There’s a new chapter in the long- running dispute with neighbours and a Byron Shire councillor’s self-storage operation on a short, narrow rural road in Myocum.
Cr Alan Hunter is apparently now operating legally and, according to Council staff, ‘the commencement of operations lawfully occurred on August 24, 2015 with the issuing of the occupation certificate. Therefore as per consent conditions, the consent will cease in August 2017.’
They explained that Cr Hunter’s development application consent ‘ceases two years after the commencement of operations.’
It’s a surprise to neighbours, who believed that Cr Hunter’s trial had expired in May, and indicates a weakness in council protocol regarding such ‘trials’.
Not only were neighbours not advised that his trial had finished, but it appears such trials automatically become a consent activity and are not subject to review or a council vote.
Additionally, questions regarding a staff compliance investigation into breaches by the high-profile National Party member have gone unanswered.
The two-year trial was criticised at the time by neighbours for being approved despite no traffic or noise assessment, and as the DA did not meet council’s traffic sight or stopping-distance requirements.
But Cr Hunter defended his operation, claiming at the time that a elf-storage facility fell within the definition of the state-wide Local Environment Plan (LEP) template, which states a self-storage facility falls within a Road Transport Terminal definition.
Neighbour Rebecca Chaffer told The Echo, ‘We are disappointed and frustrated at the lack of progress into the council’s investigation of the continued compliance breaches by Cr Hunter in regards to the operation of his Road Transport facility.
‘On a wider note, as a ratepayer, it is my belief that Cr Hunter has been elected by the residents of the Shire (well, 20 of them according the NSW Electoral Commission) to guide the development of local policies, set service standards and priorities, and monitor the performance of the council.
Lack of trust
‘Cr Hunter’s behaviour reflects on the council as a whole and if he is not following the very rules he is responsible for monitoring, this leads to a lack of trust, which undermines the effectiveness of the council as a whole.
‘Just like leaders at the state and federal levels of government, councillors’ conduct sets the standard for other people to follow and as such Cr Hunter should be seen to be acting in an exemplary manner.
‘If there is evidence to suggest he is not, council staff should prioritise such investigations to reassure ratepayers that their elected councillors are trustworthy and not perceived to be given preferential treatment.’
Another resident, Angus Way, told The Echo, ‘I haven’t heard a squeak from anyone at the council in regard to this. Is the compliance department just a name only?’
‘I’m picturing a sign sticky-taped onto an overflowing green-waste wheelie bin.
‘The dysfunction at BSC has reached a new low.’
Yet there is a policy when it comes to councillors and their DAs; Council staff put Cr Ibrahim’s pool and second dwelling DA before councillors to assess recently ‘in the interests of probity.’
As part of that process, an independent planner was employed to review that DA.
And just this week, probity was also applied to Cr Hunter’s own objection, which he lodged regarding a neighbour’s DA application for a second dwelling on a 4,300m2 rural block.
When asked about his DA consent, Cr Hunter replied, ‘Thanks for the opportunity to respond but wonder no longer; past experience has convinced me there is no point in responding to any question of yours. I suggest you either ask council or, as you often do, make up your own response because that’s much more entertaining.’
The Echo rejects Cr Hunter’s claim that it fabricates news – you just can’t make this stuff up.