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Byron Shire
December 1, 2022

Deputy mayor’s mini-storage business riles neighbours

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Graham Mathews, Myocum/Tyagarah

I note with some interest Hans Lovejoy’s comments in his [October 21] report on the proceedings at a recent Byron Shire Council meeting. I refer, of course, to the latest attempt by Cr Alan Hunter to inflict his mini-storage activities on the local residents who Hans aptly describes as the ‘long-suffering neighbours’.

I applaud him for seeing  these activities as they really are and for his willingness to tell it as he sees it. These are qualities which have been sadly lacking in council’s  assessment of the string of development applications lodged by Cr Hunter and his wife over the last few years.

Since the early days of this saga, they have insisted to all who would listen (in particular, council staff and  the other councillors) that these multiple efforts to secure the development approvals they needed were, in fact,  about improving the viability of their cattle grazing and seeds/grain distribution activities.

To this end, Cr Hunter has pounded the municipal corridors talking up his National Party credentials and, even after pleading guilty and being fined for over-developing one of his earlier approvals for ‘farm sheds’ and, at the same time being threatened with prosecution by council for operating an extensive mini-storage business on the site without lodging a development application, he has managed to be elected to public office and, now, in an even more extraordinary twist, has wound up deputy mayor!

He has, however, been less forthcoming in his dealings with the Pinegroves Road residents.

Those of us who have lived in this narrow country lane in recent years have, sadly, not had the benefit of being consulted so enthusiastically about his plans while this saga has been unfolding.

Right from the time of the very first development application for a ‘farm shed’, when asked by local residents what his intentions were, he was not transparent about his proposals.

In conclusion, the real problem for the street is that when, some weeks ago, the Hunters were granted an approval on the basis of 10 truck movements per week, limited to four tonnes per vehicle, most of the residents were disposed to accept this as a reasonable outcome, something of an acceptable compromise.

Those same residents now feel ambushed by council’s recent decision to allow these truck movements to include 12-tonne and 16-tonne vehicles, a dangerous extension of the development approval on a narrow and steep road which was originally designed and built for limited farm access.

Given that many (or most) of these vehicles will be trucks and pantechnicons operated by furniture removals and storage firms or individuals moving possessions on and off the Hunters’ property, activities on this scale then flow onto a larger volume of cars with trailers, utilities, one-tonne and two-tonne vehicles, panel vans etc. as the Hunters’  customers then visit the facility to further deposit and retrieve their possessions, often outside normal working hours.

While the approvals restrict the truck movements to daylight hours and on weekdays only, previous experience of this operation has shown that people accessing the site do so at all hours of the day and night and most often at weekends when the residents prize the tranquility of this area.

No one in this rural retreat  that I have been involved with would deny Mr and Mrs Hunter the right to make a marginal farming operation more efficient or more profitable by engaging in some limited commercial activity,  but to enhance one’s income earning potential and, in the process, the value of  your property at the expense of the amenity and the lifestyle of one’s neighbours, to say nothing of putting at risk the lives of their children, their pets and the wildlife in the area, is unacceptable.

It is even more reprehensible when this activity is being carried on in a small community by someone who has been elected to a position of trust by members of that community who have a right to expect a certain standard of conduct from one of their elected representatives.

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