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Byron Shire
May 25, 2024

Byron Council supports shops but not hospital

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In a bizarre twist, Byron Shire Council yesterday refused to support state government plans for the long-awaited Byron Central Hospital at Ewingsdale yet voted against residents’ wishes by allowing further development of the area around it.

Cr Rose Wanchap, who defected recently from the Greens, and pro-development Cr Sol Ibrahim sided with National Party-aligned Crs Woods, Hunter and Cubis to support a controversial development on either side of the hospital, which will include doctors’ surgeries, shops and seniors’ housing.

The move caused an uproar inside council chambers and sparked outrage from the Ewingsdale Community Association, which was already angered by council’s previous decision to refer the proposal to the state government for so-called ‘gateway’ determination without proper consultation.

The decision comes ahead of the shire’s updated growth management strategy, which is still about 12 months away from being finalised.

Crossed the floor: Byron Shire Greens Councillor Rose Wanchap
Defected: Byron Shire  Councillor Rose Wanchap

Wanchap vote critical

Lorissa Barrett of Ewingsdale Community Association described it as, ‘a vote to urbanise Ewingsdale and Ewingsdale Road, without a growth management plan, a traffic plan, effective community consultation and rendering the SEPP, FNCRS, LES and LEP worthless.’

Ms Barrett was particularly scathing of Cr Wanchap, whose vote was crucial in passing the motion, and who was elected to council on the Greens’ ticket before abandoning the party after supporting the nearby West Byron development.

The fact that Cr Wanchap got in on a Greens ticket and has constantly voted in favour of development is astounding. If she had been voting according to the Greens platform we would’ve had five councillors supporting us,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘We were simply asking council to hold off until we have the growth management plan and an effective community consultation.

Ms Barrett added few people in Ewingsdale felt there had been any proper consultation either from council or the developers.

‘For example, Ben from the band Parkway Drive, who’s lived on that street all his life, hadn’t even heard of the development until the weekend when we did media on it.

She said the group would not give up the battle.

‘We got motivated and got the community together in a couple of weeks once we realised what was going on.

‘Now we’ve regrouped and we’ll start trying to work out what we can influence the developers to build there, and to ensure they consult the community to make sure our views are heard by council and the developers,’ Ms Barrett said.

Immediately after the public access session, resident Gavin Greenoak seized the floor with a public statement decrying the about-face actions of Cr Wanchap.

‘In September 2012, Wanchap was elected on the Green party ticket in a result that also voted in a Green mayor and Green majority by one in the council,’ he said.

‘But Wanchap voted contrary to her team and by the first half of 2014, finally resigned from the Greens. She continued to hold her seat.

‘Wanchap has abandoned that position and, by her holding the balance of power, the fate of this shire now hangs upon her whim or wisdom as she pleases.

‘Integrity must prevail for any reality of good faith. To this end, Rose Wanchap should leave the assembly now,’ said Mr Greenoak.

He started clapping and chanting ‘Rose out’ and was quickly joined in this by other members of the public gallery.

Residents’ rights overridden

Dailan Pugh is concerned about the proposed new West Byron development's impacts on the wildlife-rich Belongil estuary and wetlands.
Residents’ rights overridden: ecologist Dailan Pugh.

Local ecologist Dailan Pugh was also scathing of councillors supporting the move, who he said had ‘overridden the rights of residents’.

‘The majority of councillors did not care that the development is in direct contravention of the regional strategy and all council planning documents and strategies. Neither did they care that the traffic study was considered unreliable and implausible,’ he said.

‘This Ewingsdale development is a planning abomination, which displays the utmost contempt for the rights and expectations of the community.

‘These same councillors have also shown contempt for koalas by yet again deferring a decision on the Byron Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management to stop it coming into force.

‘This means that the core koala habitat identified on West Byron will not get the legal protection it urgently needs to stop its being zoned for housing and a shopping centre,’ Mr Pugh said.

Community Independent Cr Paul Spooner agreed that was ‘an opportunity lost in terms of making sure we get these planning matters right’.

