Despite at times heated debate between councillors and the gallery, the Greens with other councillor support voted on Thursday to support two plans of management (PoMs) of the three Brunswick Heads holiday parks to go on exhibition.
No independent legal advice will be sought over the long contested encroached lands by the state government, and Echonetdaily understands that this now sets in motion the formal transfer of long contested land to the state government.
Cr Sarah Ndaiye’s rescission motion overturns a previous motion from April 20 that maintained a long held Greens position on calling for clarity around alleged encroached boundaries. PoMs for the Ferry Reserve and Massey Greene will soon be open for public submissions while the Terrace will be still negotiated.
Residents opposed in the chamber were clearly disgusted at the Greens’ capitulation which comes with little public notice.
While the state-government run North Coast Holiday Parks Trust (NCHPT) have promised 10m public of access setbacks along shorelines, it appears not just boundaries will now be all under the NCHPT’s control; large areas of road reserves and Crown lands look set to be subsumed for the commercial benefit of the NCHPT.
Much of the rhetoric by the Green councillors had been canvassed and reported previously by Echonetdaily; they all spoke in similar tone (except Cr Jeannette Martin, who did not speak). They claim they reached the best deal possible and that they believe if they don’t agree to the demands, then NCHPT will take council to court or reverse to previous PoMs.
Those PoMs and others before them were roundly condemned by the pubic at the March 9 meeting with NCHPT.
No legal advice
Cr Cate Coorey tabled a motion to seek independent legal advice – with support from Labor’s Cr Paul Spooner and a rowdy public – but was defeated.
No independent legal advice was included in the rescission motion pushed by the Greens, despite requests.
Additionally Labor’s Jan Hackett – with the gallery – challenged the Greens on the lack of their legal clarity, yet the Greens instead bunkered down and pushed on regardless in the knowledge they had the numbers.
Mayor Simon Richardson did however ask planning staff chief Shannon Burt if there were talks with NCHPT after the last motion, to which she replied there were informal talks about the options, yet the topic of deemed refusal was not raised.
Throughout debate, the mayor did not mention legal advice and instead claimed any resistance was useless by using a poker analogy.
‘We are playing with two 2’s and they [the NCHPT] have a full house,’ he said.
‘We demanded three metre setbacks previously, and now we get 10m or even 15m. Justice will not be done [with this matter], no matter what we say.’
A similar lack of trust in council’s ability to defend itself came from councillor Alan Hunter. The Nationals Party-aligned stalwart said: ‘We are like the flea on the back of an elephant. One squirt and were off into orbit!’
He said, ’This is another example of deferring and putting everything off,’ he said.
2,000 signed submission
Cr Cate Coorey reminded the chamber that a 2,000 signed submission supported council interpretation of the boundaries. She said, ‘Would we accept this from any other developer? Absolutely not. We have acted in good faith, let’s keep with that good faith.’
Additionally residents in the gallery reminded councillors that in 2015, the community won a similar court case with the Friends of King Edward Park taking on the city of Newcastle. This decision will set a precedent, said members from the gallery.
Council’s own doing: Greens Cr Lyon
Despite this, Greens Cr Michael Lyon made the extraordinary claim that the entire issue was in fact Council’s own doing.
He said without elaborating, ‘It was our mismanagement that led to this.’
Yet The Echo’s report of the takeover in 2006 tells a different story. Councillors, including Greens mayor Jan Barham, questioned the legitimacy of the takeover.
Lesley Patterson wrote on August 1, 2006 that the reason the government had sacked Council was that it had ‘failed to address serious matters outlined in the audit [of council’s parks’ management].
‘[Yet] The Department of Lands would not reveal how many complaints had been received or give specific details on the nature of the complaints.
‘“Environmental concerns, public safety, OH&S [occupational health and safety], non compliance with licensing requirements,” was as far as John McClymont from the Department of Lands would be drawn [into the reasons for the parks’ management dismissal].’
Ms Barham told The Echo, ‘There is no way the issues raised in the audit warrant the action that has been taken by the Department.’
Cr Diane Woods said at the time: ‘My serious questions haven’t had serious answers,’ while Cr Richard Staples suggested that minister Tony Kelly ‘didn’t understand what he was putting his name to. It’s all about profit.’
Additionally the press release at the time by minister Tony Kelly (later disgraced for corrupt conduct) described the caravan parks as offering ‘a tourism experience far below the potential these prime sites could provide’.
At last Thursday’s meeting, Cr Lyon also said another remark without elaboration: ‘I believe the boundaries won’t be set after this [rescission motion].’
‘It will [just] move it forward.’
‘We have wins and loses and we have to deal with these people on many levels.’
Labor Cr Spooner also asked rhetorically, ‘Why the change of heart [from the last motion]? What conversations have been had? Whose interests are being served by this motion?’
He then sparred with the Greens mayor over political differences between Labor and the Greens, which was a little awkward, boring and unenlightening. Of course both men have political ambitions, that’s abundantly clear.
In all, it appeared the claims of urgency or threats of returning to the bad old PoMs was all without any real merit and still remains largely unexplained.
Council’s legal services co-ordinator even stated during debate that he did not consider this as a legal challenge.
Update: This story has been updated in regards to Cr Lyon’s comments over the holiday park’s history and amended Cr Coorey as the author of another motion.