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November 27, 2022

Hundreds rally against West Byron development

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Delta Kay, representing the Arakwal people of Byron Bay, spoke against the West Byron development. Photo supplied
Delta Kay, representing the Arakwal people of Byron Bay, spoke against the West Byron development. Photo Harsha Prabhu

More than 500 Byron Bay residents, including local Indigenous leaders, MPs and local politicians, rallied on Sunday in protest at the controversial West Byron development soon to be decided on by state planning minister Pru Goward.

Locals gathered at Railway Park and heard how the proposed rezoning for development for hundreds of homes in the Belongil Creek area would impact heavily on the fragile wetland environment, koala habitat and add to the town’s already heavy traffic congestion.

They also heard how the state government is keeping locals out of the loop and that the planning justification for such a massive increase to the size of the town was based on unsound population projections.

Arakwal representative Delta Kay urged the community to fight the plan.

Ms Kay said her family had been custodians of the area for generations and had a strong connection to Belongil Estuary.

Greens candidate for the seat of Ballina, Tamara Smith joined newly pre-selected Labor candidate for Ballina, Paul Spooner, and Labor colleague Keith Williams, all spoke out against the rezoning of West Byron for intensive development.

The three called for local people, through local council, to be allowed to have the final say on the development.

Byron Residents Group (BRG) president Cate Coorey told the crowd that the developers and the department of planning had been ‘misleading the community about the development, about the number of houses intended for it, about the existence of koala habitat on the site and about how the developers were going to be part of the “solution” to the traffic problem of Byron’.

‘To the people who made submissions in support of West Byron, I would like to say it is not your fault. We have all been misled and misinformed and had key information withheld from us,’ Ms Coorey said.

‘Community consent cannot be said to have been given if it was not informed consent.’

BRG member Yvette Steinhauer said the koalas on the site were ‘not just passing through, and there are more than a few’.

Ms Steinhauer said a woman at this rally today – who stays at Belongil Fields Caravan Park – saw six in one tree during a Splendour Festival. If these developers get their way it could lead to … a possible extinction event. I have no doubt Minister Pru Goward, like most of us, cares about koalas but she is not getting the correct information.

Locals listened to many reasons why the West Byron development should not go ahead. Photo supplied
Locals listened to many reasons why the West Byron development should not go ahead. Photo Harsha Prabhu

Local ecologist Mary Gardner said acid sulfate soil run-off likely to occur as a result of building on the site would impact on surrounding wetlands.

‘This toxic cocktail then seeps into the Belongil Estuary and finally the marine park,’ Ms Gardner said.

‘It pollutes the water where you and the kids swim. It also kills the fish. If you’ve lived here over a decade, you will remember the problems back then with pollution, the fish kills and the stink,’ she said.

BRG member, Byron Environment and Conservation (Beacon) spokesman Dailan Pugh, said the planning department was ‘changing the population projections to suit the development since Byron is growing at a rate slower than expected’.

‘But we are approving houses at over twice the rate identified in the (Far North Coast Regional) strategy,’ Mr Pugh said.

‘The department’s problem is that their only reason for being able to justify West Byron as a state significant development is a supposed housing supply crisis, and the minister can only justify considering the proposal if it is state significant.’

Greens NSW MLC and former Byron shire mayor Jan Barham said ‘the town of Byron is the way it is because it has been fought for by good people’.

Ms Barham said she had been lobbying MPs in parliament, urging them to call a stop to the development.

She said locals should ‘let the minister know you don’t want West Byron’.

The crowd signed petitions and letters to planning minister Pru Goward and an open letter to the landowners asking them to stop the proposal and put forward something better for the town.

(Read more of Ms Barham’s concerns, including how the project will deny locals’ right to develop sustainably, in Letters section.)

Ms Coorey said after the rally that Nationals candidate for the seat of Page, Kris Beavis, had refused to make a statement about West Byron despite repeated requests by the BRG.

Map showing the 108-hectare proposed West Byron Project. Source westbyronproject.com.au
Map showing the 108-hectare proposed West Byron Project. Source westbyronproject.com.au


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  1. It’s hypocritical for Labor candidates to criticise the West Byron project and ask for planning approval to be returned to local authorities when it was the Labor Party that introduced the Part 3A planning laws that saw this development ripped off the local council in the first place!

    • It’s not hypocritical at all Mr Stenner, far from it. “Hypocrisy” is the pretence of holding virtues, standards or other characteristics that one does not in actual fact hold, or the practice of engaging in some behaviour or activity for which one also criticizes another.

      Introducing legislation doesn’t exclude or somehow preclude the people that introduced the legislation from using it, whether its Part 3A or any other legislation.

      To score a cheap point, you are invoking the same fractured (silly) logic that people sling at others a little more environmentally conscious than themselves when they label those people as “hypocrites” for driving cars when in fact it is not the existence or use of cars per se being discussed, it’s the extent of use, availability of alternatives and a plethora of related issues, much as it is with this development.

      Perhaps you meant “ironic”?

  2. This is well overdue, there is no affordable land for my children to buy in the area they have grown up in.
    Our green councils have done nothing to open up land close to Byron, the Real Estate agents and investors want it to stay this way.
    The release of land will give people of this shire a chance to own their own home. Surely the Byron Council will impose very strict enviromental rules as they issue the building permits etc.We constantly hear that Council has no funds due to the small amount of rate payers in our shire.Council will gain as will the Shire by the increased amount of rates on these blocks. Also the Council building fees will more than cover the costs of guarding the enviroment during the construction.
    I haven’t seen any protest over the Bunnings site which will definately affect traffic not to mention the threat to our existing 3 hardware outlets that are locally owned and employ locals, or for that matter the new FARM project at Ewingsdale, both will add to the Ewingsdale Rd traffic but have obviously paid the fees asked by Council and gone straight through without a murmur by the public.
    Can someone also tell me where the Koalas are that the West Byron project is supposed to affect.

