Byron mayor Simon Richardson’s comment that the costs to Council of the legal challenge to the Belongil rock wall was the ‘cost of democracy’ is a bitter but true assessment as it appears those with the most cash get the most ‘democracy’.
I admire the chutzpah of council’s general manager, Ken Gainger, and its legal services coordinator, Ralph James, saying that the $100,000 legal expenses could have been better spent elsewhere. Mr Gainger wants the community to stop challenging council so they can get on and stuff the place completely, uninhibited by pesky residents.
If proper process and community consultation was undertaken then we wouldn’t have to challenge this rogue Council in court.
Close to $1 million dollars of our money is being spent to prop up a handful of houses whose owners have known since the mid 1980s that their properties would not be protected by the rest of us via our rates.
Messrs Gainger and James should look at the history of this issue given the prolonged legal challenges mounted against council in the past by Belongil landowners and the enormous costs caused by the same Belongil landowners who this time joined with council to fight against the community.
The ‘give the developers whatever they want’ clique on council ignored the Office of Environment and Heritage’s recommendations about the project (the OEH withdrew $300K of funding because Council was non-compliant), ignored NSW Coastal Panel guidelines and bypassed community objections by claiming the rock wall as a ‘beach access’ infrastructure project (a set of wooden steps would have sufficed).
Talking about a waste of money, council should be looking to the future they have committed us to when everyone whose properties are in the erosion zones expects the ‘Belongil treatment’ and if they don’t get it will be dragging Council into court in perpetuity.
No rates for rocks!
Cate Coorey, president, Byron Residents’ Group