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April 12, 2021

Crown-land management in Tweed, Byron under scrutiny

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Dredge spoil from the Evans River being dumped on the beach this month. The proposed dredging of the Brunswick Heads boat harbour has also raised concerns.

Community outrage over the management of public lands in Tweed and Byron shires has prompted a NSW MP to organise a series of forums on the issue next month.

Longstanding concerns over encroachments or ‘land grabs’ of public lands by state-government-run caravan parks on foreshore land at Brunswick Heads will be the focus of a forum in the coastal town on 19 August.

And the controversial transfer of a public reserve near the NSW-Queensland border at Tweed Heads to accommodate an expansion by the Gold Coast airport, which is feared will destroy a large swathe of saltmarsh vegetation and fish habitat, will be debated at a forum in Tweed Heads on 29 August.

North Coast Greens MLC, Jan Barham, who has arranged the forums, says the NSW government ‘is not meeting the objectives of the Crown Lands legislation that requires the best interests of the community and the environment to be maintained’. (see below)

Ms Barham, a former Byron shire mayor, said that in the Tweed there was community outrage over the airport expansion, which the federal government is supporting by allowing the transfer of the Crown reserve just south of main runway.

It has the potential for the destruction of significant saltmarsh vegetation and fish habitat.

‘In Byron Shire there has been ongoing concerns with the management of the Brunswick Heads caravan parks since the removal of council’s control in 2006,’ Ms Barham said.

‘The North Coast Holiday Park development proposals have proposed the denial of community access to the foreshore and over-development of the parks,’ she said.

‘The changes would affect the character of the town and the appeal for residents and visitors.

‘The proposed dredging of the Brunswick Heads harbour and river lacks appropriate environmental assessment and a long term management plan. There has also been a lack of community consultation.

‘Across the region, the government’s lack of progress in finalising a backlog of 26,000 Aboriginal Land claims is disgraceful and cultural heritage is at risk,’ she said.

Ms Barham also said the ‘north coast’s precious forests are again under threat’.

‘I have been raising in parliament the poor management of the state forests and the government’s lack of focus to ensure protection of environmental values,’ she said.

‘Now a proposal to change the forestry management protocols is raising fears that even more damage will be done to significant biodiversity,’ she said.

‘As a community we have a right to expect that the government will honour it’s legal requirements to protect and preserve public land in the interests of the people of the state.

‘We need to stand up for the protection of the “commons” and not let the state take for granted what belongs to the people of NSW and the future,’ Ms Barham said.

NSW Crown Lands Act 1989

Objects of Act

The objects of this Act are to ensure that Crown land is managed for the benefit of the people of New South Wales and in particular to provide for:

• a proper assessment of Crown land,

• the management of Crown land having regard to the principles of Crown land management contained in this Act,

(c) the proper development and conservation of Crown land having regard to those principles,

• the regulation of the conditions under which Crown land is permitted to be occupied, used, sold, leased, licensed or otherwise dealt with,

(e) the reservation or dedication of Crown land for public purposes and the management and use of the reserved or dedicated land, and

(f) the collection, recording and dissemination of information in relation to Crown land.

Principles of Crown land management

For the purposes of this Act, the principles of Crown land management are:

• that environmental protection principles be observed in relation to the management and administration of Crown land,

(b) that the natural resources of Crown land (including water, soil, flora, fauna and scenic quality) be conserved wherever possible,

• that public use and enjoyment of appropriate Crown land be encouraged,

(d) that, where appropriate, multiple use of Crown land be encouraged,

• that, where appropriate, Crown land should be used and managed in such a way that both the land and its resources are sustained in perpetuity, and

(f) that Crown land be occupied, used, sold, leased, licensed or otherwise dealt with in the best interests of the State consistent with the above principles.


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  1. Jan Barham hit the nail right on the head and something which many public authorities and governments (and their mates) seem to forget. Crown Land belongs to the community not the government.

  2. In the wake of the community win over the planned development of King Edward Park in Newcastle, a Parliamentary Summit was convened in Parliament House, Sydney on 24 June 2015. I was fortunate to be able to attend. The focus of the meeting was on what is happening and planned to happen to OUR public lands.

    The following points may be of interest to readers:

    1. History of Crown Lands: They originated as ‘Wastelands of the Colony’. Land was divided by the original surveyors into land alienated by lease or grants to the private sector and ‘reserved for a public purpose’.
    This followed Governor Darling’s instruction from Lord Bathurst to report on lands that were to be reserved as ‘places fit to be set apart for the recreation….and for promoting the health of the community”. ” Darling was specifically instructed that he not, ‘on any account or on any pretence whatsoever, allow such Lands to be occupied by any private person for any private purpose.’ ” (quotes taken from speaker JB Owen, L.L B Sydney)
    The lands so reserved became the basis for the existence of Crown Lands administered by the Department of Lands. The Minister for Lands and Water has a statutory duty to achieve the objects of the Crown Lands Act…to ensure Crown land is managed for the benefits of the people of NSW.

    2. The NSW Government has had 2 reports on Crown lands. One in 2004 which proposes the sell off of Crown Land. The report did not address any environmental or cultural heritage assessments. It focused on economic imperatives alone. Since 2004 the Nature Conservation Council of NSW has published a number of documents identifying remnant vegetation, habitat for threatened species, habitat connectivity and a variety of ecosystems – wetlands, wilderness and old growth forests, and remnant vegetation in urban areas all of which have been ignored in the 2004 paper. The second report, the White Paper, dealing with the management of Crown Lands, lacked any meaningful community consultation. It received 600 submissions none of which were made public. The NSW government is pushing ahead with ‘pilot projects’ i.e. selling/leasing Crown Land.

    3. There appears to be an ‘exclusionist mindset’ in the administration of Crown lands in NSW. The attitude within Crown land appears to be that if it was ‘left over from the private sector it can be sold off.

    4. The themes that I personally felt that came through at the Parliamentary Summit were:
    a. lack of meaningful community consultation.
    b. non transparency
    c. economic imperatives dominate
    d. evidence of complicity by some Councils to support the Crown land agenda
    e. Crown putting itself above the law

    Consequently, the proposed forums in Tweed and Byron are deserving of being attended if readers are concerned about plans for our public lands.


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