced a hostile reception during community consultations on its new plan of management earlier this year. Photo Sharon Shostak
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Hans Lovejoy

‘A town square beheading without even letting the public bear witness,’ was how Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson described the quiet adoption of large-scale development plans for Brunswick Heads holiday parks and reserves last week.

And while fellow councillor Di Woods also condemned the contentious plans by the government-run NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust corporation, our locally elected state representative, Don Page (Nationals), is remaining mute.

When asked by The Echo for comment on the independent audit’s questionable findings about the public submission report, the retiring MP instead suggested that questions be passed back to the organisation that compiled the report.

It’s unclear if Mr Page even read the submission report and subsequent audit; his reply was, ‘[The Crown Holiday Parks Trust’s media officer] is in a much better position than I regarding any details.’

The mayor slammed the long-serving MP with, ‘I presume Don Page’s silence over the matter is due to utter embarrassment.’

Broken election promise

Notwithstanding the 2006 holiday parks takeover by disgraced NSW minister Tony Kelly from Council and loss of revenue, the mayor also took aim at the government’s claims when elected that it would ‘put locals back in control of planning matters that affect them’.

‘Not only have the Brunswick Heads Plans of Management (POM) kept control over the holiday parks in the hands of the state government appointed “Trust” seeking the highest return; they have put the same operators in charge of ensuring compliance, the setting of public access widths and overall reporting. For example, what was once public access that allowed fishing and picnicking, could, if the manager sees fit, be as narrow as 1.8 metres wide.’

Meanwhile Cr Woods told The Echo, ‘While some concessions have been made over all the parks, there is still no access being granted along the foreshore at The Terrace Reserve Caravan Park, but rather an adjusted plan for the public to walk through the park.’

According to the public submission report – which is of questionable validity according to the audit review – there were 80 supporting submissions to, ‘Provide public access to and along the foreshore at Terrace Reserve’.

Cr Woods said river access and access outside the park boundary was a ‘major point’ from all the public submissions.

She says another issue along the riverbank is the ‘continued erosion along the edge, which is compounded by the permanent residents’ structures that almost hang over the edge.’

‘The Trust representative said that the permanent residents along the edge of the river will be moved by natural attrition.

‘However, there has been a sale to a resident during the last couple of years, with no indication to the purchaser that their structure was in fact in a position which the Crown had informed Council during its control [of the park] was “inappropriate”.

‘Council had been informed that the structure had to be moved and in fact [the Crown] had asked that Council relocate all the residents living in structures that were hanging over the edge of the river bank.

‘Council had begun the process, prior to the Crown assuming control of the parks.

‘Under the Trust’s management, it appears that they do not believe that this problem needs urgent attention, and I find that quite at odds with the instructions given to Council, and wonder what is really in store for those residents.’

‘Get-out’ clause

‘There are a number of concessions that contain a get-out clause, which basically says they could change their mind. For example, a fence being erected along The Terrace Road, while not in the immediate plans, could be seen to be necessary at a later date, while access through the park could be stopped if deemed unsafe.

‘I am of the opinion that once the plans of management have been implemented, and the parks have been given the majority of their upgrades, then the state will see them as a very attractive piece of real estate to be offered up for sale to private enterprise.

‘Not just in Bruns, but places like Evans Head, Ballina, and many other parcels of land, particularly along the coast, will be seen as a way for the state government to get some fast money. Just like the sale of the NSW Lotteries, the electricity infrastructure, the Newcastle port etc.’

NSWCHPT reply

NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust CEO Steve Edmonds has defended his development plans for Bruns, despite similar plans sparking public outrage at the Silver Sands caravan park in Evans Head.

He echoed NSW minister Kevin Humphries reply last week that ‘41 amendments were made to the plans of management as a result of public input,’ and repeated that subject to ‘reasonable conditions’, public access through The Terrace Holiday Park and to Simpsons Creek will continue.

He told The Echo, ‘The public car park and kayak launching facilities will be upgraded as part of this plan.

‘The Trust will progressively relocate existing structures away from foreshore sites to enable the re-establishment of a natural bank profile and the protection and restoration of the vegetation communities as part of its foreshore environmental restoration project.’

While ignoring public concerns over access, Mr Edmonds spruiked the development, saying, ‘Additionally, the Torakina and Banner Park Reserves will benefit from $1m worth of improvements such as playground facilities, boardwalk platform and upgraded amenities which will benefit the local communities, businesses in the area, tourists and other visitors to Brunswick Heads.’

Asked why there was no public announcement over these major developments, Mr Edmonds replied, ‘In accord with due process, it is appropriate to firstly brief local councils in relation to the adoption of plans of management before public announcement. The meeting with Council was arranged to fit with Council availability.’

Good faith?

The mayor meanwhile said that during the last year or so of negotiations with the Holiday Parks managers, ‘it was clear we would struggle to achieve anything like the outcomes the community deserved.

