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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

At Brunswick Heads ‘they pave paradise, put in a parking lot’

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The Banner Park plan involves building a raised timber deck along the foreshore with fencing and bigger playground.
The Banner Park plan involves building a raised timber deck along the foreshore with fencing and bigger playground.

Luis Feliu

Plans to start work after Easter on a major and controversial makeover of popular foreshore parks at picturesque Brunswick Heads has sparked a rallying call by residents angered at not being properly consulted about the changes.

The state-government approved upgrades include reducing a swathe of green space at Torakina Reserve to make way for a new 18-space car park and an access road inside it, as well as building a foreshore walkway there.

At Banner Park opposite the local pub, a huge 400-square-metre raised timber deck including fencing and picnic tables will be built along the river foreshore, and the existing playground will be upgraded and enlarged.

Six of the historic Norfolk Island pines there will be incorporated into the deck, with river steps replaced, but an old gum tree which residents had fought to prevent being chopped down by park managers before is now doomed again and set to be cut down to make way for the bigger playground.

A new network of pathways and lighting is also planned for all the foreshore parklands, but the progress association says no details or specifications have been given of what type of path surface or style of lighting are to be used.

While some will welcome upgrades to amenities in the parklands, others fear Gold Coast style over-development will replace the natural charm of the seaside holiday village with its popular open green spaces famed for children’s birthday parties and traditional, blanket-style picnics.

The configuration of the proposed new Torakina Reserve car park and access road near the popular bridge jumping spot.
The proposed Torakina Reserve car park and access road near the popular bridge jumping spot removes a large swathe of picnic and recreation area.

The Brunswick Heads Progress Association says consultation with residents over the plans has been lacking and has called for a public meeting to debate the changes for 7pm Monday, 2 March, at the Memorial Hall in Fingal Street, Brunswick Heads.

NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NCHPT) members and the wider community have been invited to attend the meeting to learn about the plans and voice their opinions.

Echonetdaily asked the Trust for comment yesterday on the plans and public meeting, but it has yet to respond.

The progress association has also developed an online resident questionnaire for locals to provide the trust with feedback on the changes.

One of those questions ask if residents are ‘outraged that a carpark is proposed for INSIDE (emphasised) a natural favourite park in Brunswick Heads’ and whether they would support parking OUTSIDE (emphasised) the parklands such as ‘designated parking at South Beach Road or near the surf club’.

Other questions ask if residents ‘do not support the large boardwalk, deck and fencing’along the foreshore at at Banner Park or a bigger playground there or whether the area is ‘already too congested’ for it.

Residents are also asked whether they want to retain the old gum tree there and whether they’d support ‘a report from an independent arborist on the health of the large old Norfolk pines’ in the riverside park.

Work will also begin after Easter on a dedicated public walkway connecting the boat harbour to the foreshore and other minor upgrades at the trust managed parks at Massey-Greene nearby and Ferry Reserve further up the river.

The trust this week mailed out a leaflet to locals titled ‘Brunswick Heads Update’ for February which briefly mentioned (in two sentences) the proposed major works under a small headline ‘Improved Foreshore’, giving more space promoting recent awards the parks received.

Full details of the plans of management for the reserves can be found at www.lpma.nsw.gov.au

For a questionnaire email brunswick [email protected] (use ‘resident questionnaire’ for subject). For older people or those with no access to the internet can call 0410 024272 for a delivery/pickup within Brunswick Heads.

The configuration of the proposed new Torakina Reserve car park and access road near the popular bridge jumping spot.
The configuration of the proposed new Torakina Reserve car park and access road near the popular bridge jumping spot at Simpsons Creek.

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  1. The consultative process undertaken by North Coast Holiday Parks(NCHP) reflects poorly on the Plans of Management (POM) for the foreshore reserves. It may well raises legal issues as well.

