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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Bruns park plans ‘a windfall to trust, loss to community’

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Foreshore public land in the picturesque village of Brunswick Heads is set to be expanded on by redevelopment of the three holiday parks.
Foreshore public land in the picturesque village of Brunswick Heads is set to be expanded on by redevelopment of the three holiday parks.

Controversial plans to turn prime foreshore public land in and around holiday parks at Brunswick Heads into commercial use, which have gone on exhibition just days out from the council elections, have sparked a public outcry.

Longtime opponents of encroachments and use of public crown foreshore land by the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (CHPT), which runs three tourist parks set for major redevelopment, say new management plans for the parks provide ‘a huge windfall’  to the trust and ‘a big loss for the community’.

The trust’s claim that its raft of amendments for its parks at Ferry Reserve, Massey Greene and Terrace Reserve ‘will open up the public foreshore for families and reduce the parks’ impact on the environment’ has been ridiculed by residents and campaigners to keep foreshore lands in public use.

Opponents say the new park boundaries and expansion plans are ‘outrageous’ and a’ land grab’ as they reduce public recreation space in and around the village and hand the foreshore land over for commercial use by the operators of the holiday cabins.

Secret meetings between council and the trust this year led to a deal last month by which the proposed contentious amendments to the holiday parks’ plans of management plans were adopted for inclusion in the parks’ operating licences.

This, campaigners say, put public open space and recreational foreshore land in the parks’ operational boundaries, ‘effectively undoing decades of community work’ to keep it outside the park boundaries.

Trust CEO Steve Edmonds said that ‘following consultation first with park residents’, the community would be invited to park ‘walkthroughs for feedback in the coming weeks’.

Foreshore Protection Group (FPG) convenor Michele Grant told Echonetdaily the plans ‘fail to mention the park boundaries are being changed and large swathes of prime foreshore land will be converted from public use into commercial use, with major new development proposed’.

Two-storey cabins

’Ferry Reserve foreshore is prime recreational space for park users and the public and includes a 20-metre-wide grassed section of road reserve land which is to be transformed into five two-storey cabins and two standard cabins, plus eight powered sites and five permanent “beach tents”, Ms Grant said.

‘These large permanent structures will clutter and overshadow the remaining narrow strip of riverfront – impacting on views and public amenity,’ she said.

‘Riverside Cres has provided a clear physical boundary separating the caravan park from the foreshore: it is essential council maintain a consistent boundary and linkage between both sections of the foreshore reserve and ensure recreational space is maintained for shared public use.

Ms Grant said the proposed expansion of Ferry Reserve ‘will virtually double the size of the existing park’.

She said the trust had offered to ‘return less than a 10 metre strip of foreshore land, despite acquiring over 20,000 square metres of additional lands’.

‘Ex-Pacific Highway land was acquired for free, while council and ratepayers were deprived of around $3 million for road reserve lands in the acquisition process,’ she said.

‘In Massey Greene, Lot 7005 alongside the boat harbour, is to be resumed without any constraints on this sensitive, prime foreshore site.

‘NSWCHPT claims the redevelopment of the boat harbour will provide additional public space around the foreshore, however the recently exhibited plans clearly designate all existing open space for car, boat and trailer parking.

Ms Grant said the trust also proposed new cabin precincts, a new manager’s residence and a large shed on Lot 7005, thereby ‘consuming irreplaceable public land zoned for marine purposes and public recreation with major redevelopment’.

She said the plan will increase the number of cabins from eight to 18 and reduce van/camp sites from 95 to 63 sites along the riverbank.

‘These large structures will have a significant impact on visual amenity and overshadow the sliver of public space remaining,’ Ms Garnt said.

‘Only a three-to-10-metre wide strip is retained for public use around the riverbank.

‘Previous submissions have suggested the on-site managers residence is not required, when a small office would suffice.

‘Apparently no DAs are required and no detailed plans of the proposed new structures will be provided – we won’t know what will be erected until after they’re built.

‘Retaining Lot 7005 for public use is essential as there is currently very limited recreational space in Massey Greene for park users and after the proposed park upgrade and harbour redevelopment there will be virtually no open space remaining around the foreshore for public use.

Ms Grant said ‘the one crumb dredged out of the negotiations is NSWCHPT have agreed to provide a three-metre buffer zone and 10-metre building setback along Simpson’s Creek in Terrace Park and reinstate a continuous pathway along the riverbank’.

