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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Planning department denies stonewalling

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It is simply not true to say the Department of Planning and Environment ‘stonewalled’ The Echo in response to questions about proposed development at West Byron.

Your journalist asked two questions, both of which were answered. Unfortunately, you chose not to include any of our response in your front-page article.

For the benefit of your readers the questions were:

‘Can the department please explain why it has refused to release the minister’s draft briefing note?

‘Given [the] response from the department under FIO [sic], how can the community have faith that due process has been followed?’

And the response was: ‘These issues are included in the Department of Planning and Environment’s assessment report to the minister on the matter.

‘The views of the Byron Residents Group have been taken into account at every stage of the West Byron Bay proposal with protection of the environment a key consideration.

‘Based on population projections released earlier in 2014, the Byron LGA will grow 18 per cent by 2031, which means the area needs more housing for the future.

‘Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, an applicant has the right to request an internal review of a decision, or a review by the Office of the Information Commissioner NSW.’

There is a range of community views about proposals like that for West Byron, but the fact that a journalist doesn’t like an opinion is no excuse for not including it. Your readers deserve better.

Mathew Jones, Director, Public Affairs, Department of Planning & Environment

Hans Lovejoy replies: I stand entirely by my reporting. Apart from space restrictions, I chose not to include your quotes because they weren’t relevant to the question I asked. To say our readers deserve better is comical given you refuse to release key FOI documents.

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