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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

More sparks fly over potentially using rail corridor as bypass

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The approved Byron Bay bypass, aligned with Butler Street. Source Byron Shire Council
The approved Byron Bay bypass, aligned with Butler Street. Source Byron Shire Council

Byron Shire Council staff have warned councillors against exploring whether the unused rail corridor in Byron CBD can be used as a bypass, claiming it would result in the forfeiture of the $10.5m in Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) funding ‘which was provided exclusively for a bypass constructed on the Butler Street alignment’.

The staff response comes from a motion by Cr Paul Spooner in the upcoming June 22 meeting, which calls for Council to be ‘fully informed of the relevant costs associated with the two viable options now possible for constructing a bypass around the Byron Bay CBD.’

Cr Spooner writes that a letter to Tamara Smith MP, written on behalf of the NSW minister for transport and infrastructure, ‘provides confirmation from the NSW government that the unused rail corridor within Byron Bay could be used as a roadway.’

His motion ‘will inform Council of both the costs and budget available to proceed with the construction of the Byron Bay bypass,’ Cr Spooner writes.

Staff have replied in the agenda that the current estimate for the bypass built on the Butler Street alignment is $20m; originally the project was expected to cost much less.

They say, ‘Available funding sources at this time are $10.5m funding from the RMS, and $4m collected to date in Section 94 Developer Contributions specifically for the bypass.’

Waste of money

‘Approximately $2m of these funds have already been spent in preparing the EIS, BioBanking Statement and detailed design.

‘A further $450k has been spent defending the Land and Environment Court legal challenge instigated by the Butler Street Community Network (BSCN).

‘In order for the full bypass project to proceed the shortfall in funding would have to be addressed and would have to be sourced from either the state or federal governments.’

Staff say proceeding with a roadway in the rail corridor would also mean: ‘Wasting the $2.45m already spent in getting the current proposal to the construction stage; a significant opportunity cost due to thousands of hours of Council staff time spent on the project to date having to be duplicated – this would have significant consequences for the capacity of staff to focus on other significant Council projects and service delivery.’

Unsubstantiated

But the Butler Street Community Network have replied to the staff comments, claiming that the ‘Moree bypass has been completed utilising the rail corridor [and] retaining the operational rail line.’

Among one of the many counterarguments is that ‘Council [staff are] making completely unsubstantiated claims about the cost of a Crown land transfer of rail corridor land to Council.’

‘The biggest lie Council has perpetrated is that the state funding for the Byron Bay CBD bypass was predicated on the Butler Street route.

‘The Butler Street Community Network undertook a GIPA freedom of information request for TforNSW Strategic Business Case study that is the approval document for the $10.5m funding.

‘That document specifically states that there is no recommended route option other than noting that Council strongly favoured the Butler Street route. Funds were provided on the basis of further development of a recommended option.

‘No excuse should be allowed or perpetuated for a council misleading the community and its councillors.

‘Any money wasted is entirely Council management’s responsibility and to perpetuate the error can only lead to more waste of resources.

‘A significant decision is to be made here regarding an expensive, dangerous and highly destructive road proposal in the face of an obviously superior, safer, cost-effective solution. This is the last chance for councillors to get fully informed…’


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6 COMMENTS

  1. In all this stoush I have noted that their has barely been a mention of some significant Aboriginal

    Sites within the proposed road alignment, Sadly for BSC if their is an attempt to proceed without doing the proper assessment and applying due dilligence as required under the National Parks and Wildlife Act the matter will end up in the Courts again.
    \
    \Even Blind Freddy to give him credit, can see this so called by pass is for the benefit of the West Byron developers and not the community

    • This bypass has got nothing at all to do with west byron developers.. it’s more than 5 km away. By the time West Byron is finished , there will be cause for another bypass as well. Just make the road and be done with it.
      Stop wasting money.

      • the Butler street bypass SHOULD have nothing to do with West Byron, James, but you miss this vital point- The State Govt is using it that way and will use it that way, once it gets started. The state Govt will throw this money at what appears to be a very naive or easily bought -off Council Staff (and possibly BSC too). The State Govt will then say that the traffic issues relating to West Byron have been addressed and so it can now go ahead, and the BSC and residents will be left to try and sort out the resulting traffic mess! Council staff do not want the corridor to be used because they are stuck in a bureaucratic process and have been working on it for a long time and are emotionally committed AND at the senior levels, likely see it as if they were giving away their assets by spending money on land they do not have on their books as one of ‘their’ assets. This can matter to ego’s and future pay checks of individuals on staff, because assets under control matters in the world of a “corporatized” public service based on performance criteria such as “assets under management”!It is probably an accounting headache for the too regarding ongoing R&M, future govt grants etc.
        Paul Spooner is right to want to revisit this matter. The cost blowout could easily alter the assessment of what constitutes a best option or an option at all. At the very least the community should all know what the actual current construction cost of this Butler st construction will be to ratepayers! and what the State Govt will give in future toward an ACTUAL BYPASS THAT WILL ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF THE COMMUNITY WHEN WEST BYRON PROCEEDS.
        Council Staff argue that $2.45 mil already spent will be wasted if the butler st bypass is not proceeded with. That is a most stupid justification! And a kind of thinking that has led to spectacular historical failures ,personal, corporate, military and public policy repeatedly and must be called out for exactly what it is – absolute bullshit! if it is not going to work, then accept it and find a solution that will!

  2. It doesn’t make sense to put the by pass anywhere other than on the rail corridor and it should have been best option from the beginning. Least impact impact choice by far, if your gonna do it, do it right but when does common sense ever prevail in Byron Bay.

    • I appreciate the small number of houses along Butler Street are effected by increased noise and travel levels, but I would have thought it does not make sense to build a road parallel and close to an existing one – Butler Street – that can serve as a bypass. Indeed I would question if the noise impact would be much different. The former rail corridor is a very valuable piece of land that can could be developed into a very attractive pedestrian precinct, accommodating the rail trail. Those who seek to preserve the corridor for rail will be able to see from this example that the real threat to the corridor is not from the rail trail but people who wish to use for other incompatible and irreversible purposes such as a bypass road. In that regard it is important to remind them that the Explanatory Memorandum to the model Bill now under consideration in the NSW Parliament makes it clear that the intention is to create a rail trail, and would not allow a corridor’s use for another purpose such as a bypass road .

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