The development and ‘beautification’ of Railway Park in Byron Bay is once again under the microscope as Byron Council, the Masterplan Team and the Byron Environment Centre (BEC) try to negotiate an outcome that is acceptable to the community.
Tension was originally sparked following a notice of eviction sent to the BEC management team in October 2017 and the removal of several mature trees from the park. These events occurred without the knowledge of councillors under the alleged auspices of the Byron Masterplan team. The Masterplan Team then ‘categorically denied’ that they had any knowledge of the plan and the then-general manager Ken Gainger issued a public apology over the handling of the situation.
Currently Council are looking at moving the BEC rotunda either out of the park or re-locating it within the park. However, this has been coupled with the resolution to seek expressions of interest from other community groups to manage the rotunda.
Council: BEC has no licence
Byron Shire Council told The Echo that the BEC ‘was not approved by Council and there is no record of any licence, lease or other documented authorisation for occupation of the structure.’
This is disputed by BEC president John Lazarus, who says that after BEC saved the structure from demolition ‘for a community asset’ in 2002 the council subsequently offered BEC ‘a licence or lease’. However, the decision was to continue with the current informal arrangement.
‘The BEC paid for all costs in repairing the original structure, and for the fit-out, and for the mural panels construction and artist fees, and has paid all costs of maintenance and mural refurbishment for the last 16 years. The BEC doesn’t pay for the electricity, but the biggest electricity user is the weekly markets,’ said Mr Lazarus.
Lack of transparency
While the Byron Masterplan Team have said they have now had input into the redesign of Railway Park, Mr Lazarus has questioned the way in which the masterplan meetings are run and their lack of transparency.
Mr Lazarus was invited to address the masterplan meeting but was required to supply any questions in advance and was told that after his address he ‘would be required to leave’ – so he declined the offer.
‘The BEC did send a request to the meeting, “that the rotunda stay in place and the proposed path go around it”. The meeting notes only recorded that the request was put, with the only response “they have no right to be there”,’ said Mr Lazarus.