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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

Give planning power back to councils

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The rubber stamping for the rezoning of the West Byron development by the state government is the very reason that planning powers should remain in the hands of local government and that amalgamation of shires is a thinly veiled disguise for the removal of planning powers of shires in the name of better services.

The state is so far removed from the community of Byron Shire and all other shires for that matter (look at their response to massive coal seam gas opposition), they are in no way in touch with the realities of the impacts that a suburban development of this size would have on this area.

To my mind, the essence of a good planning policy is one that reflects as much as possible what the majority of residents in that area wants.

It would be hard to imagine that any resident who has driven into Byron on a busy day is going to support a development of this size on the edge of Byron.

A petition signed by 60,000 people in and around the shire opposes this development. This should not be a matter decided on by bureaucrats in Macquarie Street, they are reflecting only the views of a very small number of residents: the developers.

Ex mayor Jan Barham summed up this proposal by saying that it would sound the death bell for Byron.

She went on to say ‘the state government’s mantra of  “jobs and homes” is hollow and shows little regard for the priority the community of Byron Shire set long ago, to protect and preserve the environment and the well being of the community’.

MP Barham said that ‘after decades of strategic planning and environmental and cultural protection by the community to create one of Australia’s most desirable residential locations and an iconic international visitor destination, the state government’s approval of the West Byron over-development project  puts all that at risk’.

Over the years ,successive councils reflecting the wishes of the majority of residents ,have battled to keep Byron unique.

If people want to live in large housing estates maybe they should think about moving to Tweed or Ballina.

Rather than heading down the path of mediocrity, this unique area of Byron could well be a large scale ‘Wetland Botanical Garden’ of international significance attracting funding associated with the research and development of such a proposal.

The Belongil wetlands is the disposal area for all of West Byron sewerage treatment works effluent.

My memory of the upgrade for West Byron STW is that it allowed for infill development only and the increase in tourism expected over the next 20 years.

A 1,100-house subdivision was not part of the equation, except maybe in the developers’ minds.

Even if the  the nutrient or contaminant level of effluent disposal with the 1,100 extra houses was OK, there would have to be a serious question asked as to whether the wetlands can deal with the extra hydraulic loading.

This is a extremely fragile wetland and estuarine ecosystem which could be developed as a particularly different attraction.

Assuming this development were to go ahead ,the developers would have to stump up a considerable amount to bring the STW up to scratch. Without detailed studies this still doesn’t ensure the wetlands wouldn’t be severely impacted on

The state government does not care about: the lack of social and community infrastructure accompanying this new development such as schools, preschools, youth support; unresolved traffic congestion; or the serious impact on koala populations.

This will fall back on Byron shire ratepayers to fill the gaps.

A much simpler way of raising funds for Byron Shire would be to introduce a bed tax, which I suggested as a councillor years ago, this some how fell into the too hard basket.

I believe that the three-tier system of government needs to be overhauled.

State governments are so out of step with local communities that they should be replaced by larger regional councils, with small local government areas remaining autonomous with respect to planning and community matters, while the federal government deals with all matters of national significance.

Sack the states.

Ian Hosken, Main Arm




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