The recent demolition of a toilet block in The Terrace Caravan Park in Brunswick Heads built by volunteer members of the local progress association decades ago has sparked a new wave of concern about the lack of community consultation by the managers of the public crown reserve parks.
It follows plans by the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (CHPT) to install half a million-dollars worth of demountable luxury units, with their own kitchens and bathrooms, in the creekfront reserve adjacent to the park which is used in peak holiday times for overflow camping.
Residents feared at least six historic Coastal Cypress Pines planted in memory of locals who died during World War I were earmarked by park managers to be chopped down to make room for the new upmarket camping accommodation.
But CHPT chief executive Steve Edmonds told Echonetdaily the installation of the camp kitchen would not require removal of any trees.
Mr Edmonds said the concept design for what he described the southern ‘precinct’ of the holiday park took into account the location of existing vegetation.
The Crown Reserves Annual Report 2012-13 shows that $445,000 was allocated to erect one cabin, three ‘ECO tents’ and to ‘establish a camp kitchen in the Southern end of The Terrace Reserve’.
Last month, the toilet/shower block in the central part of the holiday park was demolished to make way for a modern facility. A workman on the site said asbestos also had to be removed from the building.
That sparked concern by Foreshore Protection Group[ (FPG) members who say they had no prior notice of the demolition nor have they seen plans of the facility taking its place.
FPG spokesperson Michele Grant said the old toilet block was built in the 1980s by volunteer labour from the town’s progress association and gifted to the caravan park, then managed by Byron Shire Council.
Ms Grant said the park managers should have obtained normal development approval for those works from council as part of consulting with the community, but the CHPT claimed otherwise, saying they didn’t need to as they operated under the Crown Lands Act.
A spokesperson for the CHPT said ‘consent is given under the Crown Lands Act and that ’the Plan of Management (for the park) is approved by the Minister under the Act.’
MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham tried to clarify the issue in parliament, putting a question on notice to six ministers, asking them whether residential communities and holiday parks on Crown Reserves are ‘required to comply with all of the licensing provisions of the Local Government Act 1993?’
Ms Barham also asked if they were required to comply with ‘all of the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 for any development that is to be undertaken?’
The government ministers responded that ‘Yes. Residential communities and holiday parks on Crown Reserves are required to comply with all applicable Acts, including the Local Government Act 1993 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.’
And while Ms Barham told locals the answer should clarify the issues and that council should ‘act accordingly over the need for DAs relating to some of the works and future plans’, Byron Shire Council planners agreed with the CHPT.
A council spokesperson told Echonetdaily that acting executive manager of planning, Sharyn French, ’confirmed that holiday parks on Crown Reserves are required to comply with all applicable Acts, including the Local Government Act 1993 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979’.
‘However, when there is a Plan of Management in place, there is no need for development approval when the works are for the purpose of implementing a plan of management,’ Ms French said.
‘The Brunswick Heads caravan parks have a plan of management which were approved and adopted in June 2014 by the state government.
‘Works can be completed under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 and therefore comply with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Such works are considered as development permitted without consent,’ she said.
FPG, a group of residents and supporters which has been fighting for years to stop encroachments by the town’s three crown holiday parks onto public reserves and the blocking of public foreshore access along the creek at The Terrace Caravan Park, is not happy with the state of play.
Spokesperson Sean O’Meara said park managers were intent on removing the historic pines in the Terrace Reserve (used for peak-time overflow camping area) to make way for more cabins and accommodation to boost their coffers .
Mr O’Meara, whose octogenarian father Darcy grew up and lives opposite the reserve, said he believed ‘these luxury ECO tents with their own kitchens and bathrooms are totally outside their licensing agreements as the southern end of the Terrace Reserve is zoned Primitive Camping only’.
He sent Echonetdaily photos of simlar-styled tents he took a few years back at Hastings Point on the Tweed Coast.
‘Notice no trees around to cause any issues with these tents. They will say these are portable but there is nothing portable about the cement foundations that support these structures,’ Mr O’Meara said.