‘But with the state government requiring Council to negotiate, we did so in good faith. I thought if we could maintain public access, we had secured at least something for the community, knowing that ultimately we were being forced to play the tune created for us by the state government.

‘Though tenuous, the community have managed to keep public access along the Brunswick River in front of two parks, with a touch more public access gained on the eastern side of Massey Greene, but access through The Terrace Reserve will be at the discretion of the managers.

‘There is absolutely no compulsion whatever for the permanent dwellings to move away from Simpsons Creek and allow for public access as appropriate. To rub salt in the wounds, this disgraceful management model has been promoted within the wider review of the Crown Lands Act as a model example of efficient and successful management.’

Brunswick Heads chamber of commerce president Peter Wotton told The Echo their reply was still in progress, as ‘one person on this committee is ill at the moment, we have not been able to consider all the issues as yet.’

‘We will have a statement for you on this very important and complex matter soon.’


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1 COMMENT

  1. It’s a sad day …..
    We’ve been listening to assurances, promises, semantics and hearsay for years. If this involved a court, one could cross examine the lies and query the assertions that have been expressed and that continue so. NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust CEO Steve Edmonds defended his development plans for Brunswick Heads, despite public outrage.
    He echoed NSW minister Kevin Humphries reply last week that ‘41 amendments were made to the plans of management as a result of public input,’ and repeated that subject to ‘reasonable conditions’, public access through The Terrace Holiday Park and to Simpsons Creek will continue.
    The public car park and kayak launching facilities will be upgraded as part of this plan. Mr Humphries this is all hearsay and can not be proved. On Parking Mr Humphries, where are all the on site visitor car parks in The Terrace Park that we were assured we’d get by the trust board chairman, Mr Alan Revell? The answer is zero, it was not true, an assurance that was not so. And where are the visitor cars catered for at Massey-Greene? There are no new additional designated car parks here either. During holidays there are in excess of 100 cars and trailers parked all over the boat harbour park land, driveways and in the Co-op precinct and mostly from the parks visitors. There was no parking assessment done anywhere. Why, because we know they are saddling their neighbours with their clients vehicles. Will they pay Council for the lack of parking in this development?
    Mr. Humphries also stated, ‘The Trust will progressively relocate existing structures away from foreshore sites to enable the re-establishment of a natural bank profile and the protection and restoration of the vegetation communities as part of its foreshore environmental restoration project.’ Well, more unsubstantiated claims here as the Terrace PoM consultant stated that “A typical hierarchy of measures to minimise the likelihood of significant impact includes avoidance, minimisation and mitigation. Appropriate mitigation measures could include fencing to exclude (bank) access (which already exists along part of Simpsons Creek in the Holiday Park) or board-walks to regulate pedestrian access, or a compensatory increase in the area and/or quality of native habitat in the Reserve.” N.C.H.P. Management states “The physical attributes of the foreshore together with the significance of the vegetation communities dictate that this proposal is not pursued within the time frame of this Plan of Management.” N.C.H.P. Have no plan to mitigate here. So Mr Humphries, so much for your assurances!
    So we find we are living under false pretences. There is NO democracy in dealings with the state. With quotes like …”in consultation with the community” in these documents when there clearly never was any. It’s all a lie … and what chance has Council to represent the public? …. zero again … heaven knows they got their submission right .. awesome submission, however without power it appears we and council wasted years of work. It seems council can’t even object. You see the “guidelines” are only that, guidelines, and they don’t appear to have any weight in law. The process, if circumvented, can’t be and doesn’t get enforced or even questioned. The Minister approves and that’s it. It’s a dictatorship dressed up as something else when it is clearly not democratic. Those in power go through an exercise of supposed consultation, but in the end do as they please. N.C.H.P. Has never called or chaired one public consultation meeting. Not before, during or after the Plans of Managements were put out for public submissions. They did sit in on workshops but with eyes glazed over while at these meetings or worse were aggressive putting down any questions of entitlement over encroached lands they were claiming. In any case, even if they did call meetings, there is no law that says that they must abide by Trustees guidelines, community or Council input. I mean, Council have shown that some land that is now approved for part of the parks, was never a holiday park in the first place! But it seems that if you squat on Crown land, public land, the Minister may, and here did, formalise the squat and give community land and its amenity away. The community have been fighting over public amenity, encroachments and boundary issues for over 17 years. These same astute community spirited individuals have pretty much been ignored. It seems that unless a cause is understood by the masses, and there is MASSIVE show of angst via demonstrations, civil disobedience and sit-ins/camps, Bentley being an example, the community may as well just suck it and forget about it. Our community minded folk have been railing all these years…and to what end? The Ministers get lied to, our questions remain without answer and the corporate bullies do what they want while the public loose their amenity. David Kolb, Brunswick Heads

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