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Byron Shire
June 20, 2021

Anger at Byron Council’s treatment of the BEC

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Volunteers outside the Byron Environment Centre rotunda that was fenced of yesterday, with no notice, by Byron Council. Photo supplied.
Volunteers outside the Byron Environment Centre rotunda that was fenced of yesterday, with no notice, by Byron Council. Photo supplied.

Update

Apology

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson has apologised on behalf of Council ‘to the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan Leadership Group, the Byron Environment Centre and the Byron Bay Artisan Market Managers-and in fact the wider community for our failure to communicate’ over the eviction of the Byron Environment Centre and the general maintenance of Railway Park that led to the erection of wire fencing around the BEC.  He told Echonetdaily that the wire fencing will be ‘removed by tomorrow’.

The mayor has asked for a meeting with the BEC saying that ‘For many years it was a vibrant, powerful, organised and extremely active organisation and I am really keen to see how it can be assisted to be so again, including working out the best space it needs and the best location.

Our ongoing communication break downs are  too regular when easily solvable and I am very frustrated at the lack of  simple, proactive engagement that could be done to allay fears, respectfully discuss issues with stakeholders and restore faith in the organisation by the community it is auspiced to represent. We can and must communicate with our community better.’

Echonetdaily is waiting for further responses regarding the removal of a 25m gum.

Original report: Confusion and anger are being expressed at the treatment of the Byron Environment Centre (BEC), the community members of the Byron Bay master plan team (BBMPT) and councillors after the Byron Shire Council sent a letter to the BEC on October 16, saying ‘that Council had received ‘community feedback via the Byron Bay Town Centre Master Plan Leadership Team that the BEC kiosk in Railway Square would best be located elsewhere.’ It has been in its current location for 15 years. This was compounded yesterday by council workers erecting a cyclone wire fence around an area in Railway Park, that included the BEC rotunda, with no notice to the BEC.

In a letter to the convenor of the BEC, John Lazarus, yesterday, Mayor Simon Richardson said that the fence going up ‘is only for some works, especially along the garden beds on Jonson Street, not for any substantial works in the park and is estimated to be done this week.’

However, in response to the Mayor, Mr Lazarus pointed out that ‘While we were there yesterday a 25 metre gum tree was removed. For your information: It is in council’s railway park development site plan marked as one of three trees to be removed.’

Moving the rotunda

Donald Maughan Co-Chair of the Byron Bay town centre masterplan team told Echonetdaily that ‘The community group of the BBMPT had no knowledge of what was happening around the rotunda’ and do not know what is going on with regard to the letter from council to relocate.

This was confirmed buy the Mayor in his letter to Lazarus where he stated that ‘The masterplan group had nothing to do with any decision to remove the rotunda. The group only received a copy of draft conceptual plan for beautifying the park today (October 25). Little discussion was ever had on its (BECs) future.’

The Mayor continued to say that the BBMPT had recently committed to starting a ‘respectful community dialogue’ of all stakeholders in that area and that they ‘are justifiably as unhappy as BEC for the lack of notice or communication’ from council.

In fact the BBMPT had been expecting a reasonably detailed  plan on what was going to be happening in that zone at last nights masterplan meeting but were disappointed as ‘there seemed to be a lack of definition of exactly the perimeter of the zone we were talking about,’ said Mr Maughan.

‘There was no clear idea of the space we were working on or what sections were owned by what parties. Everyone in the community is very confused.’

Volunteers outside the Byron Environment Centre rotunda that was fenced of yesterday, with no notice, by Byron Council. Photo supplied.
Volunteers outside the Byron Environment Centre rotunda that was fenced of yesterday, with no notice, by Byron Council. Photo supplied.

Questions over how the rotunda came to be in the park were also raised at the masterplan meeting with no clear answers being provided by council’s staff said Mr Maughan.

However, Mr Lazarus had recently provided council staff with that information. According to Lazarus the rotunda was built as a bandstand by Paul McCarthy, a local real estate agent and Peter Noble, Blues Festival director.

‘It was not successful as a band stand, it became a place for the homeless to hang out their washing, and it became dilapidated and damaged,’ said Mr Lazarus.

Council instructed McCarthy and Noble to enclose and secure it or remove it. At this point the BEC took on the project and ‘constructed the new panels and paid for the local Arakwal artist Danza Viddler to do the murals, which depict the five senior women of the Arakwal clan and the Arakwals Totem Animals. The Mayor, Tom Wilson, was present when we attached the Mural panels to the structure.

‘Council then placed paving around the rotunda, and at a later stage connected us up to the electricity. 

‘While the BEC came some years later than Councils construction consent, we are confident that we are managing it in an appropriate manner as related to the original development consent.

‘This (Byron master plan) is a multi-million dollar project where some people can make millions of dollars. This document is being used to change building height limits in the Bay’ amongst other things finished Lazarus.

Chris Hanley Co-Chair of the Byron Bay town centre masterplan team also confirmed with Echonetdaily that the ‘masterplan team welcome all feedback and community involvement in the development of the Byron Bay master plan.’ If you are interested in providing feedback click here.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Its Byron Bay for Christ sake… Gotta have the BEC..although it was looking a bit grubby.
    Needs to be in the Community Centre WITH a window display !.
    Council or “yet another committee” could have been set up but I guess all are sadly too lazy or slow to finish the boys great work in setting this bandstand up…. FREE to an obviously UNappreciative community.
    It was a waste of prime space and lets hope an exciting new park will be the result.
    Sad about the Bandstand and perhaps some innovative Byron Geniuses will contribute again
    Hey and I thought it was an artsy musical town…! Maybe they left to make room for yuppies….Im cryin.

  2. I was in Byron Railway park when the 9/11 twin towers tragedy unfolded. People were in the park with candles and sitting in various circles. There were small shrines of flowers etc.
    Sometime in the weeks or months after a group of people planted a Mango tree as a peace tree where the rotunda is now in a ceremony I witnessed .
    The tree was respected and marked and people knew why it was there and the tree was fine until the council came and cut the grass.
    The open rotunda was the next step and while homeless people took shelter there and used it for their own needs, I don’t remember it being dilapidated, often unsightly, yes but these were people who had few other options.
    The Mango tree would have been nice with free mangoes every year but maybe the council would be scared of litigation should someone be hit by a falling Mango. I don’t suggest that council purposely mowed over the tree but this is the beginning of the Rotunda story.

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