Hans Lovejoy and staff reporters
With the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) holding a public meeting over West Byron on Tuesday, June 18, an estimated of 800 to 1,000 locals rallied at Main Beach on Sunday before taking to the streets of the town to protest against the mega suburb proposal.
The crowd heard from deputy mayor Basil Cameron, NSW Greens MP Tamara Smith, NSW Labor candidate Asren Pugh, environmentalist Dailan Pugh, Cr Cate Coorey and was MCd by Mark Swivel.
Though there was no arrangement to do a street march, protestors had a great time heading from Apex Park down Jonson Street to the crossing near Railway Park, where they turned and headed back to Apex Park chanting ‘West Byron – No Way!’
The police did not show until towards the end. Traffic was held up for around half an hour.
Continues below photo gallery
Photos by Jeff Dawson
Byron ‘not a commodity’
Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith said, ‘Byron Bay is a community, not a commodity and the very things we all love about it and that make it special are at risk with such a huge, mega-development at our gateway and on the Cumbebin swampland.
‘We have a proud history of many decades of standing up against inappropriate development in Byron Bay and this is what our residents expect, this is what the visitors who respect our region expect us to do,’ she said.
Ms Smith also asked people to take photos when they are stuck in traffic on Ewingsdale Road and email them to [email protected] and she will forward them to to the Minister for Roads and the Minister for Planning.
Labor says no
The Labor candidate for Ms Smith’s seat, Asren Pugh, said the party has been ‘saying no to West Byron for the last five years.
‘Before the last election we promised to reverse the zoning of the land. If Labor had have been elected at the last state election, West Byron would not be happening, he said.
But he added, ‘They will listen if our voices are loud enough, and if we make ourselves heard. See you on Tuesday in Mullumbimby!’
Environmentalist Dailan Pugh told the gathering West Byron was ‘a done deal.’
‘The developers said what they wanted and the department of planning did everything they could to facilitate it.’
‘They ignored our evidence about the traffic chaos, the impact on koalas, the risk posed by Acid Sulfate soils, the vulnerability of the Belongil Estuary, the need for a set-back from Ewingsdale Road and that it is too big for Byron Bay. They ignored numerous requirements of Government and Council policies and strategies. Good planning was thrown out the window.
‘In July 2014, we did a Freedom of Information request which revealed that the planning department had failed to review or obtain independent expert advice on any of the issues we raised. They blindly accepted the developer’s assertions.
‘We went down to Sydney to meet the then planning minister Prue Goward in August 2014 in the vain hope that she would at least consider our concerns.
‘Then we found out that the Department of Planning had finalised their assessment in May 2014.
They had even failed to disclose their assessment with our Freedom of Information Request.
‘All our rallies, submissions and representations were totally ignored.
‘When the rezoning of the site was announced by Prue Goward in November 2014, the only change was to increase the density of the development.
They simply inserted a piece of Western Sydney, the size of Mullumbimby, into western Byron Bay.
‘Then we went through a farcical process of preparing a Development Control Plan (DCP).
‘At least Council was allowed to prepare it, though it too has been ignored.’
He also said that the developers are proposing an acoustic barrier up to four metres tall on top of two metres of fill along Ewinsgdale Road opposite the Industry Arts estate.
‘Council has generously offered six metres of our Ewingdale Road reserve for an earth mound and plantings to partially obscure their wall.’
‘10.6 ha of native vegetation is proposed for clearing, 1.8 ha within Environmental Zones. 2.1 ha of mapped Coastal Wetlands are proposed to be filled and built over.
Koala connectivity threatened
‘The site is a vital link for maintaining connectivity between koala populations to the north and south, without it our coastal koalas are unlikely to survive. They intend to clear 2 ha – 37 per cent – of the core koala habitat on the site and surround the rest with roads and houses.
‘Back in 2011 the developers promised to protect the wetland home of the nationally vulnerable Wallum Sedge frog in the middle of the site. Now they intend to cover it with three metre of fill for houses and roads.
‘There will be huge volumes of polluted runoff from the site, which will be directed into wetlands and the Belongil estuary within the Cape Byron Marine Park. The estuary is already in poor health, this is the last thing it needs.
‘Once again, the government has taken control away from Council. The Joint Regional Planning Panel is to decide our future.
‘There are numerous grounds on which they could refuse these Development Applications. Though given the past history, I have no faith they will do so. At this late stage our only hope is to convince them that there is over-whelming public opposition.’
MC Mark Swivel read out local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin’s speech:
‘I’m sorry I can’t be with you today as I am at a long-standing event in Cowra.’
‘Over the past year I have heard the concerns raised by members of our community about the West Byron Development, particularly in regards to its environmental impact, increased traffic and congestion in the town and the current lack of adequate infrastructure to support the development.
‘I have heard those concerns, and I share them.
‘We all know that housing affordability is a significant issue facing our community. However, any measures to address this cannot come at the cost of destroying our beautiful town.
‘Byron Bay rightly prides itself on its relaxed community atmosphere embedded within a stunning and pristine natural environment. It is what makes our town special and it is how should remain.
‘I have significant concerns about the potential impacts of the West Byron proposal – particularly with regard to the size and scale of the development. Right now, I do not believe that our town can cope with the outcomes that would result from it.
JRPP to determine
‘As we know, the proposal now sits before the Joint Regional Planning Panel for its determination.
‘If this development is approved, it is critical that the JRPP put in place conditions that address the nature of the development as well as the infrastructure necessary to deal with it.
‘The JRPP must also ensure that any potential environmental impacts from the development are adequately addressed.
‘And I have made this strongly position known at the highest levels of government in Macquarie Street.
‘If the impact of thousands of extra cars on Ewingsdale Road is not addressed it cannot proceed.
‘If the impacts on our local schools, our local health services and on the support services available for the most vulnerable in our community are not properly considered and enhanced it should not proceed.
‘And if the serious environmental risks to our koalas and other fauna, to Belongil Creek and in a range of other sensitive areas are not addressed it must not proceed.
‘I have heard the community’s voice loud and clear on West Byron and I shall continue to advocate for you as strongly as I can.’