    Key stakeholders, referenced on page 37 of the POM are identified in Appendix E being the Minutes of a meeting held 23rd April 2012. The KEY stakeholders were representatives from All Purposes Playground, Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, Carnival Inc. Woodchop Committee, McGregor’s Carnival and NCHP. Not one residents’ representative group was in attendance. The only conclusion one can deduce is that residents are NOT stakeholders!

    One could readily argue that these POM truly homogenise Brunswick Heads with other coastal villages/towns thus destroying the very ambience that draws tourists. Thus the direction of change can only be described as repugnant.

    Equally repugnant is the readiness of giving public parkland over to car parking. Parks are not manna from heaven, they have to be fought for! It is an unconscionable POM that is focussed on taking away public assets for this purpose when alternative parking is accessible.

    Worse, the foreshore parklands are handkerchiefs in area and spaces are readily sought for picnicking. The proposed pathways will not only break the existing sense of ‘openness’ but take out the very spaces that people use for their picnicking. Photographic evidence will attest to this!!

    On the brighter side, the unplanned consequences of decking and fencing along the foreshore in Banner Park, as was pointed out to me; will make a great place for the drunks to camp.

    In the meantime, both Byron Shire Council (up until 2006 when they were dismissed) and NCHP (since 2007) ought to hang their heads in utter shame at the condition they have left the foreshore parklands to deteriorate too while each hauled in profits from the caravan parks. Where did that money go given that it wasn’t spent on maintaining Brunswick’s value assets and there is a legal obligation to first spend monies on the caravan parks after which it is to be spent on the adjoining Crown Reserves i.e the foreshore parklands.

  2. I am not convinced we need more car parks and less park land either. We can easily park our cars 5 mins walk away from Torakina. There are plenty of spots to park in nearby streets and providing we respect the locals they won’t mind us parking under their shades trees. The walk will do most of us good as it should help to burn off those calories gained from pigging out in the Bruns coffee shops/pub.
    I also agree on the decking, it is simply not required and the money could be put to better use ie; ongoing maintenance of toilet blocks and bridge walkway.

  3. There are better ways to incorporate parking in Bruns than place them inside parks. The way that Lismore has provided car spaces in several of the main streets should be considered, especially where some landscaping breaks up the spaces. And what happened to all the ideas for streetscaping presented to Council many years ago? Yes, car parking spaces are needed – residents are blocked from their driveways because of the lack of them – but the priority must be to keep Bruns and its Simple Pleasures intact for all who enjoy this special location.

    Keep Bruns and the parks for families, visitors and residents, not cars, more noise and fumes.

  4. Brunswick Heads is the poor cousin of the Byron Shire. All the money gets poured into Byron and surrounds, and Brunswick misses out.

    The Brunswick foreshore and surrounds is an embarrassment. It is often overgrown and unkempt, with long and overgrown grass, or bare patches of roots and dirt. The public toilets are a disgrace, they are dirty and broken and we never use them if it can be helped. The children’s playgrounds are also filthy, broken and dangerous (no, I’m not an over protective parent, it is what it is).

    The bench seats that are available are not enough, and they are not maintained either.

    I have been a local all my life, yet I don’t like using the parks in Bruns as they are awful. I usually do not like change, and I like to keep things natural, but the Byron Shire does not maintain our parks to anywhere near a sufficient standard. I personally think this will be a major improvement. The extra car parks, although only a few, will also help in the parking problem we have in Bruns, not just in the high season these days.

    As for a previous comment about the decking and fencing making a great place for drunks to camp…. well, drunks camp anywhere. They certainly don’t need decking and fencing. Those comments are uneducated.