    • Sorry Wally,
      This whole problem of urban sprawl is in fact caused by people pumping out kids for no better reason then it suits them, nothing short of inconsideration and self greed on their behalf. We will shortly be in a situation where the only creatures on this planet will be insects and Humans before we humans finally make the planet uninhabitable.
      Regarding your comments on building fees covering the cost of environmental protection, where have you been for the last ten years, developers pay nothing for environmental protection, they have Politicians in their pockets to the point that corruption in this country now surpasses that of third world nations. Seen any ICAC stories lately and if you doubt my comments, have a look at the farcical decision that allowed North Byron Parklands to operate.
      There are plenty of properties available, check the Real Estate for sale section in the local papers and leave the last of our bushland to the Fauna and Flora that so rightly deserve it

      • Sprawl is not about people “pumping out kids” – what a ridiculous argument. It’s about Australians wanting to live in McMansions instead of living more modestly- houses are getting bigger but families smaller — and in Byron it’s about people wanting to get mega bucks from holiday rentals. By your logic should we just do what the Chinese did and have a one-child policy? Forced sterilisations? Hands off our bodies thanks!
        Australia has a very low birthrate among the OECD countries. We just don’t know how to live lightly on the land – at lease we in Byron mostly do. The people who run the govt don’t so they keep making policy that encourages sprawl.

    • What Green councils are you talking about? We have a Greens mayor but no majority on council – never has been. Also Council will have NO role in this development. They will not be issuing building permits etc The MAyor said as much at the rally. The developers are trying to create a separate zone inside the Byron council area and council will have no say in what happens on it. The separate planning instrument they are trying to create repeals a number of environmental protections so it
      How will this release of land five people a chance to own their own home? There are homes for sale already. The major owner of the site, Terry Agnew, plans to sell them from $595 000 for the smaller lots up to $800 000 for the larger ones, If people have that kind of money then they already have the chance to buy their own homes. Since Agnew plans to keep 40% of them for holiday letting then the chance becomes less likely. Byron is building houses faster than any council in the Northern Rivers. We have plenty of housing stock. As long as investors buy them for holiday rentals then Byron prices will stay high.
      If you want to see where the koalas are go to the Council’s website –
      look at the Draft Coastal Koala PLan of Management and you can see the map with the koala habitat on it and it shows West BYron. The developers plan tp take down 30% of their habitat and build into 75% of the buffer zones that are supposed to be around koala habitat. I’m not seeing much that shows “strict environmental rules”. Tell em they’re dreaming!
      I don’t think you get what is happening here – Bunnings and The Farm went through Council and Council passed them. Council did not support this rezoning so the developers went to the State govt to get it passed. If you wonder why people have no confidence in a process that has been taken out of their hands you only need to look at ICAC – 10 members of the current govt sent to the cross bench because of doing deals – most of them with property developers. We are being fooled and you don’t even realise it. The only people who will do well out of W Byron are the owners of the land. They will happily ruin this town and they do not care.

  3. I completely agree with Wally – comment 2- and see the development as a very positive thing for Byron. Yes traffic issues and a sustainable development should be addressed but let’s see some positive media coverage for a change instead of all the complainers.
    Byron is a unique place and should be protected and nurtured but not to the point of strangling it’s life force. There is no life without change. Let’s move forward with positivity, creativity and vision.

    • Maria if you could find something positive about this then go for it and take it to the media. The developers have a professional PR firm working for them but a steaming turd is still a steaming turd so it’s hard to sell it in the media. That’s why the complainers are getting the coverage – peopel can see through the spin. Traffic issues and sustainable development should be addressed BEFORE a development is given the go-ahead. If the developers had done the right thing there would be no “complainers”. What about the poor people who come to work in town from Ewingsdale, Sunrise and beyond and sit in traffic queues? What about the businesses on the industrial estate taht people are choosing not to go to if there is a queue on the road?No right to complain?
      How can a massive traffic disaster on Ewingsdale road, the death of our koalas and the poisoning of the estuary from acid sulfate soils add up to be “a positive thing for Byron”?
      Do you people actually think? They are trying to shaft us all and you don’t even get it.

  4. I found this on the Internet:

    From ‘The Australian’ newspaper 5 June 2014:
    SYDNEY property developer Terry Agnew has bought a high-profile site on the edge of Byron Bay for the first major housing development in the picturesque NSW north coast town in almost three decades.
    Mr Agnew has acquired nearly 80ha on Ewingsdale Road, Byron Bay, for a 450 house and land subdivision as well as a 51-lot industrial subdivision in a $7.7 million deal. (…) In Byron Bay Mr Agnew, head of Sydney-based Tower Holdings, plans to sell the house and land packages on 600sq m lots for $750,000-$800,000, and those on 450sq m lots for about $595,000… It is understood he is considering retaining half of the house and land packages as investments given suburban houses in Byron Bay rent for at least $900 a week.“
    Is this affordable housing?

  5. I`reckon if we don`t do something about Climate Change & the subsequent sea level rise The Cape will be an Island anyway . Maybe we should be spending money on a wharf somewhere along Lighthouse Road …

  6. As a long time shire resident, I would just like to know where everyone in these new houses are going to work to pay off the $600,000 plus mortgages! Can someone please answer me that question? So glad I don’t live in Byron anymore! Nonsense, madness and greedy developers have taken over!


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