With time running out to have your say on West Byron, Echonetdaily reveals a proposal by retired town planner and longtime local John Sparks for an environmentally sensitive suburb surrounded by wetlands.
Despite very vocal public opposition, West Byron was hand-balled to the state government by Byhron Shire Council’s pro-big-development faction last year.
The result will see a large new suburb/commercial hub opposite the Arts and Industry Estate on Ewinsgdale Road that critics claim comes without adequate provisions.
Despite the unknowns, Mr Sparks provided his thoughts on how the development could become a ‘sustainable, environmentally positive and economically viable.’
He says he aimed for a ‘positive vision’, where retaining the existing natural environment are key features.
‘There is an amazing wetland that stretches from Tallows to Tyagarah,’ Mr Sparks says.
‘From the sea to Saint Helena hill, [it all] contains a threatened ecological community: 48 threatened species, and 39 migratory species as well as giving us clean air, pure water, health, food and the simple enjoyment of being part of nature,’ he adds.
Mr Sparks says that, ‘some government and corporate interests want to exploit us by using our energy, our water supply and drainage, our waste collection, our food, our retail, educational and community facilities so they can fill part of this wetland to build houses to increase their own wealth.
‘You cannot draw a line on paper and say it is a sensitive wetland on one side, with roads, earthworks and buildings on the other – it is all interconnected and in many cases mutually exclusive.
‘The proposed fill will destroy more than 10ha of native vegetation, change the biodiversity and reduce our flood-storage capacity, causing increased flood levels in the town centre and low-lying residential areas.’
Mr Sparks’s plan is to widen the central drain into a series of ponds, which filter water through reed beds to increase habitat, allow canoe exploration, increase flood storage capacity and reduce flood levels in the existing town centre and residential areas.
He also proposes an environmental studies centre, which would create revenue to offset the expected 800- plus housing lots the developers are expecting to sell. Instead, he proposes 200 residential lots, and says of the economic plan, ‘it is all feasible if we have a wetland to show and research. Visitors won’t come to look at houses.
‘[Instead] we can learn about koalas and other endangered species, regenerate, research and discover new areas along the boardwalks and nature trails.
‘The 200 residential lots are contained within a less sensitive area and are totally self-sufficient by generating their own energy, collecting and re-using their own water, treating their own sewage, recycling their own waste and growing their own food in a natural zero-carbon environment.’
Mayor urges response
Meanwhile, both the mayor Simon Richardson and deputy mayor Paul Spooner are urging residents to respond to the proposal’s Friday deadline.
In a statement they said, ‘The pro-overdevelopment majority on Council see this as their chance to rubber-stamp approval for West Byron, ignoring the same issues that have always concerned the community, but which still have not been addressed. [They include] koalas and threatened species, acid sulfate soils, traffic and flooding. Our concern is that the Draft DCP is treating the site as if it is just another greenfield development.
‘It is not. West Byron is a drained wetland and a highly sensitive area. It is essential that advance planning considers the sensitivity of this site and incorporates protective measures upfront in the DCP rather than coming after what has already been planned.’
Both councillors say if the council received a very large number of submissions, it would put immense pressure on councillors to amend the Draft West Byron DCP.
Residents can make comment by emailing [email protected]