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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Island Quarry management defends record

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The Island Quarry near Byron Bay.
The Island Quarry near Byron Bay.

Hans Lovejoy

A public tussle has erupted over a parcel of community-managed land located opposite the Cavanbah Sports Centre on Ewingsdale Road, known as Island Quarry (IQ).

Founding member Darren Hiller Smith – along with some other residents – have challenged the IQ management board with claims of ‘20 years of inaction.’

And while the claims are rejected by IQ Reserve Trust president Shane Rennie, mayor Simon Richardson also supports a shakeup, telling The Echo, ‘20 years of inaction demands that the time has come for new energy and community members to assist.’

In 2014, the quarry  claimed the life of Brendan Vickery after his clifftop jump into water below. The coroner’s court confirmed with The Echo that an inquiry was planned this month but has been delayed.

Around 15 people met on Friday March 3 onsite, sparking accusations and denials between Hiller Smith and Rennie over trespass threats.

A smaller group met again onsite last week and call themselves Friends of IQ.

In 1997 – apparently a much more congenial and happier time – a group of residents brokered a plan to transform the former quarry into a community hub. A Reserve Trust was appointed by the minister at the time to manage the land in perpetuity.

The vision at the time, according to www.iq.org.au, was ‘to create a social and artistic enterprise in a wider cultural and tourist initiative.’

Remarkably Rennie told The Echo that that quote from the website is ‘incorrect’ and instead said, ‘Our vision is to create a model for sustainable living through environmental, economic and social activity. We aim to demonstrate environmentally sustainable practices while protecting and enhancing the natural and scenic values. Island Quarry is fostering local arts, environment, new industries and sustainable technologies, while recognising and promoting valuable cultural heritage that relates to our region.’

At the March 3 meeting of Friends of IQ, chairperson Susie Handran-Smith, secretary Laura Cornelius and treasurer Gabby Rossati were appointed.

Mr Hiller Smith commenced with a brief history of the quarry and the founding of the original IQ committee and acknowledged IQ president Shane Rennie’s contribution to the project.

Friends of IQ 

The aim, say the minutes of the meeting, is to encourage public involvement and access, and to, ‘express our concerns regarding current management and pre-empt any negative community outcomes regarding the Reserve.’

The minutes also say that ‘it was agreed that those present would again attempt to join the IQ Crown Reserve Trust and to document their efforts.’

Brendan Vickery’s death was raised at the meeting, and the ‘number of people who had suffered serious injury at the site, apparently through inadequate safety management of the site.’

The minutes say, ‘Several people noted that this appeared to be a closed shop and despite efforts made by several people to join the small group which comprise the Reserve Trust, it appeared that efforts to join were rebuffed. It was noted that requests for information from the trust had not been responded to.’

John Anderson, aka Fast Buck$, was at the meeting, and told The Echo that Mr Hiller Smith was instrumental in starting IQ. ‘It was his charisma that got it going,’ he said.

But Rennie told The Echo he disputes all allegations from the meeting, including safety management and instead said that, in 22 years, no-one has been refused membership except Hiller Smith, and that everyone is encouraged to be a part of IQ.

Regarding the early days of the formation of the group,  he says, ‘Darren was only one of many people with charisma who were all prepared to assist with all the initial hard work. This work continued after Darren left Byron Shire, especially to address and rectify all the problems he left behind.’

Encroachment

An encroachment dispute by IQ onto neighbouring land is also being negotiated between Rennie and landowner Adam Bennett-Smith.

Bennett-Smith told The Echo that when bought the property recently and heard about the history of IQ, he was keen to get involved.

‘It’s got amazing potential,’ he said. But after initial negotiations failed with Rennie, Bennett-Smith said he has ‘no choice’ but erect a fence.

‘It’s not something I want to do and would love to reach a mutual arrangement. I have a responsibility in case there is an injury. The worst part about a fence is that it will limit access to IQ.’

‘Although I’m open to working with the Island Quarry in the future, I would need to be convinced that it has the ability and corporate governance to deliver genuine and transparent community outcomes.’

Rennie says IQ received a non-negotiable ultimatum for purchase or lease of the land form Bennett-Smith and claims the area is ‘biodiverse and culturally significant wetland’ that IQ have maintained, weeded and improved for the last 22 years.

But the encroached land appears to be anything but improved; instead building materials and rubbish is scattered around.

Bennett-Smith says, ‘Unfortunately the boundary does not follow any natural contour of the land, so in the interests of practicality and safety for both parties, I have offered to adjust the boundary without cost (other than legals) to Island Quarry.’

Fencing and death

Rennie says, ‘Substantial signage and fencing have always been in place at IQ Reserve, well before any unfortunate accident. It was one of our highest priorities.’

‘In the last four years, since 2013 when our fencing grant was approved by Department of Industry (Lands), we have replaced the original fencing with 1800mm high chain-wire safety fence, through a $40,000 Public Reserves Management Fund (PRMF) grant to fence the entire 350metres around the Island Quarry waterhole. In the following year, we were successful with a further $20,000 PRMF grant to fence the front of the property.

‘I have spent many hours contacting backpacker organisations and others who were publicising jumping off the cliffs at the Island Quarry against our wishes. This promotion of jumping off the cliffs as a local activity was publicised on a Byron backpacker website from 2011 to 2014, and this was around the time that this activity grew in frequency, causing the IQ assoc committee many headaches in getting them to stop promoting this dangerous behaviour against our fence signage and other measures put in place to stop it.’

Mayor wants change

Mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo, ‘I support getting this wonderful community asset open and used by the community and for the IQ to realise the vision that Darren, Shane and so many others had for it – to become a community gathering space treasure.’

