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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

The destruction of natural Byron Bay continues apace

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I was disturbed to notice several dead banksia trees up here on Cape Byron. They stand stark and brown, shrivelled with the herbicide with which they have apparently been liberally sprayed.

On inquiring about this, I was informed that these native trees have been destroyed because they did not fit some people’s idea of what is supposed to be ‘heritage’ up here.

Frankly, this bewilders me. I cannot see that there was ever a consistent state in this area.

Some years ago there was a small herd of local goats, descendants of the lighthouse keepers’ animals. These were duly removed, supposedly to protect the native plants of the area. With the departure of the goats, the shrubs and trees grew back.

Now it seems natives, such as banksia and other species are condemned, as unwanted intruders in this area.

Working up here as a volunteer, I frequently see the place being sprayed with chemical herbicide. Indeed, despite the reservations and protests of local informed people about the dangers of such herbicides, they continue to be sprayed around the area like scent in a brothel.

It seems to me that there is a convenient double standard about the so-called ‘heritage management’ of the place.

There seems little problem for the various managing bodies in accommodating commercial innovations such as the new proposed cafe alterations to their concept of ‘heritage’.

From my own perspective, I find the huge numbers of vehicles that drive up here not in keeping with the more tranquil past that even I can recall from the 1980s. It is like Piccadilly Circus up here, especially during public holidays and at weekends.

The old peace one could find when walking up here can only really be found early in the morning. Traffic simply makes the Cape quite dangerous; and certainly the vehicles that speed recklessly up and down to it. But this is welcomed, of course [heritage?]

The dead banksias symbolise for me the whole shebang of contemporary Byron Bay. It is simply being degraded by tourism and over- development and by the greed so encouraged by our various governments today.

This, I believe , is not the natural change of time: it is a forced and deliberate attempt to make the town serve the pecuniary interests of certain people.

All the talk of ‘iconic’ places and beaches (also commercially exploited now), all the myth of ‘natural’ Byron and the whole idea that it is somehow special and different, is shrivelled like those dying banksias.

The coming proposed developments (West Byron and Ewingsdale) will finally sign the death warrant of a beautiful and indeed once uniquely ‘special’ place. It may as well become part of Queensland, as in some ways it is already, de facto, as it were.

David Morris, Byron Bay

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  1. Thank you for your poignant letter. I concur with you on all you say. Gone are the silence and beauty and the cars rule!!
    And we have 5 Councillors who continue to run their own agendas – above and beyond what we as residents want, and even the professional advice they ignore.
    How do we stand against this ripping and tearing of all that is our heritage. There are many ways cars can be controlled, but hopefully this will come with our MasterPlan – if these Councillors will get out of the way. Thanks again for your insights.

  2. David,
    Regarding heritage. The Banksia is a species of the Proteaceae family of plants, mainly of Australia and South America in the southern hemisphere. That family of plants is in those two continents because 90million years ago when there was the Supercontinent of Gonwanaland the Proteaceae was well distributed.
    Regarding heritage the Bankia belonged to Australia long before Australia had even been formed millions of years before the Aborigine. I think that is called heritage.

  3. I too have witnessed the ring of banksias around the viewing area of the lighthouse dying off in the last few weeks. I assumed it was a planned removal because it is so consistent – confirmed yesterday after speaking with one of the team there to begin removal. I ‘get’ why these particular trees are being removed (about half a dozen) because they are all growing large enough to block sections of the view. It’s by no means a mass removal and ‘heritage’ is a very broad context in which the local managers continue to work and make planning decisions like this. I also understand that they were poisoned in order to make them easier to remove – makes sense on the steep slope they are on. As for the trees being ‘liberally sprayed’ with herbicide, and it being sprayed around up there like ‘scent at a brothel’ – really?

    The traffic that comes up to the lighthouse and then circles sadly around on busy days and then drives back down because there are no parking spots is another issue. But this is nothing to do with local council – it’s a Parks issue and having also spoken recently to another employee about this, it is something they are trying to develop a solution to.

    The problem is that the lighthouse parking area is the ONLY safe place for cars to turn around without risking a nasty collision further down the road at the parking area just below, so without a better solution available at present it’s easier to let the cars come up, do the circle and go back down again.

    There does need to be a better solution – some means of only allowing a certain number of cars to make the trek up to the Lighthouse during peak periods. Christmas and Easter are clearly the worst times.

    I walk up to the Lighthouse 5 days a week and am always impressed by the work and passion of the people who care for this special place. I can’t wait to see the Lighthouse with its new paint job and of course, the return of the whales!

    • Sorry just a small correction re the traffic issue up there it’s really a Parks/Cape Byron Trust issue. Forgot to mention their management role. My bad. 🙂

    • Thank for the clarification Christina. I too am up at the lighthouse 5 or 6 days a week and I was wondering why the banksias had been poisoned. I assumed it was because coast banksias quite often come down in strong winds, and they are on a very steep slope, but losing the view seems like a plausible reason as well.

      They would not have been “liberally sprayed” as David suggests, they would have been stem injected with glyphosate. I assume Cape Byron Trust will replant with smaller plants and shrubs as soon as possible.

      I do agree with David about the town being degraded by tourism and development, and all I can suggest is get involved with the Masterplan process and do everything in your power to ensure that the gang-of-five are soundly defeated in the next Council election in September 2016. If the NSW election results in Byron Shire are anything to go by, they will be.


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