  5. Well well, what’s new? … not much. N.C.H.P.T. have been raking in the money since what, 2007? What have they done for us up to now? One thing I noticed is a bright spark of theirs thought it would be good to put down copious amounts of hard coarse wood chips under the play ground equipment in Banner Park. This killed the grass, made it uncomfortable for the children and no doubt makes their plan for decks in the park look good to the casual observer. Why not top dress, water and look after the grass in the park and around the foreshore? This is just one of there fails but I wont bore you with any more. N.C.H.P.T. have done pretty much zero in our parks for close to eight years now. Where is the money going we might ask? The Plans of Management in some of the parks were NOT inside approved boundries and some POM’S were never licensed for development by Council. This is because our Council, representing you and I, did not reach agreement over issues with N.C.H.P.Y.. N.C.H.P.T. just went ahead … lied or mislead government advisers to Ministers and the public .. and used some of the un-approved plans we have now. Now we have Government that can not understand why the natives are restless about their community! We are very upset because we are sick of being lied to and bullied by arms of government. N.C.H.P.T. would have a massively better outcome for everyone if they actually worked with the community. We could have worked together and developed outcomes that they do not even know about. Why, because they think they know it all. Well, they do not. This is why outcomes will NOT be what they could have been. Very sad for you and I, our visitors, our public parks they manage and very sad for N.C.H.P.T. too.

  6. Cairns underwent a foreshore upgrade to include a timber walking edge, play grounds, bird watching decks, etc for the who length of the boardwalk about 10 years ago. With much community concern and the following participation along with the Council in the development the result is now a much loved, used and appreciated change to the old foreshore. A similar change in Brunswick Heads will not need to have any similarity to the tackiness of the Gold Coast. Lets move forward and together to achieve a great addition to the foreshore/parklands that can be appreciated and used by the local and visiting communities.
    Geoff Harrison Ocean Shores

  7. Totally agree with you Patricia. We have been having our holidays at Brunswick Heads For 46 years now. We used to come with all the grandparents cousins aunts and uncles, now we are doing the same with our children. One of the most unspoiled places there is , which is why we love to visit. So many places being ruined with the same structure as you see in every other place or holiday destination which really does detract from the natural beauty. I live on the Sunshine Coast and they have spoilt some once really pretty spots with all this new modern designed boardwalks &, carparks ,etc. When will they realise its so much nicer to picnic in a casual natural untouched park then an organised looking obscene structure. Please leave Brunswick natural and unspoiled.

  8. It is as certain as day follows night that change is inevitable. So isn’t the clever thing to do to manage that change? Instead of lamenting and moaning about how things used to be, and how we don’t want change, why not embrace the inevitable and participate in ensuring that those inevitable changes are fantastic. Perhaps the most incredible example of this I have ever seen is Cairns. I lived there 30 years ago and only returned recently. The amazing citizens of Cairns have achieved a world class, stunning foreshore development without selling their soul or destroying the environment. It is possible people. Have faith.

    • Alan, so pleased you referenced the residents involvement in what happened in Cairns. Regrettably, the residents have been excluded by North Coast Holiday Parks from the consultative process in the preparation of these development plans.

      Worse, similar POM went out on exhibition in 2010 and were defeated only to be morphed and upgraded to the 2013 POM which is the focus now.

  9. heya Angie you are more than welcome to park your car outside my house.
    The truth is for most Brunswick Heads residents and lover visitors, we are all mystified and confused and outraged. Who’s this crew moved in, We’ll put this here we’ll put that there we’ll rearrange the landscape and cut down the trees. Who the fuck are you?
    We pay the rates we look after the town for future generations we are a community who welcome the kind of visitors who have our vision for this precious place.
    Let us and our friends look after Brunswick Heads.
    Keep your political money grubbing hands away.
    Away I say

  10. I wouldn’t consult the Brunswick Heads locals either. They are stuck in 1956 and only want 12 people to live in the town with no tourists.

    The upgrades to the park accross from the pub will be incredible. Currently it’s a gathering place for the homeless to drink tallies of VB.

    Where the car park is going is fine, if it’s that upsetting to remove a small portion of the grass, you could always knock down a few trees (sorry, I realise this is the Byron Shire and this would be considered worse than Hitler) at the back of this area to create more space.

    It’s a well though out design and a much needed upgrade.