‘Unfortunately it  hasn’t been in the 20 years since the community gained management control of it and this has to change. Reasons, excuses, and missed opportunities are plentiful when explaining this, however, though the current management should be applauded for keeping it in community hands, 20 years of inaction demands that the time has come for new energy and community members to assist.

‘I look forward to more members, new management members and a renewed vigour to bring this space to life. I sincerely hope the current management committee embrace this opportunity to gain new energy and expertise and accept Darren and others into the fold for the good of the IQ and all of us who have waited for the IQ to come to life for two decades.’

Similarly councillor Paul Spooner told The Echo, ‘One of the mysteries of Byron Bay is, why the Island Quarry never fulfilled its dream of being a wonderful resource for community events and initiatives?’

‘When I first arrived in Byron Bay in the new millennium I was immediately drawn to IQ for the potential it promised. It is generally sad to see this piece of land under-utilised and under appreciated.

‘Given its location on the entrance way into Byron Bay opposite the council-run Cavanbah Centre, there exists the real opportunity to ensure this public land is managed and developed in line with the needs of our artistic and creative community.

‘If the current management of IQ needs support to ensure a valuable natural and cultural resource is not lost to our region, then I say let’s give it to them.

‘I would call on Byron Council to offer any support it can through discussions with the state government to ensure the management of this land is better resourced and activated.’

What’s the plan?

So what has happened since 2000 – except a death and a number of serious spinal injuries as a result of jumping from the cliffs into the waterhole below?

IQ has had a ‘closed’ sign up for many years.

Rennie told The Echo that in recent years ‘much has been accomplished, notwithstanding the Reserve being subject to limited public-access provisions that have applied to the Island Quarry since this very sad incident in 2014.’

During this time to the present, Rennie says, ‘Private activities and functions such as weddings, ceremonies, receptions, small workshops and film shoots are still being held.’

As for supporting community events, Rennie says his is the ‘only organisation in the Shire that offers affordable public liability insurance cover’ and IQ supports Fukushima fundraisers, life drawing classes, music gigs, kids’ face painting, community rallies and the like. ‘The list goes on and on,’ he said.

A Plan of Management (PoM) for the Reserve was supplied to The Echo by the Industry and Lands department, which has been in place for 18 years, since 1999. According to the department, ‘an updated PoM has been drafted and is being finalised by the Trust.’

Within the existing 1999 PoM are vague environmental and cultural aspirations, which are contained within its ‘management principles’.

For example, number five of the management principles is ‘On site residents’ which is to ‘consider the housing and social needs of resident management staff, short term guests and permaculture students.’

When asked if all benchmarks have been met with the POM, Rennie replied ‘of course.’

As for the future plans for the site, a 2010 DA was approved with conditions, which include roadwork access on Ewingsdale Road and stormwater plans/works.

Those particulars are being finalised with Council, Rennie says, with other conditions stipulating detailed engineering plans for driveways, parking areas and an access road.

The approval allows four annual community fundraising events, four annual theatre events and three special events. A maximum of 87 people is approved for these events.

Additionally, approval allows using the land as a ‘primitive camping ground.’

Yet with the coronial recommendations still to be determined, IQ’s future is still unknown.

IQ Inc breakdown

Rennie declined to provide the IQ constitution, but said it is the ‘standard constitution with a couple of special resolutions.’

The minister appointed IQ Association Inc as the ‘corporate manager of the Island Quarry Reserve Trust,’ Rennie says. The IQ Association Inc committee members are (president) Shane Rennie, Bronwyn Kidd, Tim Rabbidge, Helen Stickley-Thompson and Alex Polo.

As for who comprises the IQ Trustee, Rennie says it is the same members as the IQ Assoc Inc, but includes an Arakwal Corporation representative.

There are 35 members of IQ, according to Rennie.

IQ Inc leases the Mullumbimby Railway Station for office space and also ‘provides affordable space there for other community groups and artists.’

Rennie says IQ presents the Byron All Shorts short-film competition alongside its Flickerfest tour screenings.

‘Flickerfest Sydney is a ten-day film festival held annually in Bondi [and] also presents a national tour.’

IQ is a not-for-profit, but ASIC records show Flickerfest, of which IQ Association Inc committee member Bronwyn Kidd is a director, is a for-profit company. Until recently, the home page for www.iq.org.au included a promotion for Flickerfest (Mullum) and Byron All Shorts short-film comp.

 

 


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3 COMMENTS

  1. I did work for the dole at the IQ in 2004 in the vegie gardens it was a happening place then, it would be good to see it like that again. Ive also been to a couple of great events there since 2004 so it hasnt been unused for 20 yrs.
    Unfortunately over the last few years people have gone in there to do stupid things like jump off the cliff and also a caravan(?) was burnt down. Understandably this led to Shane locking the gates and I assume he’s waiting for the inquiry into the death there, which isn’t his fault as there were signs and a fence erected telling people not to jump.
    Hopefully some good can come out of this and the IQ can get some much needed community support.

  2. The committee of IQT need a shake up with new members and a change from the existing members due to so many failures. The safety warningas and any fencing was cleared prior to Brendan Vickery’s death in preparation for the pool safety fence being erected. IQT committee refused Brendans family the request for a memorial with warnings in an area close to the Quarry which was at the families own cost. Instead they wanted to hide a memorial plaque away from the public. So many failings dating back more than 10 years which would have prevented so many injuries and death at the Quarry. I support the friends of Island Quarry and their attempts to be more actively involved in the Quarry given the failings of Shane Renee and IQT

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