‘There has been a lot of community concern around it. It’s not necessarily that we don’t require sites for elderly housing but it should be considered as part of the growth management strategy and whether it’s the best location in the shire,’ he told Echonetdaily.

No operating theatre

In a motion moved by Cr Spooner, council withdrew support for the plans for Byron Central Hospital on discovering they would not include an operating theatre.

Cr Spooner’s motion stated that ‘due to the proposed new hospital not containing an operating theatre providing surgical services, which has always been considered essential by the Byron Shire Community Consultative Committee in its support for a new facility, this council cannot support the proposal in its current form.’

Cr Pour Schooner
No operating theatre in new hospital: Cr Paul Spooner

Concerns were also raised about the future of the Byron and Mullumbimby hospitals once the new hospital is operational.

Cr Spooner told Echonetdaily, ‘for many years it’s been seen as important to the development of the new hospital for it to provide surgical services and I think that it’s seen as essential by the community.

‘Traditionally there has been day surgery services available through the Byron Bay Hospital although I understand they’ve been put on hold over the last few months because of lack of equipment,’ he said.

‘Certainly the services that are proposed [by the state government] are needed for the area but without surgical services being available from the hospital there will be a decline in health services in the area. That’s not the outcome I think the community would expect.’

Cr Spooner said the motion was a call for the state government to reconsider the plan before it gets finalised.

‘Council had been asked for its comments, and that’s what it was doing,’ he said.

The motion was passed unanimously.

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  1. Typical of this council. Vote against a hospital. Lets hope the State government can intervene and get the bloody thing built.

  2. Amazing. Council literally brought to a halt yesterday (actually shut down for ten+ minutes with Councillors leaving the Chamber – first time in over a decade) due to Gavin Greenoak’s interrupting Council, supported by many in the gallery with placards and chanting – and no mention in Echonetdaily??? Isn’t this site called an “echo’. Is the echo going deaf?

  3. Regarding the hospital decision taken by Council I believe it is important to point out the following by way of clarification:

    i) In the fist part of the motion adopted Council advised the Department Planning and Environment of its general support for the development of a Byron Shire Central Hospital.

    ii) The Department of Planning and Environment had referred State Significant Development Application SSD 6573 Byron Shire Central Hospital to Council for comment. In other words, Council is not the determining authority on this matter.

    In summary, while Council is supportive of having a new Byron Hospital it wants to ensure that any plans include an operating theatre in the development.

    It is now up to the state government to consider its plan not to include surgical services.

  4. The reason that the two communities of Byron and Mullumbimby have been so accepting of a new centralised hospital is because of the promise of an upgrade in services on offer after decades of erosion in services in services at each hospital. Losing another existing service, the day surgical services at Byron, is contrary to the promise that has allowed the two usually parochial communities to come together to support a single centralised hospital.

    I was also hoping that the council would also be a stronger advocate for renewable energy being part of the new design.

  5. What a shame to read that the beloved Byron Bay is going the way of other coastal communities. It is the atmosphere that we all are drawn to. If it becomes “Just another beach town” between that and the traffic, WHY BOTHER GOING? Let’s hope the councillors see sense before it’s too late. Not just for people, but for the koalas as well.

  6. Byrons day surgery and ongoing treatment which was connected to the same service saved my life, I had a big sist removed from an old operation site at a Dr,s surgery, unfortunatly the 20mm wide by 20mm deep hole left in my back became infected. The day surgery cleaned up the wound but then I needed to go to the hospital 3 times a week to have it packed with a miraculas seaweed tissue growth stimulant substance.
    As I couldn’t travel by car during the 6 months of treatment due to the wound being on my lumber spine which I couldnt rub against anything like a car seat. Without the services of the day surgery I would have had to move away from my home of 30 years now or possibly not be here now to write this.
    We need an operating theatre here in Byron more than ever as our population and visitor rate further increases .I know of very urgent emergency surgery cases where e.g. a tradesman’s hand would have been lost without Byrons day surgery. Thanks Byron Hospital.


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