  11. Bullshit thats why we go to brunswick heads for holidays on arrival dont use the car unless going shopping in mullum or ocean shores walk to river and beach fishing walk to pub, walk to by paper walk to buy bread and milk from cake shop walk to grab a coffee everything is close in the heart of brunswick dont destroy this beutifull town with overdevelopement otherwise we will have to find another holiday destination that is untouched as brunswick

  12. Please don’t ruin Brunswick Heads. Leave it untouched. It only needs some small changes done. The reason Brunswick attracts tourists is because of its natrual beauty.

  13. The above plan is just a big money spinner and keeping themselves employed.They have created a tempting plan (for some) to keep themselves in a job and the Byron Shire has taken the pay off. This is all going to cost big money. Why not spent it on something more useful for the locals and tourists like the roads? Brunswick is is filled with ‘pot holes’. Drive down Booyun Street (especially west of Tweed Street). These holes have not been repaired or filled in years. Maybe the locals might like compensation for wheel alignments and new suspension!
    I agree that the parking lot at Torakina will be well used and have minimal disruption to existing parkland, however the plan for Banner park is just a waste of money. That area is already well used with or without major modifications. To give that area a face lift only requires a new toilet block and some more picnic tables with shade covers. What is the use of a boardwalk?? If they want bike/walk path, put in a cement track.
    I’m sure most residents agree that they are not opposed to development, the locals would just like the existing public areas maintained. Shame on you Byron Shire for allowing this to happen. You must be getting big money to allow this to go ahead!!!!

    • Hi Sharon,

      Byron Shire Council was dismissed by Crown Lands as the administrator for the caravan parks and the foreshore parklands in 2006. A new entity came into existence called North Coast Accommodation Trust with its business trading as North Coast Holiday Parks. They have been responsible for the caravan parks and foreshore parklands since 2007.

      Then there was another change.

      New South Wales Crown Holiday Parks Trust replaced North Coast Accommodation Trust in June 2013. They had their first meeting in August 2013 and signed off on the POM for both the caravan parks and the foreshore parklands in December 2013.

      Whilst responsibility for the POM rests with those who signed off on them, i.e. NSWCHPT, they in turn have had to depend on the work done by NCHP who bear responsibility for preparing the POM, including all consultative processes, or lack thereof.

      Byron Shire Council, particularly since 2000 had endeavoured to represent the community’s wishes in four (4)POM up to when it was dismissed in 2006. The Minister wouldn’t agree with those POM and thus did not sign off on them.. BSC was then dismissed on what can only be described as highly surreptitious grounds. If BSC was in any way responsible for the poor POM in 2010 and again in 2013 I certainly would be equally forthright in criticising them.

  14. There are over 150 car parking spots within a couple of minutes walk from Torakina Reserve, most of which are empty for 90% of the year. The additional 18 carparks that are planned to be built inside the reserve will make absolutely no difference to the parking situation in Brunswick on peak summer beach days, which is the only time they will be needed.

    The majority of tourists come to Brunswick Heads to use its beautiful foreshore parklands. Torakina in summer has hundreds of people scattered around it and under its many shade trees. The grassed and treed area where this carpark is planned is usually covered in picnickers, soccer and volleyball games, and most weekends at least half a dozen kids birthday parties.

    It makes zero sense to reduce this heavily used and beautiful recreational space to a fraction of its size just to park a few cars. Thousands of families a year will be then be squeezed into a park 40% smaller.

    There is something very fishy going on here. For the majority of the last 40 years there was plenty of parking available right across the road from Torakina Reserve. That space is still available and rarely used because unlike Torakina it has no trees and is very exposed. A couple of years ago rocks were placed across the entrance to stop all parking and essentially reduced parking around Torakina by over 100 spots.

    If there really is a serious parking issue (which I don’t believe there is) it could be fixed in under an hour by removing a couple of rocks and spending $100 on a chain and padlock that is simply opened on busy days. Local charities or the Surf Club would jump at the chance to run the carpark on these days as happens in other open areas of Brunswick.

    Why destroy much used Torakina Reserve for a carpark when 20m away is a little used space that had been used for parking for years. Who could possibly make such a stupid decision?

