Castles in the sky still require Council DAs

The mayor reminded the gallery last Thursday that Council is unable to resist the vicelike grip of a state government corporation when it comes to taking whatever they want in Brunswick Heads. Image

Hans Lovejoy

Enthusiastic participants in local government affairs took to their popcorn and cushions in the Mullumbimby chambers last Thursday to hear soaring oratory rhetoric of varying degrees of competency by our beloved councillors. But it wasn’t about them; it was about what they voted upon.

With 1,032 pages of agenda, the meeting was actually short by comparison to other marathons. It was all over by 4pm.

Byron skate park

Mayor Simon Richardson will call on councillors to start the ball rolling on establishing the Sandhills area as a location for a Byron Bay skate park. Public feedback will be sought, as well as support from the state government.

Reports will follow.

He told the chamber that there is support for the location and it is consistent with the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan projects. And while no budget was identified in the motion, Cr Richardson says Council has allocated and committed $300,000 and through community fund-raising, a $500,000 budget could be achieved. This amount could be matched by the government.

Council housing

Council’s contentious affordable housing project next to the Mullum Community Gardens and unimpressed neighbours got a step closer after all councillors agreed to request a gateway determination from the state government.

Further studies and a public exhibition of the planning proposal will proceed, and a staff report has been requested to ‘consider amending SEPP 70, LEP 2014 and the Byron Development Contributions Plan in relation to affordable housing provisions.’

Treehouse reprieve

The Byron Bay Massinger Street treehouse may stay!

Councillors resolved to ask the neighbour, who wants to be responsible for it, to provide public liability, an arborist report and engineering certificate. And just because it’s bureaucracy, she will be offered a 12-month lease for $1 on the land if that’s all ticked off. Hooray for bureaucracy!

Bruns Parks

It’s now a case of duelling ecologists between Council and the North Coast Holiday Parks Trust (NCHPT) over a push to formalise lucrative camping in the southern end of the Terrace Reserve in Brunswick Heads.

It’s been a difficult road for the state-owned corporation to liberate pots of gold from the riverfront land – locals have detailed the history which indicates it was a public memorial park. It should return as a public space, they argue, so that vunreable coastal pines can recover from their slow demise under past NCHPT and (perhaps) Council managment. The latest in the longrunning saga saw an arborist, employed by NCHPT, address councillors in morning access. Claims by Council’s independent ecology report were refuted of course, and what’s left of the protected Coastal Cypress Pines could easily co-exist with camping and carefully placed 4-wheel-drives. They promise to look after the pines. Promises?

Oh purrrleeease. Like a disease masquerading as its own cure, NCHPT have now a sudden interest in actually protecting the pines instead of butchering them, as they have done in the past. Are they to be believed? Can anything be done to ensure compliance?

It’s anyone’s guess, but regardless, mayor Simon Richardson told the gallery later in the day that there’s no point trying to fight this. Yup, Council is a puppy that has to roll over and show its fluffy vulnerable belly to an oversized pitbull state government.

Pity there’s no independent legal knowledge tabled to support that view.

Anyway, another interesting angle to this never-ending series of a public to private wealth transfer was NCHPT’s arborist telling The Echo that their ecology report was provided to staff two weeks prior to Thursday’s meeting.

Turns out that report was only handed to councillors the day before the meeting!

As a result, any decision on what to do was correctly deferred by councillors, yet questions to staff by The Echo remain unanswered, like who was the staff member that withheld the report. And why.

Let’s be a corp!

Councillors supported Cr Spooner’s motion in becoming a foundation member of Byron Community Land Limited, a project that aims to roll out affordable housing projects. Yet to make sure it’s all legally tight, the acting general manager will need to be satisfied that section 358 of the Local Government Act 1993 is not contravened.

Limited space permits covering anything further; however, there are a lot of great questions with some answers from staff in the minutes from the April 19 meeting.

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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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