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May 13, 2021

Residents group calls on Cr Wanchap to resign

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A peaceful protest outside the office of Byron Shire Councillor and Greens party defector Rose Wanchap this morning (October 17) has broken up without incident.
A peaceful protest outside the office of Byron Shire councillor and Greens Party defector Rose Wanchap this morning (October 17) has broken up without incident.

Chris Dobney

A peaceful protest outside the real estate office of Byron Shire councillor and Greens party defector Rose Wanchap in Byron Bay has broken up without incident.

Protest organiser Cate Coorey, from the Byron Residents Group, told Echonetdaily ‘about 31’ people attended the protest, a wry comment on the number of people who the group say voted directly for Cr Wanchap at the 2012 council elections.

Ms Coorey said ‘police asked us to clear the footpath but we weren’t really ever blocking it’.

‘Cr Wanchap came out and spoke for about four minutes but she was going over the detail of the Koala Plan of Management and why she’s objecting to it.’

She added she was surprised to see National Party councillor Chris Cubis and Byron Bay business chamber heavyweight Paul Waters also in attendance.

‘They said they were there to protect Rose, but we felt they were trying to be provocative,’ she said.

Mr Waters described the event as a ‘picket’, adding ‘you couldn’t have got into the office if you wanted to’.

‘I’m just one of those people who stands up for the downtrodden,’ he said. ‘I was there to support Rose in her plight. I believe she’s being bullied and I knew she wouldn’t have too many people standing up for her. ‘

He further attacked the Byron Residents Group (BRG), which he said ‘was not representative’ and claimed ‘half of them don’t even live or pay rates in Byron Shire’.

He claimed BRG was a front for the Byron Greens.

‘If they’re going to apply some kind of misguided idea that she should resign, they should apply that to Paul Spooner. He was a former Greens member, who resigned to run as an independent, and subsequently became Labor’s candidate for Ballina,’ he said.

Greens refute claims

Byron Shire Greens convenor Graeme Williams has unequivocally refuted Mr Waters’ claims, saying the bullying allegations were a ‘tactic of the National Party’.

‘I think many Greens members and supporters who’ve worked really hard feel very betrayed by Rose’s sudden and unexpected change of character. I’m not aware of any [bullying] incident and there’s been no formal complaint made,’ he said.

‘I think there’s this tendency, and it’s a clear way to try and target anyone who is disappointed Rose’s change of colour, to label them as a bully. This a clear tactic of those people associated with the National Party: if anyone criticises Rose’s erratic change of political views, they characterise them as a bully.

‘There were extensive efforts to mediate with Rose – many women in the Greens tried to sit down and talk with her. Many still maintain relationships with her. But there’s been no coherent explanation made. Rose, ultimately, has the answer. But the Greens feel betrayed.

‘Clearly the Nats and their allies have a political agenda and they can see she’s aiding and abetting that agenda. They want to keep her onside so that they can push their agenda through council.’

Mr Williams also emphatically denied that the Byron Residents Group was a front for the Greens.

‘I don’t think any of the organisers are current members of the Greens,’ he said.

Wanchap defends vote

Cr Wanchap late this morning forwarded an email that quotes a critique of the Koala Plan of Management by Australian Wetlands Consulting as a rationale for her voting to delay the plan.

In essence, the email claims only two koalas have been observed on the site in recent surveys and just 2.5 hectares on the site have been identified as core koala habitat.

Other reasons given for supporting the West Byron development include that acid sulphate soils are common in other Byron Shire villages, including Byon Bay itself; rates from the new development will generate an additional $2 million a year for council; and that rents in Byron Bay are higher than anywhere else in Australia.

[Original story, 7am]

Byron Residents Group (BRG) are staging a peaceful protest in Byron Bay today ‘to convey our outrage at the hijacking of our vote by Rose Wanchap and at the damage she is doing to our town.’

The former Greens Byron Shire councillor quit the party in May 2014 and has since been voting with the pro-development bloc, effectively handing them a majority in council and pushing through a raft of contentious decisions.

But the group says just 31 people voted for Cr Wanchap as an individual with the Greens Party delivering her remaining votes.

Yet, BRG spokesperson Cate Coorey says Cr Wanchap ‘has voted against the Greens on almost every significant development issue that has come before council’.

Mayor disappointed

But Byron Shire’s mayor Simon Richardson, the lead Greens candidate on the same ticket, has declined to support the call for Cr Wanchap’s resignation, saying only ‘it is up to Rose to decide’.

He added, however he was ‘deeply disappointed’ in her decision to quit the party and cross the floor.

‘I’m just hearing like everybody else an overwhelming disappointment that so many residents who voted don’t feel they have the council they voted for,’ Cr Richardson told Echonetdaily.

‘[The Greens] are extremely proud of our record over 20 years and as a community we’ve stood up to the conservatives who want to take us in a different direction.