Legal requirement

‘It should be mentioned these buffer zones/setbacks are a legal requirement of the Local Government Act,’ she said.

‘Permanent residences are to be relocated and replaced with proposed new cabins increasing from 13 to 36 cabins sprawled along the riverfront (with a 10-metre setback)!

‘Van/camp sites will reduce from 151 to 87 sites and park activities will expand permanently into the contentious “southern” section. A camp kitchen is located right on the riverbank (without a 10m setback) and new roadworks and power/water services are proposed that will generate significant disturbance in the heavily treed area.’

In summary, the proposed boundary changes and redevelopment plans will provide a huge windfall to NSWCHPT and be a big loss for the community’.

‘NSWCHPT plans focus solely on economic outcomes for the trust, without regard for the public interest or well documented adverse environmental and social impacts, or their legal obligations.

‘NSWCHPT is not supposed to be just another developer pushing the boundaries – literally. We would expect best practice, the highest standards, innovation that benefits the people of NSW from our public trustees.

‘The current inquiry into Crown Lands is considering the future sale and/or long term lease of “operational lands” and the possibility the caravan parks will be privatised is very real.

‘It’s council responsibility to determine appropriate boundaries and conditions for commercial activity in our crown reserve parklands.

‘Therefore it is imperative that council, as the independen licensing authority, take the opportunity to ensure irreplaceable public lands are not resumed and redeveloped for commercial use, but retained and maintained for shared public use.

‘Councillors strongly and consistently supported retaining high value, prime foreshore lands for shared public use, for the entire three years of their term.

‘To change their mind, without notice,  instead of holding firm at this crucial moment, is very disappointing.

‘Minutes of negotiations and briefing papers have been declared “confidential”. The process has been far from open and transparent and we have no idea what propelled council’s back-flip.

‘NSWCHPT has clearly failed in its duty to consider the interests of local residents, the general community or visitors during negotiations.

‘The strategic timing – right on the election – makes it difficult to get a good outcome for the community.

‘A brand new batch of councillors will need to be brought up to scratch before they make decisions on new license agreements, after the exhibition period.

‘Community land should be retained for public use – let’s hope the newcouncil agrees!,’ she said.

Benefits for community

But Mr Edmonds said ‘we are pleased that our revised park layouts if approved will open up the spaces and deliver significant benefits for the community’.

‘Opening up the public access corridor between our Ferry Reserve Park and the Brunswick River by 1000m2 and creating an inviting recreation space connected to the existing foreshore are only two of the amendments proposed to improve this area,’ he said in a press release.

‘Low fencing and attractive vegetation buffers have also been proposed to prevent holiday park guests from spreading out into the public space.

‘Measures to protect the Cypress Pines are another important inclusion in the proposed amendments,’ he said in reference to historic World War I pines in the Terrace reserve.

‘The reduction in camping sites across all three parks, the redesign of the park layouts and the increase in cabin accommodation would allow us to increase the space for the local community to enjoy while still remaining a viable and sustainable business,’ Mr Edmonds said.

Byron Shire Council general manager Ken Gainger said in the press release that council and the trust ‘had been working through issues raised by the Brunswick Heads community and thecouncil was pleased that most of those issues had now been resolved through further amendments proposed to the plans of management’

‘We are really pleased with the outcomes provided by the trust to integrate the holiday parks with our treasured public space,’ Mr Gainger said.

‘It has been a collaborative partnership and we are happy with the outcome as noted at our last ordinary council meeting,’ he said.

Mr Edmonds said ‘the initial green light from council regarding the proposed amendments meant that before the formal amendment process, the trust would engage stakeholders through guided park briefings and meetings with residents as well as through a period for feedback and comment before the exhibition of the Amended Draft Plan of Management in February next year’.

‘Any changes we make will also be done in consultation with our park residents who are key stakeholders with legal rights regarding their tenancy.’

Brunswick Heads Progress Association secretary Patricia Warren told Echonetdaily that ‘any developer, be it a private person or otherwise, knows they can only develop within the boundaries of their property’ but ’in the case of the caravan parks in Brunswick Heads, the location of those boundaries has been controversial since 1988’.

Mrs Warren said ‘the guts’ of council’s resolutions over the issue was ‘to keep prime foreshore parklands outside the operational boundaries of the caravan parks’, but that was ignored by council approval of the amendments to the management plans.

