In a surprise upset, Byron Shire Council’s expected decision yesterday to send an incomplete coastal policy to the state minister was thwarted late in the afternoon after right-wing councillors Chris Cubis and Sol Ibrahim left the chamber, leaving the left-aligned councillors in charge.
Earlier in the day and as expected, the five controlling councillors passed a motion which would have seen the coastal zone management plan (CZMP) for the Byron Bay embayment, to facilitate building the controversial 1.1km Belongil Beach seawall, go to the minister for consideration.
Throughout debate there were fierce exchanges between residents in the gallery and the pro-seawall councillors.
Mayor Simon Richardson pointed out that this policy comes with no guarantee of any legal certainty, funding sources, cost blow outs and that at least three state government departments have already flagged major concerns.
Cr Basil Cameron pointed to the lack of consideration for the potential of environmental catastrophe.
When the vote was taken, residents in the gallery stood up and began singing a song, which was based on the tune: a wise man builds his house upon a rock.
Instead, the gallery of around 30 to 40 people sang: ‘A foolish man built in an erosion zone. The rain came down and the sea came up and the house in the zone went splat. So don’t build in and erosion zone. It makes no sense at all.’
Mayor Richardson later told Echonetdaily that Crs Ibrahim and Cubis left before the meeting finished without explanation.
Cr Richardson said Cr Duncan Dey then called for a recommittal of the CZMP motion, but before it could be voted on, Crs Rose Wanchap, Di Woods and Alan Hunter left the chamber to prevent a quorum.
‘Di said so to the meeting openly, which is a clear breach of code of meeting practice,’ the mayor said.
‘Then, as we didn’t have a quorum and under advice from the GM, we called the meeting closed, with the CZMP to be considered on the extraordinary meeting called for the 16th of July.
‘Then Chris returned with the other three, but it was too late. It was usual practice for Chris to leave early with no apology or explanation and this time it backfired,’ Cr Richardson said.
Earlier this week, Cr Paul Spooner warned council that adopting the CZMP could send council broke and force an eventual amalgamation.
The latest cost blowout for the plan is $4.8m, with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) advising council staff that it will not commit to funding the plan.
[See previous story at https://www.echo.net.au/2016/06/state-govt-refuses-belongil-seawall-funding/]