‘There is a small but substantial majority of progressive voters and we’re seeing a venting of that disappointment and frustration that a lot of the things we’ve worked for over 20 years many see as in jeopardy.’

He said he did support the view that those who voted for Cr Wanchap were overwhelmingly Greens supporters rather than personal followers.

‘I was in her situation in the previous election when I got 40 [personal] votes and I firmly believed I was voted in as a Green not as “school teacher Simon Richardson”. I saw myself as there to support the mayor and to advocate on a Green platform.

Cr Richardson said unlike the other major parties the Greens don’t direct their members how to vote, ‘but there’s an understanding that on large development matters we do reject things that don’t have due process and are outside community expectations.

‘You are tied to a commitment to green policies and platforms,’ he said.

Can’t be forced out

According to SCU law lecturer Aidan Ricketts, Cr Wanchap cannot be legally forced to resign.

‘Local government isn’t a constitutional layer of government it’s established under state legislation,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘But whether you’re federal state or local there’s no legal impediment to being elected by one party and sitting or voting with another,’ he added.

‘Political parties were latecomers to our democracy. Originally our political representatives were all elected as independents and parties only came later as a way of organising the voting.

‘There is a history of this [in Australian politics] with Senators changing sides – and even in the House of Representatives. Although it may have political and ethical ramifications there’s no legal recourse for it,’ Mr Ricketts said.

Koalas in jeopardy

BRG has described the pro-development bloc’s deferral of the Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) as a tactic to enable encroachment by the controversial proposed West Byron development into core koala habitat, which the plan would prevent.

‘If council’s draft KPoM is adopted, it will make it difficult for the planning minister to proceed with her department’s proposal to clear 4.6 ha of the 12.8 ha of core koala habitat, and allow intensive development in 21ha (70 per cent) of the required 50m buffers, on West Byron,’ Ms Coorey said.

‘It would also require the adoption of measures to limit car speeds, exclude dogs, and adopt koala-friendly fencing and swimming pool guidelines,’ she added.

‘For months now the development bloc on council has being doing everything they can to frustrate council’s attempts to adopt the KPoM, at one stage even seeking funding to round up the free koalas and put them in a compound.

‘On 9 October they again deferred adopting the plan on the spurious basis that they needed legal advice – after spending four years and consulting many experts. It is clear that they do not want the plan adopted before the minister approves West Byron.’

Ms Coorey says that if Cr Wanchap will not stand down she should at least use her vote to pass the Koala Plan of Management.

‘Byron residents elected Rose Wanchap in the belief that she would support Green principles, including providing protection for koalas.

‘In order to protect the koalas of Byron Bay we need to convince Rose Wanchap to stop blocking the Byron Coast Koala Plan of Management and ensure it is immediately adopted to provide adequate protection for core koala habitat and corridors, Ms Coorey said.

The group is calling for a peaceful protest outside Cr Wanchap’s real estate office in Fletcher Street, Byron Bay from 10am on Friday (October 17).

 


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18 COMMENTS

  1. It sucks that she cannot be legally forced to resign. Anyone with a petition to get her off the chair? Shame on her! Shame on her inability to clarify or admit that she seems to be thinking only for the big money, regardless of the consequences that will come upon a community such as Byron. *sigh*

  2. I have been an aquaintance of Rose for some time and her ethical and environmental credentials always seemed strong, which makes her present course bewildering. Surely her moral (if not legal) position is untenable. At the very least she should be explaining her change of heart to her constituents.

  3. Rumor has it that the Greens headhunted Rose Wanchap to add to their ticket for the election? If so it would appear that the “puppet masters ” from the Greens didn’t ask enough questions during the interview.
    The Greens need to sack their interview panel committee members also if this is true! Don’t put all the blame on Rose.
    Rose does great things for our community and turns up voluntarily to community events ,so please don’t forget this.

  4. Rose Wanchap must Resign! She has no mandate to operate as an independent. Therefore she is a councillor through deception. She has no credibility, and apparently no sense of decency or respect for the voters or the democratic process. One can only conclude that her goals and values are of self interest, based on her actions. Salvage some self respect community respect and resign!

  5. As a bystander it did not feel like a peaceful protest there was lots of commotion until the police showed up to oversee the event and even then it was still borderline peaceful. As a local business owner I had customers asking what was going on and many left frightened by the confrontation, there were also babies crying due to the tense atmosphere and aggressive words. The protest blocked the main path that allows access to the back of Byron st and many independent shops and businesses for a busy part of the morning. The protest could of been planned and carried out a lot better than it was, if it was moved a few meters down the path it would of been less obstructive and less impeding on the surrounding local businesses as the path there, is much wider with no shops.

  6. I think the best idea it is if Cr Wanchap resign now then run again in a by-election as an independent if she thinks she can be reelected. I realize this would cost money but it would solve what is fast becoming an intractable problem.

