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Byron Shire
May 16, 2022

Byron turns out in force to oppose mega suburb

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The crowd at Saturday’s (June 16) rally against development at West Byron. Photo Jeff Dawson

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!’

Done deal

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.’

Nationals reply

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.’

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  1. 40k of people who live in Byron shire and 800-1000 sooks turn up. I bet those sooks are people who had moved from places like Melbourne to become a hippis. I’d say that’s a very small number of people who object everything and anything anyway. I’m glad it’s going to happen. Great for the local economy. Now let’s see how many of these dole bludges get a job and do some work for once.

    • 50,000 truck loads of soil needed to fill this wetland area BEFORE it can be built on. Elimination of corridor for endangered koalas. A massive wall that has to be built because of the excessive land fill required that will result in flooding and acid sulphate leeching into the Belongil creek killing all life. An endangered frog species that will be eradicated. No sewerage or road infrastructure planning to cope with the extra population. Who in their right mind could think this mega development is ok??

    • John, clearly you don’t live in Byron or travel on Ewingsdale Rd. Even if you don’t care about the environmental impact – which will be immense, the thought of having 1000s of more vehicles travelling on Ewingsdale Rd should concern every one in Byron Shire.

      BTW: Byron Shire has 31,000 people, Byron Bay has 8,000 and there were 2500 people at the protest, of which I was one. I run a local business, I am not a dole bludger, but am happy to be called a hippy, if that means that means protecting the environment and standing up for what is right.

    • John, I think you are a little out with your shire figures. Take into account that by some sources the population of Byron Bay is around 5,000 and you have a pretty impressive turnout. For every person who attended what figure sympathised but couldn’t be there (Sunday work is quite common in the shire despite your theory that no-one wants a job) or don’t express themselves that way or who agree but couldn’t be bothered – until our poor little town is delivered its final death blow.

      I wouldn’t mind a bigger population either, for the economy, to help pay the rates, to bring a greater range of facilities and diversity of culture to the area. That said though, that size suburb in that area just isn’t a sane proposal. Have you actually looked at the detailed and well researched objections that have been raised? I hope for example, that neither of us, John is ever in need of the services of an ambulance attempting to move along that road.

      Always better to attempt to answer the opposing view with counter reasoning rather than hurl terms like ‘sooks’ and ‘dole bludgers’!

  2. You are fighting a losing battle boys. Libs are now so confident they disclose their party vote on the future of the ABC.

    The economics of greed prevail unless we find some way of wresting control of moron media from their control,

  3. Byron is a commodity now anyways
    Council let Byron be wrecked years ago,
    Bring on a super suburb and let all the blow ins keep getting richer. It will bring more jobs, or is it the few who turned up to protest want, the monopoly on housing for their own profit in Byron??? Byron will be like the Gold coast in a few years, spreading out and 3/4 full of yuppies who want the Beach Lifestyle. Byrons stuffed now anyways theres no coming back

  4. John’s voice of ignorance speaks in favour of environmental despoliation and threat to native fauna and then claims that those of us, yes at least 2,000, are sooks which means persons lacking self confidence. What utter bullshit. He should have been there and witnessed our energy and resolve. He is the sook lacking principle and backbone to get off his bum for once and stand up against greedy developers and their paid off pollies.

  5. John, we live in a community, not an economy. If you want to live in an economy, you’ve picked the wrong place.
    By the way, 800 to 1000 is a large number in a community of five or six thousand. How many will turn up to your rally? When is it?

  6. We know that when people write or turn out for a protest there are another five or ten behind them who couldn’t turn up. I saw the photos and footage, mostly conservative looking families and middle aged people. I looked for ‘hippies’ and anyone who might fit the stereotype of serial protestors and rent-a-crowd. they were not there. The voice of the community has been ignored over and over in this process, thank you to all the people who were able to take time out of their Sunday and show how much the community supports the NO WEST BYRON campaign. My greatest concern are the environmental impacts of the development and of the increased population – it is simply not possible to protect against adverse impacts with this proposal. The argument for the economic prosperity such a development might bring is short sighted and ill informed. There will be no affordable housing and no positive effect on the outrageous residential housing shortage. There is no good reason to build West Byron, only the ignorant or the greedy and self serving would say there is.

  7. Really do you want to stop our children from having a chance to own a piece of land in Byron, The same issues came up when Sunrise estate was launched. Sure bring down the size but you cannot Land lock this beautiful place with Green rhetoric and expect working people to ignore the chance to have a chance to own their own home after growing up here and being priced out by greedy real estate agents that spruke investors into our town for their percentage of maintenance costs on the investment properties when normal purchases have only a one up commission. How many protestors live in Byron?? Another rent a crowd of tourists, students and ill informed.

  8. Sooks? hippis? 1000 citizens gathered together to voice their concerns in protecting koala habitat, Belongil Creek/wetlands and irresponsible over-development of sensitive land.

  9. I feel sorry for young people who take out loans for mortgages for this swampland. When the seas rise, there is nothing to stop the water coming up Belongil Creek, and their homes will be endangered.
    Although there will be thousands of truckloads for soil placed on this swampland nothing will ever stop this land from being washed away. Do we need another Gold Coast style development with a canal dug, and houses placed around it ???

  10. Rose Wanchap is hugely responsible for West Byron making it this far.

    Jon writes comments like this every article. He added an ‘h’ to his name this time.
    Just ignore him, everyone.
    Both of them hate Byron Shire and everything it represents
    Both will suffer the consequences of their attitudes and actions

    I wish them well. They will need a lot more than well wishes

  11. It is interesting that labor and greens mps turn up ti object to this but say nothing of their support for Australia’s population growth policy which is driving this. When will the greens come back to the table on population and when will Labor remember Whitlam who sought to end this crazy big Australia ponzi scheme?

    In addition, we already know that it is not lack of supply that’s behind housing unaffordability, it is the hyper fueling of property speculation via tax concessions and rapid population growth that is driving this.

    In terms of economics this is only going to fuel the same economic problems seen everywhere where development gets out of hand an destroys economic diversity and resilience. We need far better debates than the ad-infinitum but unsupported “this will create jobs” rhetoric.

    And all this before we start factoring in loss of amenity and biodiversity that accompanies large-scale, high density development.

    There is a better, more holistic approach as outlined by the Sustainable Australia party.


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