    Torakina Reserve is Crown Land and designated for public purpose recreation. Unbelievably the old Crown Lands Department that once rigorously protected our best public spaces has had its authority transferred by the State Government (and Nationals) to the mysterious, Newcastle based, NSW Crown Lands Holiday Parks Trust. The NSW Government established this so called “trust” and “gifted” them (at council’s expense) not only the control and revenue of the 3 Brunswick Heads Caravan Parks but total control of 100% of our towns public foreshore Crown Land. Yes, all of it!

    The NSWCHPs Trust who decided last year it was fair to fence townsfolk off from their own parks and rivers, turn half of Torakina Reserve into a carpark and to deck over a large area of Banner Park is basically a bunch of city based developers. It was chaired by the ex CEO of Lend Lease and Westfield Developments. Other executives included the ex Property and Leasing Manager of Bunnings and McDonalds, the ex Director of Development for Landcom and a host of other high flying marketing and development specialists from the private sector.

    Crown Land is legislated to be cared for according to strict environmental, conservation, recreational and equity of access principles. This Trust is meant to ensure the protection of our natural spaces and vegetation but their Brunswick Heads Plans of Management are all about exclusion, cutting down trees, cementing over parks and building out any recreational space they can get their hands on. The 2014 Plans of Management show that Brunswick Heads is about to loose thousands of square metres of its best riverside parklands because what should be a conservation based authority has been stacked with developers. While this Trust would have incredible expertise in building carparks and plenty of connections in the construction industry, these are not the skills required of a “trust” appointed to care for our foreshore parks.

    So what is this really all about? The real reason behind this proposed new carpark is blatantly clear to me. If you want to build any commercial enterprise you must provide a certain amount of new car parking spaces in close proximity, you cannot rely on existing ones. So the question that really needs to be answered is what kind of additional developments does the ‘trust’ have in store for Torakina Reserve and what commercial purpose will that huge 400 square metre deck on Banner Park be used for?

    A dozen NSW Liberals took millions of dollars in illegal donations from developers last election, especially around the Newcastle area. It would appear an investigation is well overdue. An election is coming, you know what to do!!

  15. Hi Sean,

    Hope you are not suggesting the area adjoining Tozer’s beach house across from Torakina. It is important that the history of why this was cordoned off is brought into the conversation.

    Vehicles of all types were ripping that land and its associated remnant trees to pieces. The BHPA worked extremely hard with the appropriate authorities to have this cordoned off so it wouldn’t be used for car parking.

    Pity BSC didn’t site that ghastly shelter plonked in the middle of South Beach park in this area. It would have been more functional…..add a bbq and think of how that space would come alive

    As for your comments re parking spaces….couldn’t agree more………..

    Has anyone taken on the bigger question: How many cars do you/we want in Brunswick Heads????

  16. Once again the same old people are complaining about changes that were clearly displayed for months on the Plans Of Management (POM), in paper form and on the NSWCHPT website. Many locals had constructive input on the POM’s, as they wanted to play an active role in the future of Bruns. Their input has to a large degree been acknowledged and used. Most of these changes are fairly benign, they will not change the character of Bruns. Bruns is changing, and that change needs to be managed by the community (working with NSWCHPT).
    At least Patricia acknowledge the fact that for years the Byron Council took money from the Parks, and money given to them by the State government to improve the Parks, and then squandered that money on other projects. Hence the appalling state of Bruns parks infrastructure.

    • One has to distinguish between North Coast Holiday Parks and New South Wales Crown Holiday Parks Trust.
      The reason for this is, as you are well aware, NCHP is responsible in large part for the preparation of the POM for the foreshore parklands. A cursory look at the documentation used will attest to that. NSWCHPT didn’t come into existence until June 2013 but did sign off on the POM in December 2013. One can only assume NSWCHPT took the recommendations of NCHP in good faith. Whether deliberate or otherwise, residents were not consulted by NCHP in the preparation of those POM. Consequently, I would ask that you produce the evidence for your position about locals having constructive input into the POM as they wanted to play an active role in the future of Bruns.