She said that ‘paralleling that decision, and which all parties would have been well aware, are  moves by the state government to strip councils of their s68 power to determine boundaries and sell/lease selected Crown land to the private sector’.

‘Councillors need to explain  why they didn’t stand by their decisions on the location of the boundaries of the caravan parks and allow NSWCHP to use the controversial land under conditions e.g. camping at Xmas and again at Easter,’ she said.

‘The community would have been accepting of that. Instead, they opted to include the controversial lands within the operational boundaries of the caravan parks and set conditions during the licensing period on how they may be used.

‘There is no sense of permanency in this. These conditions could readily be changed in the next licensing period. In the meantime, it is highly probably council will have lost its s68 power to set the boundaries.’

The proposed amendments can be viewed at http://nswchpt.com.au/media-releases.


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11 COMMENTS

  1. It would be very helpful if the Echo added map inserts when describing news issues for people who don’t know the formal names of all local ‘places’. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to stop reading an Echo article to go internet searching for the exact location being considered in a news story.

  2. You only need to build a manager’s residence if the future plan for the park is to sell it as a going concern. Don’t trust what they tell you!! Look deeper into the big picture.

  3. Your GM at work with the park moguls, read it and weep. And where were were the councillors? Being led by the nose as usual. Let’s hope the newbies come to terms with this the last lot never did.

  4. The community has fought long and hard for these precious slices of foreshore lands,
    lot 7005 at the harbour and our precious Memorisl Park adjacent to Terrace Caravan Park with its community plantings of Cypress pines.
    The foreshore land at Ferry Reserve had been finalised by council years ago but here again they want to always ‘push the boundaries’.
    We need to (as a United Community) again, rally snd protest and write and March etc.
    We need to be clear as a strong group force, to tell NCHPT where to go.
    We must hang on to these foreshores and parks!
    Go to facebook group: BRUNSWICK HEADS FORESHORE PROTECTION GROUP for info on our strategy etc

  5. How can people understand the issue without maps showing what is being taken away? No-one will understand the issue without visual depiction of what is at present and what is in the future. Please put maps for people to know what you are talking about.

  6. I think this is so wrong, my parents lived at Brunswick heads for over Forty years, it is my second home, and now my daughter and her children visit all the time and stay for holidays. This is going to change so much, it has to be stopped by the local people who care what is going on.they have my and my family’s full support to do what we can to stop this, and maje sure it dies not go ahead. Please every one get behind thus and lend your support.

  7. The people of the Byron Shire should fight to ensure the parks are not turned into developments of cabins as has happened in so many other places. Those cabins have nothing to do with camping – they are nothing but motel rooms, that block the view and the breeze from genuine campers and others enjoying foreshore areas. I have very pleasant memories of camping with the kids at Massey Green. I considered it a great privilege to be allowed to camp there and well worth the rather steep price for a powered site for our little camper. For those that do need cabins – and they can be good value for travelers who don’t want to camp or pull a van, allow a park away from the sensitive and beautiful foreshore areas of what is in terms of climate and natural beauty, arguably the most beautiful coastal camping area on the planet.

  8. Vigilance is ever needed to keep the bastards honest. Why is life always a battle to keep things out of the hands of exploiters? Excuse me Michelle but I cant follow al these bodies or understand their powers so I ask as a layman, can the state override local govt or is it local govt that accepts or can stop this? Who do we address and fight?

    • Council is the responsible authority who issues licenses for all commercial activity on Crown Lands.

      Crown Lands has appointed Trustees via NSW Crown Holiday Park Trust (NSWCHPT) & North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) to manage our Caravan Parks.

      All three holiday parks have been operating without license since 2013 – Ferry even longer –
      and POM were exhibited and approved (2014) without any agreement over park boundaries.

      On 25/8 Council agreed to exhibit NSWCHPT’S latest “amended” plans and it appears they “gave the green light” to the proposed boundary changes. The Trust’s PR has released the plans as part of the community consultation process before putting them on exhibition in Feb.

      Perhaps we have an opportunity to amend the amended plans before the formal exhibition period – twisting Trust CEO Steve Edmonds arm may be necessary!

      It will be the Minister for Lands who will determine the outcome of POMs – Council will have to agree to issue License agreements that include the proposed new boundaries and operating conditions.

      So we need to inform and educate new additions to council – and Steve Edmonds who is also a relative newcomer that encroached foreshore lands should remain in public use – for all the people of NSW not just the cash up few who can afford riverfront cabins.

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