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Byron Shire
October 3, 2022

Saddle Road retirement village mooted 

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Matthew ‘Cleva’ O’Reilly. Photo Tree Faerie.

Hans Lovejoy

While ‘absolutely opposed’ to rezoning Saddle Road to village or residential, Saddle Road resident Matthew ‘Cleva’ O’Reilly has lodged his own expression of interest (EOI) with Council for a seniors’ affordable housing project on the five-hectare property he manages.

It comes in response to an invitation by Council for landowners to submit EOIs for affordable-housing projects.

As previously reported, five other landowners lodged a large planning proposal with Council – which has an affordable-housing component – on the picturesque ridgeline between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads.

Twenty two-bedroom self-contained villa-style seniors’ dwelling are proposed by Mr O’Reilly, along with a seniors hostel with 40 one-bedrooms. Additional buildings are also proposed, including 12 farmstay cabins for temporary visitor accommodation and ancillary workers’ dwellings.

Mr O’Reilly lodged the proposal along with ten other landowners, and acknowledged that ‘it is somewhat a conflicting position,’ given his opposition to rezoning the area.

Mr O’Reilly believes his proposal can be achieved through existing legislation and without the need for a Council-led rezoning.

He said, ‘All we have proposed is a better way for Council to manage secondary dwellings, dual occupancies, rural visitors’ cabins and group homes in rural areas to ensure they are really used for affordable housing and not for high rents and holiday accommodation.’

‘I still think the ideas in the report are well worth Council’s implementing Shire-wide. In many ways, it is entirely an academic exercise… but I do hope changes in Council affordable-housing policies may flow from our submissions.’


He said, ‘As conditions of approval, we propose to cap rents at an average of 36 per cent of the average Byron Shire weekly income and will agree to provide an annual report to Council showing the leases, rental rates and lease terms during the previous financial year.

‘We also agree to limit short-term rental of 30 days or less of the farmstay cabins to less than 50 per cent of the total lease nights. The remainder of over 50 per cent will be for temporary lease of between three and 12 months, targeting single-parent families who are homeless or between homes.’

He says that in the last year, his group have been open to negotiating ‘other development outcomes on Saddle Road that maintain its rural, agricultural, scenic, cultural and environmental values.’

‘We even put an alternative proposal to Bruns Eco Village (BEV) and the Borrodales back over a year ago.

‘We proposed rural residential development in clusters around the three existing housing sites on Saddle Road. This would have maintained the bulk of the road in its current state.’ Mr O’Reilly says after his compromise was ‘flatly refused’ by those neighbours, ‘we had no choice but to argue against their all-out urbanisation of Saddle Road.’

Pollution alleged

Meanwhile, staff have accused Mr O’Reilly of pollution on the property he manages, an allegation he strongly denies.

As reported last week, Mr O’Reilly lodged two code of conduct complaints against mayor Simon Richardson, one of which relates to what he says is a vexatious pursuit of his approved earthworks by compliance staff.

Council’s legal services co-ordinator Ralph James outlined in a statement the reasoning for a prevention order on works being carried out.

A ‘major pollution event’ was a result of works carried out on the property on December 27, 2017, claimed Mr James, which would ‘likely impact on the environmental values of Simpsons Creek.’

Mr O’Reilly replied, ‘We commissioned a Waterways Assessment, which determined that there were no creeks or waterways on the property.

‘[Staff] are referring to some mud on Gulgan Road, which came off wheel tracks of a truck exiting our property. I was notified of this incident, and can clarify that the mud on the road was a direct result of Byron Council’s prevention notice.’

‘Council have ordered us to seal all of our roads and undertake additional sediment and erosion control works and we are legally obliged to comply, despite our appeal. Consequently, we are undertaking further sediment and erosion control works to seal the roads starting early January in compliance with Council’s prevention notice. 

Mr O’Reilly said Mr James’s statement makes ‘no assertion that I have undertaken any “unauthorised activities”,’ nor is there any mention ‘of any illegal vegetation removal which the mayor keeps referring to.’

He added he will be defending Council’s claims and has ‘retained six separate consultants who are producing reports that contradict Council’s position.’

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    • Yeah that 36% is a pretty broad number, especially when we consider the massive income inequality in this area. It would be interesting to know if this would be based on the average earnings in the Byron Shire itself i.e. based on service industry, trades and retail – or does it include the incomes from people who make their money outside of the shire, or from investment portfolios, online business, work from home etc, where income might be more in-line with metroploitan earnings.

      For housing to be truly affordable it cannot exceed one-third of your income, so if this was meant to help pensioners without significant assetts it would have to be based on 33% of the lower quintiles earnings. In 2016 in the Byron Shire we had 21.6% of all individual residents living in the lowest quintile – which is $0 – $324.

      So for an indiviudal pensioner living in the lowest quintile without any additional assetts, affordable rent would come out around $110 a week. If Cleva is suggesting something along those terms for the 40-room development, and similarly adjusted prices on the self-contained villas, then I truly applaud his vision and his venture deserves the support of the community. It could be an excellent way of using farmstays and tourism to subsidise affordable accomodation for our shires elderly.

  1. The title is a bit misleading as no retirement village has been proposed. The article also did not have the space to go into the details of the expression of interest. As an academic exercise the eoi proposed a way for affordable housing to be approved in rural zones throughout the shire. A range of rents were discussed in the eoi and 36% of the medium byron income was considered the highest level that rents could be chrged at and still be considered ” afforable” under nsw guidelines. 36% of medium byron income was used as a maximum rate because the alternative of 80% of average brunswick or byron shire rents was far to high ( which is the figure used by Bruns Eco Village).
    The full report is available on request.
    Blessings cleva

  2. How is 72 dwellings on 5Ha piece of land (more than 14 per Ha) less intense than the BEV proposal of 475 dwellings on an area of 290Ha?

    Yep. More than a ”somewhat a conflicting position”. More like absolutely conflicting. Just because you change the name and call it ”rural”, doesn’t make it rural.


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