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Byron Shire
May 16, 2022

Byron general manager defends record

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Byron Shire Council general manager Ken Gainger. Photo supplied
Byron Shire Council general manager Ken Gainger. Photo supplied

Claims by a former Greens councillor over the governance of Byron Shire Council’s general manager Ken Gainger have been refuted.

Specifically Tom Tabart took aim at staff morale, Mr Gainger’s re-appointment, the capacity of new Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and the effectiveness of Council committees.

In reply Mr Gainger told The Echo, ‘This has been the most harmonious Council with which I have worked, and Council’s performance over the term in fixing Council’s finances, investing in our roads and being declared as Fit for the Future is testament to this. This council has had frequent all-day workshop sessions where staff and councillors interact in discussing significant strategic issues. The discussion and questioning is active and rigorous while being respectful. It has been these workshops more than anything else that has helped Council rationalise and deal with the many significant challenges that Council and the sector have had to deal with during this term of Council.’

‘Council has undergone significant change in an effort to make us more cost effective and to deliver improved customer service.

‘While some affected staff may be unhappy, our regular staff surveys indicate high morale and enhanced job satisfaction.’

As for his recent re-appointment, Mr Gainger says the resolution was moved by Mayor Richardson and seconded by Cr Dey.

‘The vote was unanimous,’ he said, adding that is contained in Council minutes from June 9, 2016 which are available online. He said that Mr Tabart’s suggestion that the GM should now review the organisation overlooks the last organisation review that was conducted in 2013, which was initiated shortly after the GM started at Council – consequently Council reduced the size of its executive team by half and the number of directorates from 6 to 3 saving $750K annually. The inflated and costly 6 directorate model was a legacy of the former council of which Tom Tabart was a member.

STP operational

And claims by Mr Tabart that Council’s new Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are failing are also incorrect, says Mr Gainger.

‘There is no evidence to suggest that,’ he said. ‘To the contrary, they continue to perform to design expectations and meet EPA and DPI Water Directorate performance standards.’

Mr Gainger said the latest comment from DPI Water for the effluent being discharged from the wetlands at the Byron Bay STP was, ‘The low determinations returned for this sample reflect a high-quality effluent well within discharge standards for the respective analytics.’

Yet Mr Tabart maintains there are issues, claiming that advice given to Council by the Water Waste and Sewer Advisory Committee, ‘say that the quality of effluent is below standard for most reuse and the reuse guidelines have never been met.’

Mr Tabart also says, ‘There is no reuse at the moment. What about the sand filter and chlorination at WB outlet installed to get it to reuse standard?

‘The EPA figures tell nothing; the Brunswick Valley is overloaded with stormwater from Mullumbimby.’

Mr Gainger however said that Council had recently approved a major extension to its reticulated recycled wastewater pipeline in the Byron Bay town centre that would now supply the entire foreshore area from Clarkes Beach to Main Beach.

‘These works will commence next week and when completed will generate significant savings on the use of potable water, saving the community many $1,000s.


Mr Gainger says of Council committees that ‘staff and councillors have just reviewed their structure and all of the committees mentioned by Mr Tabart are recommended to be retained.’

‘The review will be considered by the incoming council who will determine the outcome’, Mr Gainger said.

And finally, as for the claim that biodiversity took a back seat during this Council term, Mr Gainger replied that Council’s priorities are determined by the elected council.

‘Council has a Biodiversity Committee dedicated to this activity led by the mayor and with councillor and community representatives – this committee reports directly to Council and has introduced a range of significant initiatives including the progressive abolition of chemical sprays, award-winning projects such as the Tweed-Byron Koala Connections and Tweed-Byron Bush Futures; the Byron Coast Koala Habitat Study and Koala Plan of Management, a review of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and active bush regeneration campaigns.’


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