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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Labor, Greens call for end to govt Suffolk Park land sale

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The Beech Drive, Suffolk Park, community land up for auction later this month. Photo realcommercial.com
The Beech Drive, Suffolk Park, community land up for auction later this month. Photo realcommercial.com

Chris Dobney

Labor’s north coast spokesperson has today called on the Baird government to abandon plans to sell Byron Shire land currently used for playing fields and a community garden to property developers.

And Byron’s Labor councillors have called on residents to a sign Suffolk Park Progress Association petition against the planned sale of the government land, which is adjacent to homes in the Baywood Chase area and has been in public use for decades.

But an advertisement promoting the sale of the land at 60 Beech Road, due to take place by auction on November 29, describes it as being in ‘vacant possession’ with a zoning of SP2 Infrastructure.

And while, at the other end of the shire, the community-based Brunswick Heads’ Foreshore Protection Group has for years been fighting to stop a land grab of prime foreshore Crown land by a government-appointed trust, the plans to sell off the Beech Drive land appear to have escaped public scrutiny and avoided community consultation.

Houses instead of school

Shadow minister for the north coast Walt Secord has now weighed in, calling on the state government to stop the planned sale and immediately transfer ownership of the land to Byron Shire Council.

Mr Secord said the land had been kept vacant with a future view to use as a school site and has been estimated to be worth around $5 million

‘The price assumes it will be re-zoned from education use to residential,’ he said.

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson has already indicated council could not afford such a price tag.

Mr Secord said he’d had representations from Byron Labor councillor Paul Spooner and Richmond federal MP Justine Elliot both opposing the sale.

‘This is one of the few remaining pieces of open space in Suffolk Park and it should remain in public hands.

‘Unfortunately, the Liberals and Nationals want to flog off all of our community’s assets,’ he said.

Those views have been echoed by Byron Labor councillors Paul Spooner and Jan Hackett.

‘Public spaces like this one are vital to our communities. The thriving Suffolk Park area values community spirit, and places like the community garden, skate park and playground are important to bring locals together,’ Cr. Spooner said.

He added, ‘local kids and sports teams use this land, which contributes to our unique and vibrant way of life.’

Cr Hackett said that the decision to sell off the land was ‘disappointing for our community’ and was ‘in line with an unfortunate trend by the state government to sell off valuable community assets across the state.’

‘Labor calls on the government to reverse this shameful decision, and for all residents to sign the petition against the sell-off,’ she said.

Ayeesha, co-ordinator of the Suffolk Park Community Garden, which the state government plans to sell to developers. Photo Amanda Goodman
Ayeesha, co-ordinator of the Suffolk Park Community Garden, which the state government plans to sell to developers. Photo Amanda Goodman

Community garden to go

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith said that currently Byron Shire Council has soccer fields, cricket nets, park shelters, a shared cycleway and children’s playground at the site.

‘All of these amenities risk being lost if this land is sold,’ she said.

‘I am writing to the minister, Dominic Perrottet, to put a halt to the sale by private treaty until Byron Shire Council can have the opportunity to get the land valued and make an offer in order to retain the land in community ownership,’ Ms Smith added.

Local community member Amanda Goodman said her family live very close to the park ‘so [we] see how many people in the community use the park on a daily basis.’

She is particularly concerned about the potential loss of the community garden.

‘The garden is a very special place where everyone is welcome and school groups visit occasionally to learn about plants and the joys of gardening.

‘Ayesha and her team of volunteers have worked tirelessly in creating something very special and it would be heartbreaking to see this lost,’ Ms Goodman told Echonetdaily.

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  1. It’s not just about the money value of the land a healthy community is priceless.
    This open public space is essential infrastructure to the whole community, no matter how much it is used by and by who.
    It needs to say as public space.

  2. One by one the open spaces are disappearing and the NSW Government is pocketing the cash from the sales. But what is really going on with public land?

    The South Grafton Aerodrome is a parcel of approx 100 acres of public land. It has 22 aircraft hangars on it. It is being leased for $6000 pa + GST by the NSW State Government to the South Grafton Aerodrome Aircraft Hangar Owners Inc, under a lease which will not end until 2028. Each of the hangar owners pays $1200 pa, which includes lease of the land where their hangar is situated and insurance.

    I have received a letter from SGAAHO Inc telling me that I am absolutely forbidded to land my aircraft on the runway because I forgot to pay a $5 landing fee in August 2016. I can, however, enter the aerodrome by car for no charge!!

    If the NSW State Government is so hard up, why doesn’t it revoke the lease and sell the South Grafton aerodrome to the highest bidder?

  3. make sure there are not incl the lake/damn … 20 years ago there was talk that the lake could be drained in the future and used for development … i suggest you try and have a look at the early development plans, approvals and zonings for the whole area … good luck

  4. As Shire President when the particular allotment was created, I am horrified to read of this proposal. My memory of what happened is that the open space/school allotment was created as part of the agreement with the original developers when the West Suffolk Park rezoning and subdivision approvals were created in 1989 and 1990.

    In status, the site is effectively no different to the drainage lake created as part of the drainage network and without which the development could not have proceeded. Its is also no different to the lands dotted around the estate set aside by the developers at Council’s behest for environmental protection. Council cannot sell off these parcels and in my view, the school/open space site is no exception. It is an intrinsic part of the West Suffolk Park subdivision

    The proposed sale is nothing less than a gross breach of trust by the State Government. If there had been any inkling that such an outcome could have eventuated, I have little doubt Council of the day would never have allowed title to go the State Government but would have kept the title in its ownership so as to make sure that it was used for the purposes for which it was set aside.

    Council needs to go back into its records of the day and establish the facts surrounding the history of the site, its creation and the circumstance under which it passed to the NSW State Government. It may be that the State Government does not have the power to sell it and that is effectively held in trust behalf of the community of Suffolk Park.

    Council should also resist the auction in every way possible including informing the auctioneer and any potential bidders that its future rezoning away from its present one of community infrastructure will be fiercely resisted with great determination by Council and the residents. The Mayor should take heart and stand strong on this one and negotiate with the State for its return at reasonable value to the community. I would also hazard an opinion that if its only future use is cow paddock or open space network, its valuation will be a lot less than $5m they are seeking.

    If the State Government is really desperate for cash out of Byron Bay, it has zoned commercial and residential vacant land on the Sandhills Estate in central Byron Bay, with roads, drainage and power completed on site. This site could be sold tomorrow for well in excess of $25 million, given the valuations from recent sales on adjoining lands. It would also clean up the centre of town and remove a major bush fire hazard next to the Feros Aged Care Home.

    By the way, when did the state government last come to party to pay for the missing infrastructure costs of dealing with the 1.8 million tourist coming to Byron Bay each year? Rather than breach its trust with the community here, why not work with it instead.

    Oliver Dunne
    Wategos Beach


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