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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

West Byron approval will deny locals’ right to develop sustainably

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The West Byron development proposal if approved would change Byron Bay dramatically despite never being considered at the scale that is being proposed and therefore not factored into the sewerage treatment works capacity.

If the state government gives approval for this development they will take the capacity that was destined for infill development defined by future population documents.

It’s a shocking outcome that an unplanned development will take away the right of local families to do dual occupancies or medium density on existing lots because the West Byron development gets in first by applying to the state government to seek development approval after being refused rezoning by the Byron Shire Council.

This is queue jumping and an insult to a community that has focussed on protecting and preserving a significant environment and retaining amenity for residents and visitors.

After the years of previous councils approving development without appropriate upgrade to the sewerage treatment plant, it was a tragic outcome that resulted in the pollution of Belongil Creek.

In 1997 this resuted in the moratorium on development approvals until the new STP was built.

Council undertook extensive studies and community consultation to plan for the next 30 years of growth as well as the impact of the increasing day tripper and visitor load and this information was the basis for determining the capacity of the plant.

The Byron Bay and Suffolk Park Settlement Strategy defined future growth and was also factored into the Far North Coast Regional Strategy in which the West Byron lands are identified as possible for future growth but that is beyond the 25-year horizon of the strategy.

Byron Shire’s popularity is not only because of the natural beauty but because of a focus on ecologically sustainable development.

It has been defined by plans that were developed by council over many years with the community regularly consulted and extensive studies that informed the process and determined a future with the goal of protecting the natural environment, accommodating population growth and the scale of infrastructure that was required.

What is being proposed in the West Byron development was not considered in the plans, strategies or the infrastructure planning and it represents a poor standard of planning which is not what this community accepts or deserves.

The community has a right to be outraged that after many years of following the guidelines set down by state government to prepare future plans and meet the highest standards of strategic planning as defined by legislation that a queue jumping exercise is able to be undertaken that may see the government give approval and take away the right for locals to do the development that was planned for and that they have a right to do.

Infill development was seen as the most appropriate manner to deliver additional housing to meet population growth and protect the environment by ensuring no further urban sprawl.

The West Byron lands are heavily constrained environmentally, including being critical habitat for koalas. The land is also an identified acid sulfate soil area and it is flood-prone.

The impact of additional traffic on Ewingsdale Road would be damaging for the iconic tourism destination but would also increase the impacts on locals.

The bypass is not an answer to Byron Bay’s current traffic problem but appears to be a trigger for approval and will not alleviate the impacts of additional development.

The further insult to the community with this proposal is the poor quality of the application, it fails to identify key issues for consideration and the state should be aware that it is an application that does not properly consider the impacts.

I have placed on the parliamentary record the failings of the West Byron development application including a motion calling for a deferral of the consideration of this proposal until the shortcomings are addressed.

A petition calling on the minister to defer a decision until there is accurate information provided collected over 500 signatures at the rally on Saturday and that will be presented to the Legislative Assembly, where the planning minister Pru Goward sits, when parliament resumes.

The 500 signatures requires the minister to respond, if 10,000 signatures are delivered then a debate in the parliament will happen and my colleague Jamie Parker will be able to address the concerns of the Byron community.

(See my website janbarham.org or facebook for the petition, it is not an electronic petition, it needs to be hard copy original.
Parliament resumes on the 14 October).

Jan Barham, MLC, Broken Head

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