Greens councillor Michael Lyon is seeking accolades for breaking a perceived ‘stalemate’ between Byron Shire Council (BSC) and NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT) over plans for the Brunswick Heads Holiday Parks.
In fact, BSC had clearly established the location of the Holiday Parks’ operational boundaries in 2012 [through] licence agreements, which were consistently endorsed by the subsequent council (led by Mayor Richardson). It was reaffirmed in a motion by Councillors Woods and Wanchap in December 2015.
The fact Crown Lands were unhappy with this decision to exclude specific sites from park operations including Ferry foreshore, lot 7005 at Massey Greene and the Southern area of Terrace Park was evident in their insistence on an interim licence granted in 2013 (for one year) to allow time to prepare new POMs.
Byron Shire Council specifically requested further negotiations on park boundaries before any plans were exhibited in the same motion. Yet park management included the extended ‘interim’ park boundaries in their POMs, which were exhibited in December/January 2014 and subsequently approved by the minister.
The fact is that the local government minister had been misled to the extent that these were presented as the ‘agreed’ location of park boundaries.
The process leading up to the approval of the 2014 POM prompted the current review of POMs.
The appalling behaviour by park management made Council, who acted in good faith in granting the interim licence, even more determined to ensure these encroached public lands were retained for public use. Their position is explicit in subsequent resolutions including December 2015.
How is it possible for Councillor Lyon to claim a win for the community when he and the co-Green councillors all colluded to hand these contentious public lands (valued at more than $3 million) to NSWCHPT – ending the ‘stalemate’ with feeble acquiescence.
Mayor Richardson publicly spruiked and supported NSWCHPT’s proposed plans. He also vilified and denigrated community representatives and discouraged new councillors from discussing park issues with me personally or participating in community forums the foreshore protection group organised.
Mayor Richardson alsothreatened to leave meetings if I attended or spoke. Therefore, I never got the opportunity to speak to new Greens councillors prior to Sarah Ndiaye’s rescission motion in April, 2017. Yet councillors attended multiple meetings delivered by NSWCHPT salesmen.
To me, this is where the fairness, equity and trust were broken.
More lost than gained
To claim we now have better access along the foreshore, to the boat ramps and car parking is farcical and fails to appreciate what we lost.
Michael Lyon is obviously unaware of the historic context or what the status quo was before his arrival on the scene.
Until the late 90s the public walkway extended along the riverbank from the bowling club to Ferry Reserve unimpeded by caravan-park activities. The southern section of Terrace Park was open recreational space used as a public picnic area with access to Simpsons Creek and barbecue facilities.
Primitive camping (tents only) were permitted during Christmas and Easter under BSC licence agreements. The coastal cypress pines were a protected community under SEPP 15 provisions.
Ferry Reserve foreshore was also open recreational space with similar licensing provisions for primitive camping during peak periods only. At Massey Greene a loop road enabled access to the boat ramp adjoining the harbour and the toilet block on the boundary of Lot 7005 was a shared facility.
The community enjoyed these public facilities and recreational spaces until aggressive management practices began obstructing the walkway in Terrace park (1997 –2002). Park management erected fencing to enclose public lands created access and amenity issues.
Incremental changes in use were undertaken on Ferry foreshore and South Terrace between 2000 and 2006, allowing camping during school holidays then year-round in public areas outside their operational boundaries, generating noise, parking and traffic problems. Large caravans gained access to the Terrace when the cypress pines were savagely pruned in 2007.
All these works were undertaken without Council’s knowledge or approval and in wilful defiance of Council’s explicit directives, yet compliance staff took no decisive action to address these issues despite persistent complaints from residents and BHPA.
In 2006 Crown Lands sacked BSC as park managers and the new management continued to implement their redevelopment plans without Council or ministerial approval for POMs or new licence agreements.
Crown Lands has imposed a continuous barrage of new POMs, exhibiting plans in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2014, usually over Christmas, demanding a relentless, dogged community response.
In 2005 – two years before the completion of Pacific Highway upgrade – a Ferry Reserve POM secured ministerial approval with Council recommending the foreshore area be incorporated in the RTA’s rehabilitation plans.
No other POMs were ever endorsed by the local government minister, including 2014 POMs whose legality is now under revision.
Throughout this long-running dispute Crown Lands has refused to acknowledge park encroachments on adjoining road reserves and Crown Lands, despite only acquiring these lands through compulsory acquisition in 2012. Amenity issues have been ignored and the foreshore walkway in Terrace Park misrepresented in successive POMs.
The behaviour of park management has compromised Council and staff. Both Councillors Hunter and Ndiaye have claimed NSWCHPT threatened legal action and alluded to more positive outcomes in other areas if Council conceded on the park issues – which is contemptible.
Many community members don’t agree that the outcomes achieved by Councillors Lyon and Ndiaye are an improvement on the position held firmly and decisively prior to their election. In fact, the performance of Green councillors has been a complete and total sell-out that leaves long-suffering residents with no respite or resolution to longstanding amenity issues.
They have left us with far less access, not more as Cr Lyon suggests, and it intensifies the pressure on vulnerable foreshore lands.
The loss of trust and confidence in the Greens will undoubtable be felt at the ballot box. Persuading stalwart Nationals in Brunswick to vote Green was the outstanding achievement of Jan Barham and Tom Tabart that is now under serious threat.
♦ Michele Grant is convenor for Foreshore Protection Group (established in 2006 in response to Crown Lands dismissal of BSC as park manager).