      I agree with your position that the POM were on exhibition, mainly over the Xmas/New Year period from mid December 2013 to February 2014 residents could make submission. However, there is grave concern over the collation and reporting of the results of all submissions of which you would be aware and concern for which appeared in the local media.

      As for a ‘group of people’ etc. Geoffrey, you are in that group be it in opposition to others, the fact that you have maintained your vigilance for years is nothing more or less than what others are doing. As for playing down the changes implied in the total of the POM, may I suggest you re-read all of the POM!

    • Hi Geoffrey

      Good to hear from you again and yes it is the same old people from both sides isn’t it.

      Your comment about locals having constructive input into the Plans of Management and “their input has to a large degree been acknowledged” could not be further from the truth and is the main reason why the Progress Association is holding this meeting.

      In 2014, over 2500 people signed an online petition objecting to the Brunswick Heads Plans of Management and specifically about the development of the foreshore and not having complete access to it. Of these 2500, over 650 not only submitted their objection but wrote additional comments to the stated objection. These comments are fabulous reading and are still at https://www.change.org/p/nsw-state-government-nswchpt-stop-the-nsw-government-privatising-our-foreshores.

      This petition was specifically done online and submitted to the listed PoM email address as we had no faith that North Coast Holiday Parks would honestly convey the real results if it was just them doing the collation. This was basically the developer being in charge of the complaints process. We thought if it was online they could not refute it. Unfortunately we were wrong and despite the real results being there for all to see, NCHPs did not report this massive objection to the Trust or the Minister. Questions to the Trust about why 2500 objections were not recorded remain unanswered.

      If you read NCHPs tally about objections in the PoM report, instead of saying there were 2600 objections to foreshore development it says there were only 45 (or 5000% less than the real figure).

      So who were the locals who had the “constructive input” that Geoffrey mentions? I am of the understanding that the so called Community Stakeholders that Manager of NCHPs Jim Bolger “consulted” regarding the plans for Banner Park were 2 people from the Chamber of Commerce, (who NCHPs sponsors), a representative of the Woodchop Committee and 2 people from McGregors Carnival (both “tenants” of NCHPs ) and a Playground builder (an NCHPs supplier). Not one real community group was present and the Brunswick Heads Progress Association was not even contacted.

      If this was the case which I have been told is documented (and I invite Jim Bolger to correct me) then NCHPs consultation was with 6 people, all of who are very reliant on NCHPs and 4 of whom don’t even live in Brunswick Heads. When the plans were eventually put to the “real people” there was a resounding objection (400 times more).

      So it appears the only stakeholders NCHPs consults with are people indebted to them and there limited supporters are their tenants desperate to keep in their favour. I don’t suppose you fall into that category do you Geoffrey ?

      This is why the Progress Association is holding the meeting on March 2nd and why if you want to tell NCHPs what you think of their consultation process and development plans you should turn up.

  17. As a long term visitor of Brunswick Heads I might as well be classef as a local cause we own a flat there. I am happy somethong is finally bring down about that foreshore, it’s an embaressesment and well over due. More needs to be done around torikina park to improve the look of B’Heads as our little town has potential to become a very beautiful little town.

  18. Byron Shire residents whinge at every piece of development that happens in the area, but they never complain when it comes to increased land value.
    Bruns is lovely, I grew up there, but it is also backwards and grotty. If no development ever happened in an area it ends up being run down and backwards and irrelevant. People need to stop being so insular and embrace a bit of change. We are not talking sky rises here.

  19. The bank of the river near to the pines has been subject to damaging erosion. Is it not the case that vegetation holds banks together? Therefore, with the removal of the pines and the installation of a wooden platform, which would further deter the growth of vegetation, would not the bank further erode? There does not appear to be any scientific consideration in the proposed changes. I recommend that the opinion of a scientist versed in the knowledge of coastal erosion be sought regarding changes to the foreshore.


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