Greens Cr Michael Lyon has replied to The Echo editor’s assessment of why Council has a trust deficit, saying it ‘left many of us gobsmacked by its ironic inequity and basic journalistic ineptitude.’
Last week’s article Courageously avoiding responsibility by Hans Lovejoy laid out some of the reasons he believes led to Council appointing a community panel to restore public confidence in their decision making.
Cr Lyon took umbrage at the depiction of Greens mayor Simon Richardson as a TV game show host.
He said, ‘More time and effort was spent photoshopping the mayor’s head on to that tacky image than researching the many merits of citizens’ juries, which have been shown both here and abroad.’
‘There were many charges laid at this council’s door, including several blatant untruths, which need addressing.
‘Firstly, that we are ignoring equity and not focusing on forward planning.
‘The truth is, the gang of five on the last council fast- tracked both the rural land use strategy (RLUS) and coastal zone plans owing to vested interests. We have since taken these back from the relevant state department and, in the case of the RLUS, done the work on it, exhibited it, sent it off to the minister for final approval and are now advancing projects via the strategy, such as in agribusiness.
‘Similarly, the residential strategy HAS been focused on, that’s why it is nearing completion, most likely by spring. The link is here and can show the work done to date: www.byron.nsw.gov.au/residential-strategy.
‘It is in the interests of equity that we seek to address the housing affordability crisis, which is why we held a housing summit and created an affordable-housing action plan, to inform this residential strategy and look at models that will truly address the crisis.
‘The important point here is that we are setting the agenda and being proactive, not letting developers set the agenda, as happened in the previous term of Council.
‘We have also made it clear where we stand on unauthorised holiday letting, and continue to lobby hard for a bed tax, again in the interests of equity and for the benefit of the community as a whole.
‘Another example of forward planning, the Employment Lands Strategy, vital to get right given our shortage of industrial land, has been initiated and will be completed by September this year.
‘Another charge is that the Greens’ majority (there are actually only four of us out of nine) are lobbyists for the holiday parks trust and not backing the community.
‘Another perspective is that after 20 years of stalemate, and no end in sight, we felt it better to achieve outcomes for the community, which we have. These include increased public areas, particularly along the foreshore, better access to these areas, improved access and parking arrangements for boat ramps at Massey and Ferry and the provision of a park and children’s playground at Massey.
‘It wasn’t under this council’s watch that the limbs of the pine trees were cut to make way for campervans, but it has been under our watch that we discovered they are 400 years old and are now to be protected.
‘This did understandably upset some members of the Bruns community; however, it has been the ceaseless, biased negative reporting of it that actually fans the flames of division.
‘There has been no “picking of winners” from the Council as a whole.
‘The Brunswick Eco Village is in the same situation as anyone else who wishes to develop and has simply been invited to propose solutions to the housing affordability crisis, along with anyone else.
‘No special treatment there; they need to follow all the same approval processes as everyone else.
‘Similarly with The Farm, who took it upon themselves to completely ignore their initial approvals and develop way beyond them.
‘It has been a majority of this council that has said enough is enough, placed clear restrictions on their activities onsite and begun compliance to ensure that what has been approved is what is taking place.
‘Another line thrown out there was that the Butler Street bypass will be ultimately ineffective, because the traffic in future will increase so much that it will be similar to current levels, even with the bypass. That doesn’t make the bypass ineffective. It means the problem will be a lot worse in future without it.
‘This is not to say that Council and councillors haven’t made mistakes, of course we have, the consultation processes around paid parking, communications around the rotunda and the masterplan group to name a few.
‘As a group we are determined to improve and do better. For newer councillors the learning curve is steep and it continues.
‘There are myriad policy changes at state level to contend with as well, in planning particularly, as well as in environment and coastal management.
‘What I see, however, is a group of councillors committed to equity and outcomes for a community they love and an environment they want to protect.
‘A culture of consultation and collegiality has been developed in Council staff over the last few years and this current group of councillors is committed to this and to enhancing it.
‘We are all in this together as a community and a danger of an article like last week’s is it fans the flames of division and pits us against each other instead of working together to get the best outcomes possible.
‘Another danger of articles like Hans’s, which is tantamount to bullying and driven by fear, is that you end up after the next election with the exact thing you are afraid of: self-serving, vested interests setting the agenda and developing the Shire into the next Gold Coast.’
The Echo stands by its reporting. Asking for better governance is not fear mongering and should not lead to worse outcomes. Far too often the media are blamed for being negative or ‘fanning flames’. If Council are so wonderful as Cr Lyon suggests, there would be no need for a citizen’s jury panel – ed.