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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Byron rail group to fight against bypass

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Hans Lovejoy

Residents of Butler Street in Byron Bay are preparing to fight to save their street from becoming a bypass after a majority of Byron shire councillors voted against a proposal to use the rail corridor instead.

A motion at last Thursday’s Byron Shire Council meeting by Cr Duncan Dey requested written confirmation from the state government to ‘make land permanently available within the multi-modal rail corridor’.

But it gained only the support of the mayor and Cr Duncan Dey. Crs Sol Ibrahim, Chris Cubis, Di Woods, Basil Cameron, Rose Wanchap, Paul Spooner and Alan Hunter instead voted against.

And while pursuing the current course reflects advice from general manager Ken Gainger and staff, the Butler Street Community Network’s Paul Jones says that Council’s failure to ‘fully explore bypass route alternatives’ is a fundamental requirement of its application to state planning for the project approval.

‘We feel Council is its own worst enemy as they are so afraid of appearing to be indecisive and delaying the process that they vote to proceed into a legal and procedural quagmire,’ Mr Jones said.

‘As a result this will certainly have the effect of delaying the outcome and wasting precious financial resources’.

But the town’s chamber of commerce, Byron United, remains hopeful of a rail corridor outcome.

Vice president Adrian Nelson said in a newsletter to members that, ‘what was an encouraging outcome is that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study for the bypass will need to consider possible alternate options’.

‘This may provide for the state owned and unused land adjacent to the rail line to be considered for multi-modal use,’ Mr Nelson said.

During Thursday’s debate, Cr Ibrahim turned directly to the Butler Street residents in the gallery and said ‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late.’

Council had already allocated and spent much of the $250,000 on exploring the current route,’ Cr Ibrahim said.

‘Will the current government say yes? Most likely they will, but we would go back to square one.

‘We don’t have the money for a new EIS. At the start of this council’s term, the bypass was on everyone’s lips. The previous council debated it for four years. All Butler Street residents have known for the last four years if not longer that this was likely,’ Cr Ibrahim said.

Cr Cameron received applause from the gallery when he said that ‘it doesn’t stack up to spend a lot more when we are not going to address the traffic problems in the long term.’

‘We are geographically constrained, so it doesn’t matter how many bypasses are built,’ Cr Cameron said.

Mr Jones says that he and fellow residents will now ‘object in every possible way to prevent approval of the project EIS submission as Council has left them “no alternative”.’

He says council also failed to acknowledge the work done by the Grab The Rail (GTR) proponents in clarifying so many misconceptions and in tabling an innovative proposal that addresses most if not all community, business and environmental concerns.

‘GTR has provided a superior bypass plan that avoids the Shirley Street roundabout bottleneck and enables extension through to Cemetery Road addressing the increasing traffic congestion approaching from the south of town and helping to retune Bangalow Road to a far better residential amenity,’ Mr Jones said.

‘Butler Street Community Network will continue its work to protect our town’s cultural and built heritage, we love this place in which we live in and we will strive to ensure a workable, inspiring bypass solution that will enhance and support our town’s unique people friendly character,’ he said.

After continued interjections from resident Fast Buck$ over whether a cost analysis of the proposal had been undertaken, the general manager said that the state government had asked Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for one, but Council had yet to see it.

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