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.
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.