  7. Paul Waters, former head honcho of Byron United, is quoted as saying: ‘I’m just one of those people who stands up for the downtrodden,’ he said. ‘I was there to support Rose in her plight. I believe she’s being bullied and I knew she wouldn’t have too many people standing up for her. ‘

    I was there too. While it’s true there were not too many people standing up for Cr Wanchap and there were many heated exchanges – as one would expect in a situation where the community feels shafted by Cr Wanchap and her turncoat tactics – the only bullying behaviour I witnessed was from Cr Wanchap, who, at once stage, said she would slap longtime Byron local Maggie Moss if she didn’t shut up. This was caught on camera and should be on the TV news shortly.

    Further Cr Chris Cubis, who kept interjecting on behalf of Cr Wanchap, also deliberately elbowed me in the back as I was trying to take a picture. Unfortunately, no one witnessed this, but I did mention it to the cops who came to check on us later. The cops were reasonable and just asked us to keep the pavement clear.

    As a resident of Byron Shire for over a decade I was shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of Byron Councillors Wanchap & Cubis and what they represent. First they sell the community down the tube by sucking up to their developer mates, including blocking koala management plans that would protect Byron’s endangered koalas. Then they try and enforce their writ via thuggish behaviour. All the while watched over by Paul Waters like some stand-over merchant. It’s not Byron Bay, it’s Babylon Bay if we don’t stop this lot from taking over and thrashing Australia’s iconic piece of paradise.

    Harsha Prabhu
    Sunrise, Byron

  8. “I believe that it is impossible to end hatred with hatred.” –Mahatma Gandhi, 23 November 1924
    i am genuinely upset to see that Rose is again being demonized and vilified in the public domain. Whether you agree or disagree with a person’s views or actions – is it right to attack them in such a humiliating fashion. The “peaceful protest” was anything but from my understanding – but that as it may be, lets place some love in this situation and act with honor so that the good may arise.

  9. Understand the disappointment with Rose, but think seriously about seeking her resignation. Michael Malloy did that many years ago forcing a by-election which the Council couldn’t afford and can’t afford now.

    • Well, they always say they can’t afford it. That was right when the Tuckerbox was built and Max Eastcott got a huge bonus. The worlds still turning but the council got Lisa Christoffersen in return.

  10. The actions whereby protestors picket a person’s place of business who happen to be a councillor as has occurred in Rose Wanchap’s case are disturbing to me. Surely an action of this type should not occur in this manner, and Ms Wanchap has a right to go about her business without harassment.
    Wouldn’t it more proper, and seemly should one have an issue with a councillor to demonstrate outside a council meeting they are attending ?
    For a large group of people to stand outside a persons business preventing people from entering and going about their day to day business is an act of intimidation, it cannot be described in any other manner.
    This does nothing to further the protestors cause as they are seen as bully’s – not ‘progressive’ participants in democracy.
    How far will these types of actions ultimately lead if they continue in this manner
    Will it be OK next to go to people homes and protest and picket ?
    Protest and dissent has it’s place – I believe in this case though the protestors went too far – and have not advanced their cause by taking this action. Force is not a good way to advance philosophies.
    I would hope the protestors realise there actions may not be seen as acceptable by a large number of our community. Surely you can advance your cause in a more intelligent and acceptable manner .

  11. Oh dear Mr Walters! The Byron Residents Group couldn’t be more representative of the area! I’m sure there are Greens within this group of concerned ratepayers, as there are Nationals, Liberals, Labor and swinging voters. And civic minded ratepayers all! My family goes back generations, as far back as 1870, and we have paid our dues and supported this community for all that time. I’m afraid it is you who are one of the ‘blow-ins’ trying to throw your weight around.

  12. Simple, the Greens need to reconnect again with the grass roots which were the basis of their original support in this Shire. Candidates for election should not be plucked out of a hat which it now appears how Rose Wanchap was selected. I too always voted for the Greens because I thought they were truly for the whole environment,including the many hinterland issues that have never been addressed. Issues like feral dogs and cats, increased herbicide use alongside drains and creeks, increase in plastic bag use, the once a year muster of cane toads, a waste of time and money. The Greens could be a party of reform based on the reality of climate change,. All the mowed ground in this Shire could be producing food. We need true grass root representatives, not self interested frauds.

  13. How very typical of the greens to carry on like this then react so indignantly when one of them is confronted in response. These people were there to deliberately intimidate Rose and to disrupt her business. Their behaviour is inexcusable and is clear bullying by weight of numbers.
    Irrespective of political issues nobody should be treated they way this rabble treated Rose.

  14. Have to laugh at the naivety…”oh lets get a real estate agent to join the greens”… this has only shown the present council like all previous councils in their absurdity of abstract reality…Seriously guys this is a no brainer.. we just dont have the infrastructure for West byron development regardless of how lucrative it may be for some vested interests ( including councillors on both sides)…If anyone should resign its the idiot that suggested they have a real estate agent stand in the greens camp…..this stuff beggars belief

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