While negotiations for Byron Shire Council to purchase Suffolk Park’s sports field on Beech Drive are ongoing, there are increasing calls for the land to be gifted, not sold.
It appears to have wedged local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin, who told The Echo he ‘strongly supports’ entering into purchase negotiations as he believes that ‘the goodwill of both minister Adrian Piccoli and Byron Council has led to a great outcome for the community.’
Mr Franklin was quick to lobby his National Party colleague to retain the land for community use after the NSW education department declared it surplus and scheduled the land’s auction for November 29.
Mr Franklin said, ‘Byron Council wrote to the minister for finance earlier this month stating that the property has an “estimated value range of $870,000 – $1,099,999” and that Council [would] be able to “enter into purchase negotiations” forthwith.’
Piccoli supports gift
But Byron Shire Council staff, local Greens MP Tamara Smith and Labor’s Walt Secord now support the land being gifted, not sold.
Remarkably the man responsible for the asset, eduction minister Adrain Piccoli (National Party), agrees.
Ms Smith told The Echo, ‘When I asked about the issue, minister Piccoli said to me last Thursday on the way into question time, and I quote, “Given that the government has made an extra five billion dollars from the poles and wires, we shouldn’t be selling off that land.”
It comes as an estimated 1,000 people attended a community rally to save Suffolk Park’s ‘village green’ last Wednesday afternoon.
A performance by local singer and mum Renee Simone had the crowd dancing and singing along to We are Family.
Speakers included community representatives and Byron Shire councillors.
Labor’s Walt Secord said that under the plan, Byron Shire Council has first option to buy the land, ‘but it does not guarantee it would remain in public hands.’
‘I fear that this is a trick. The Nationals should give the land to the community for a symbolic amount such as $10.
Mr Franklin also told The Echo ‘It is typical of a Labor Party who don’t understand the importance of sound economic management to all residents of NSW.’