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August 11, 2022

Byron growth figures ‘inflated to justify development’

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A high-level aerial photograph of the planned retirement village and retail site at Ewingsdale.
A high-level aerial photograph of the planned retirement village and retail site at Ewingsdale.

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Rubbery population-projection figures have been used to justify controversial developments for West Byron and Ewingsdale in which almost 1,300 new dwellings are being ‘foisted on the community on false pretences’, it was claimed this week.

The state government has also been accused of pushing ahead with the ‘unwanted and un-needed’ development regardless of the impacts on traffic, koalas, the Cape Byron Marine Park ‘or the tourism appeal of the region’s most valuable economic asset’.

Byron Environment and Conservation (BEACON) spokesman Dailan Pugh told Echonetdaily
that Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) population projections, which are used to identify future housing needs, varied widely.

Mr Pugh said a 2013 estimate of a 3.2 per cent population growth for Byron Shire from 2011-2031 increased almost six-fold to 18 per cent less than a year later.

‘This revision is highly suspect and seems intended to justify the over-development of Byron Bay,’ he said.

‘Byron Shire has been approving houses at almost twice the rate required by the Regional

‘Byron is in a catch 22 situation, the more rapidly we grow, and the more we are
forced to grow by the state government, the more we will be expected to grow in the future
irrespective of the Regional Strategy.

‘Byron’s increased growth has come at the expense of growth elsewhere in the region as no
other LGA (local government area) has met their targets.’

Mr Pugh said that while the planning department now believed regional growth would be less than
expected, ‘they have more than doubled Byron’s projected growth by more than doubling
Byron’s share of regional growth’.

‘It is evident that, contrary to claims by the planning department, developments such as the 1,100 dwellings proposed for West Byron and the 166 proposed for Ewingsdale are not needed to satisfy the targets set by the Regional Strategy and are being foisted upon the community on false pretences.’

Mr Pugh said that based on the department’s projections, the 2007 Far North Coast Regional Strategy planned for an overall population of 289,000 by 2031, representing an additional 60,400 people or a 26 per cent increase for the period 2006–31.

The strategy apportions these across the Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle and Richmond Valley local government areas.

Growth assumptions

He said that for Byron Shire the 2007 strategy was based on departmental projections that the population would increase by over 10 per cent from 2006-2031, at a rate of 0.4 per cent per annum.

‘The population was assumed to grow by around 3,100 people, requiring an additional 2,600 dwellings to house them.

‘Council was thus required to deliver an average of 104 new dwellings per annum. While targets were increased for other LGAs, they weren’t for Byron because of our massive tourist load of over 1.4 million people and 2.9 million visitor nights per annum.’

Mr Pugh said that in Byron Shire, houses have been increasing faster than the population.

‘Over the 8 years 2006-2014 Byron Shire approved a total of 1,523 new dwellings. We have been approving an average of 190 dwellings each year (almost double our target of 104 per annum).

‘To satisfy the 2031 Regional Strategy dwelling target we only need to provide an additional 1,077 new dwellings over the next 17 years, or 63 per annum.

‘The existing Settlement Strategies for Byron Bay, Suffolk Park, Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby and Bangalow identify sufficient land already zoned for development to accommodate the 2,600 new dwellings required by the Regional Strategy, the rural settlement strategy provides for another 670, and inbuilt in these strategies are additional contingencies of 280 dwellings.

‘Recent changes to the Local Environment Plan (such as allowing secondary dwellings on all lots) have increased infill capacity. This is without accounting for additional capacity at Ocean Shores, New Brighton, Billinudgel, Golden Beach and Ewingsdale.

‘The new developments of 1,100 dwellings at West Byron and 166 dwellings at Ewingsdale that are now being forced upon Byron Shire by the NSW state government were not identified for development in the settlement strategies and have never been required to satisfy the 2007 Regional Strategy targets.

‘Both the Minister for Planning and Council do not apparently believe in either strategies nor staging of development as they appear intent on releasing as much land as they can as soon as possible,’ he said.

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  1. Once the housing “developments” are approved of and built, the people will come! What comes first is the housing, not the population growth! Australia does not have high fertility levels, so the big growth that’s being projected is specifically for the benefit of the housing industry – and tweaked through high immigration levels. We need to diversify our economy rather than be locked into housing, construction and big corporate business expansions that support it. We already have a youth unemployment crisis, and a species extinction crisis and the massive growth being foisted onto Australia is compromising intergenerational equity.

  2. Just how is this “growth” projection logical or coherent in light of our high rates of youth unemployment? We once had high rates of immigration that were justified as there were jobs, cheap housing and we had a nation to build. As most of our growth comes from our immigration rates, this is what needs to be stemmed in light with current employment climate. Growth that’s damaging is malignant, not progressive and welcomed. The mortgage and property development industries are outstripping other aspects of our nation’s current economic status. Jobs, natural resources and high quality infrastructure must come before inviting more interstate and overseas residents.

  3. What I find alarming is that the brochure sent to residents from the developer was in a Council envelope. Next time I want to promote a business set to make me millions of dollars I will ask Council to sort out the postage.


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