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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Byron Councillors reject staff tree-removal report

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Byron Bay’s Railway Park. Photo by Mary Gardner.

A report by Byron Shire Council staff into the events that led to their cutting down three trees in Railway Park without warning at the end of October was rejected by councillors at their extraordinary meeting last Tuesday.

Such events are rare; usually staff reports are ‘noted’.

Mayor Simon Richardson penned the nine-point rejection of the report, which was authored by manager open space and resource recovery Michael Matthews.

He told the chamber, ‘I was very disappointed in the report. It simply did not answer the questions we asked.

‘The communication strategy wasn’t included in the report and didn’t appear to be followed. [Regarding] process, there were no flora and fauna reports.’

Cr Richardson said it gives councillors ‘no choice’ but to get an independent consultant report to see how the process failed and what steps can be put in place for the future. 

‘I don’t believe there was any wilful failing,’ he said.

Cr Alan Hunter was the only councillor who voted against and said while he hadn’t had a chance to digest the motion, ‘We could have handled this a lot better’.

‘We owe staff the respect to sit down and resolve this in private…There are no winners in this as a result of the motion. This is stubbing our toe and does not fix anything… I’m upset where it’s ended up.’

Cr Cate Coorey said it was a very public issue for the community. ‘I feel we have to deal with it in the public forum. It shows we are working for our community and that’s why we need to go through this process.’

In reply, the mayor said ‘This is not a response to the loud voices whom we will never be able to please. We took a 30-year-old native tree down without consultation. That simply has to be explained.’

‘I’m not interested in a witch hunt; I just want to move on. The things we asked for are not in the report. The community will not let us get away with that, and nor should they.’

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  1. I applaud the councillors who took a stand on this and demanded a better report. I wonder how many other reports though could be criticised on similar grounds – not addressing the questions asked, padding with copious but largely irrelevant detail etc? The difference is that trees in the park is an issue where some political quedos can be gained with a bit of public posturing.


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