Byron Shire councillors voted last Thursday not to negotiate with the NSW Crown Lands Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT) over the trust’s holiday park boundaries at Brunswick Heads.
Only Cr Alan Hunter, who did not like the idea of closing down the possibility of negotiation, voted against the motion.
Council reiterated its position that any licence approvals depended on NSWCHPT ensuring: full and wide access along all of the foreshores by meeting or exceeding legal requirements for setbacks. The trust must also commit to removal of encroachments from the foreshore open spaces; improve access to the boat ramps long enjoyed by locals; and ensure public use of lot 7005 in Massey Greene.
Council also moved that, owing to the recognition of the historical and community significance of the memorial cypress pines in The Terrace and the commitment to the protection of the pines, there is to be no short-term camping or permanent residency permitted in the southern end of Terrace Park.
During public access members of the Brunswick Heads Progress Association (BHPA) voiced their concerns at what they say is a trust ‘land grab’ at the Terrace Reserve, Massey Greene Park and Ferry Reserve.
‘Council has the legislative power to determine the boundaries for the operation of the caravan parks and has done so in the past’, said Leigh Rees, secretary of the BHPA. ‘The NSWCHPT has drawn up its own boundaries which encroach on public lands, reducing green areas and restricting public access to Brunswick River’s foreshore.’
Ms Rees said the lack of genuine community consultation further demonstrated the trust’s indifference to the needs of the residential community in the Shire. ‘The results of their caravan park walk-throughs, in which they “documented community feedback” were not made public.
‘At NSWCHPT’s public “community consultation” at the Ocean Shores Country Club, concerned community groups were subjected to a fast-paced, vague presentation of dubious assumptions. NSWCHPT’s amended plans ignored sustained community feedback and, worse, claimed that the operational boundaries were agreed to by past councils.
‘These past “agreements” were in fact only interim licences for tent camping, to support the trust at peak holiday seasons.
Ms Rees also said NSWCHPT’s plans include usurpation of the war memorial park near Tweed Street. ‘This land is zoned public purpose recreation, and has been used as such for the last 100 years.’
Ms Rees said that each cypress pine represents a local soldier who fell in the terrible battle at Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula in WWI. ‘This park holds deep meaning for many local families who are devastated by the callous appropriation by the trust which have allowed ongoing degradation of the park and the pine trees.’
There was some confusion over land that was once used as spill from the caravan park for basic camping that has grown into a location for larger vans and more sophisticated accommodation. When asked, the BHPA said they would prefer there was no camping at all on the extra land.
Ms Rees said the state government is hellbent on privatising any public asset that can turn a profit. ‘The likelihood of prime foreshore encroached lands in Bruns ending up in the hands of private developers is alarmingly real.’
‘NSWCHPT is a developer. Its primary interest is revenue-raising. Its CEO, Steve Edmonds, led the team that privatised the Newcastle Harbour.*
‘In 2014, 2,500 people signed a petition against the trust’s encroachments. Residential groups within the Shire also condemn it.
‘Thousands of residents are against the concept drawings of the Trust. Nothing about the NSWCHPT’s plans benefits our local communities.’
*Mr Edmonds has told The Echo that he did not lead the team that privatised the Newcastle Harbour and in fact ‘had nothing to do with it.’