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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Dispatch from Byron Council trenches, March 22

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Hans Lovejoy

Byron Shire Council deliberated, debated and voted for a whole ten hours last Thursday, possibly chalking up another record for the state of NSW.

To be fair, they could have saved an hour if they had eliminated that pesky morning public-access business.

The hoi polloi’s right to ask questions publicly is under review as it happens; a draft Code of Meeting Practice is about to be made public, and will include Cr Cate Coorey’s wording from last week: ‘A person/organisation is permitted two speeches in favour of or against items on the agenda.’

Fast Buck$ aka John Anderson spoke against the staff suggestion that proposed restricting the public to only talking on one topic.

‘I can only conclude it’s targeting me and Cleva,’ he said.

And it wouldn’t be a Buck$ speech without his helpful oberservations.

‘The infrequency of meetings is the issue,’ he said.

‘[Former Greens mayor] Jan Barham held them every three weeks. Now it’s once a month. These agendas are over 1,000 pages. It’s a recipe for bad governance. I know public access is often ill-informed and boring but that’s the price of democracy.’

And after explaining how staff can dodge answering questions by calling them ‘responses’, he was asked a question himself by a councillor.

‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,’ he said.

‘There, that’s a response, not an answer,’ Buck$ said.

Courageously withdrawn

Moving on, The Echo last week dutifully reported the mayor’s courageous plan for an ‘Independent review of Byron Shire Council’s organisation and governance.’

Yet those who value transparency and accountability will be dismayed to learn that the mayor’s notice of motion was withdrawn. Presumably everything is tickety boo?

What’s the point of grilling staff anyway – things could get quite uncomfortable at the Council Christmas party.

The recommendations from a $20k independent audit of why three trees were removed in Railway Park Byron Bay late last year without warning was noted.

Noted too was the blow-out cost for constructing the Sunrise Boulevard roundabout on Ewingsdale Road.

A nearby concrete roundabout and road reconstruction at the intersection of Bayshore Drive and Ewingsdale Road will cost $7,577,152.56.

SEE Civil Pty Ltd will be paid $3,958,203.56 excluding GST with the balance being allocated in the 2018/19 budget.

Council’s GM will negotiate to acquire private land adjacent to Scarrabelottis Bridge and Booyong Bridge ‘for the purposes of road widening.’

This comes as councillors agreed to hold meetings around the public access to Scarabelottis Lookout (Coorabell) and Keys Bridge Reserve (Federal).

A ‘protection and access plan’ is in the pipeline for both locations. Suggestions so far are for a clamping down on access; a Keys Bridge neighbour told councillors in morning access the waterhole became very popular after it went viral on social media and the platypuses have not been seen since.

Byron to Suffolk cycleway

Investigations are now underway for a Byron Bay (Browning St) to Suffolk Park (Clifford St) cycleway. The Broken Head Road Cycleway project has been nominated for the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan to ‘progress [from] the Stronger Country Communities Fund Round 2…’ $15,000 will be allocated from the grants management reserve ‘to fund required communications and engagement program to support community ed and delivered projects.’

Five bridges in the Shire are set to be repaired/replaced at a cost of $4,721,173.97 (excluding GST). The winning tenderer is SEE Civil Pty Ltd.

The Bangalow A&I Hall and the Suffolk Park Community Hall will be soon upgraded, with $63,000 coming from the Community Buildings Special Rates program.

Quadracon Building won the tender for the works.

Cr Cameron’s plan to allow the unwashed masses (ie the public) to ask senior staff questions about finances has been approved, with a date and location to be announced. The Finance Advisory Committee (FAC) will conduct a ‘Public Access (Budget Estimates) meeting during the exhibition of the 2018/19 draft budget…’

Cr Cate Coorey’s plan to develop a Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) plan also got legs; it will sit inside planning instruments and polices such as the LEP and DCPs.

$25,000 will be allocated from Council’s 2018–19 budget for the development of a strategy to reduce flood risk in urban areas, improve water quality in streams, waterbodies and groundwater and reduce water usage and costs. Cr Hunter voted against.

Council have adopted a draft Charter for the Byron Masterplan Guidance Group, and additional members will be appointed ‘as per the group charter.’

Potholes? Yup

Middle Pocket Road residents have signed a petition outlining the appalling state of their road.

It reads in part, ‘The neglect has brought about a vast increase in car maintenance owing to abnormal wear and tear on our vehicles.

‘Council have admitted Middle Pocket Road is in need of a new road but constantly waste money adding to the bumps with an inefficient pothole top up occasionally…

‘We the ratepayers are tired of misspent, mismanaged public money.

‘Byron does not need more palm trees and we need to be safe and not be bombarded with an abnormal amount of mechanical fees.’

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