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Byron Shire
October 23, 2021

Byron councillor refuses to name secret advisers

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Byron Shire councillor Sol Ibrahim. Photo supplied
Byron Shire councillor Sol Ibrahim. Photo supplied

Hans Lovejoy

Byron Shire councillor Sol Ibrahim influenced a major rural planning document after conferring with ‘several local planners’, yet has declined to name them.

The draft Rural Land Use Strategy public submissions close May 20. The strategy has been mired in controversy after Cr Ibrahim sprung large changes upon councillors two days prior to their voting for it to go before the public.

It was clear that not all councillors understood or had read the changes.

Cr Ibrahim assured the council chamber at the time that he had collaborated only with Council’s planning director, Shannon Burt. He also admonished those councillors for not having read his last-minute email.

Yet mayor Simon Richardson told BayFM last week that ‘a certain councillor’ had conferred with not only staff, but a town planner, over his last-minute changes.

When asked, Cr Ibrahim told The Echo over the course of its formulation, the number of planners he consulted was ‘from memory four,’ including ‘extensive discussions with the previous director of planning before his retirement’.

He said, ‘Over the past few years, planners have also commented in a number of forums on the existing plan’s weaknesses and recommendations for a new one. The director judged that most of the amendments were minor, and did not object to any of them from memory. The amendments are rational.’

Throughout, the mayor has remained optimistic and previously told The Echo he was looking forward to seeing public feedback. This is despite voting against it going before the public, and then putting his name to its press release. Progress associations, residents’ groups and former mayor Jan Barham have been highly critical, saying adopting the strategy will lead to open season on development. For more info visit www.byron.nsw.gov.au/rural-land-use-strategy.

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  1. Risky business, if any of these ‘planners’ have or are likely to have a vested interest in the outcome of the Rural Land use strategy – and this is very likely – then to GM should be looking at another code violation for Sol.
    Fortunately for Sol the GM is unlikely to act as I believe, he is still conducting a ‘witch hunt’ over who ‘leaked’ the information on Sol’s last code violation which appeared on the front page of the Echo.

  2. The ‘controversy’ around the Draft Rural Land Use Strategy (Strategy) is based on misunderstanding, and deliberate fear mongering from some commentators. To be well informed, Councillors should listen to as wide a range of opinions as possible. With regard to this Strategy, I was contacted/emailed by local residents with opposing points of view, planners who have lived and worked in this Shire for decades, architects and community groups. They do so expecting that their names are not going to be published in a newspaper.
    Everyone who engages with Council on a policy matter has their own vested interest. It might be that you want to maintain a quiet neighborhood for your personal enjoyment, or you are concerned about your property values being affected, having to deal with more traffic, or perhaps you need to rely on your land as the only asset for your retirement. We all have personal interests. There is nothing wrong with that. As a Councillor I consider all interests as worthy of respect and attention. I do not subscribe to ‘class’ distinctions that make some interests more worthy than others. My philosophy is to consider the impact of one person’s interests on others, and equally, the impact of a group interest on the life of a single person.

    This Shire has a massive number of unauthorized rural dwellings, many of which are substandard. The fact that these dwellings have high rents and demand demonstrates the need in our community for a rural lifestyle. We have unauthorized dwellings because there has been no orderly rational process for their approval. In the absence of a fair and consistent strategy, people have gone ahead and built them. These dwellings do not pay rates, or contribute to our roads and infrastructure costs.

    Byron Shire is about rural lifestyle if noting else. However, what we have at present are mansions sitting on hundred acre lots that are mowed, or have a few cows on them to keep the weeds down. Retiring farmers have no option but to sell up, because they can’t create a couple of house sites for their children to live in, or to sell for their retirement. The Strategy is meant to provide opportunity in a rational and predictable way. It ensures that any new housing sites must contribute to upgrade roads prior to approval. They cannot not carve up viable agricultural land. The strategy will bring many unauthorized buildings into the fold. It will create opportunities for average income families to live their dream in the countryside.

    The draft strategy is on exhibition via our Council website for public comment. Please have a look at it if you are interested. You can email one or all Councillors directly, and make your submission directly to staff.

  3. Byron Shire is one of the most difficult and contrary of councils, first a “turncoat” elected under false pretences, and now we have a councillor refusing to reveal who he has consulted with.
    This kind of secrecy is unacceptable, Cr Ibrahim is conducting public business. Or is it personal business ?
    What leads him to believe that anything other than total transparency is acceptable when doing public business.
    This kind of behavior only leads to suspicion and distrust and reflects poorly on the integrity of the process and the council as a whole..

  4. Thank you Sol, for a reasonable extrapolation of the policy and the idea behind the long term strategy. I am sure that there are still many in the community who still want to hear this and not continually play political one-upmanship. If people who continually attack the person and occasionally responded to the policy as well we may get better outcomes in this shire.


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