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Byron Shire
March 5, 2024

Bruns parks should be an election issue: Pugh

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Labor candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh (centre), wants voters to be given a say over the future of Brunswick Holiday Parks and southern Terrace Reserve. Photo supplied

Chris Dobney & Aslan Shand

Labor candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh, wants voters to be given a say over the future of Brunswick Holiday Parks and southern Terrace Reserve.

And he has called on Byron Shire Council to make ‘no long-term decisions… about southern Terrace Reserve that would stop it being handed back to the community after the state election due in March next year’.

Mr Pugh has been running a campaign and community petition to stop the privatisation of the Brunswick Holiday Parks and calling for southern Terrace Reserve to be handed back as community space.

This week’s Byron Shire council agenda includes a recommendation from council staff to approve a licence application from the state-owned holiday-park conglomerate Reflections, which would allow camping on southern Terrace Reserve and could potentially allow the destruction of an endangered ecological community of coastal cypress pines.

Mr Pugh is calling on councillors to reject the application.

‘If council approves this license at Thursday’s meeting it could make it harder for a new Labor government to open this space back up to the community. Council can still approve the camping license for the other parts of Terrace Reserve to operate and reject the application to operate in this sensitive area.’

‘We need to listen to the community and save our public green space in Brunswick Heads.

‘I am determined to make saving the precious public space in Brunswick Heads and stopping the privatisation of the parks an election issue,’ he said.

Heavy pruning of the historic cypress trees which drew the ire of locals as far back as 2014.

Campaigners supports action

A long-time campaigner against the progressive encroachment of the parks, Patricia Warren, told Echonetdaily she supports the call for it to become an election issue.

Patricia Warren said ‘the southern area of the Terrace Reserve is already listed as an Endangered Ecological Community, on the National Trust of Australia, as an Avenue of Honour on Treenet, a WW1 Memorial with the NSW State Library, to be on Council’s LEP’s Environmental Heritage list and Council is pursuing Heritage Listing on the State Register’.

‘The cost to the community of this foreshore parkland being given over to NSW Crown Holiday Park Trust’s agenda to turn it into 30 commercial sites and the lopping of nominated coastal cypress pines is not in the greater community good,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘The future of the southern area will be determined in Council on September 20, when councillors must make the decision to either support the community’s long-term campaign to protect this area or capitulate to the Trust’s agenda.

‘If Councillors refuse the Trust, then it and the other foreshore parklands already taken by the Trust, deserve to become an election issue,’ Ms Warren said.

Trust hits back

The Trust has hit back at the claims, saying that it is not about to be privatised, is contributing more than $1 million to the ‘enhancement of crown lands in Brunswick Heads’, and is implementing a ‘proprietary’ system to protect the root structure of the heritage-listed pines.

Reflections’ CEO Steve Edmonds said in a statement, ‘the care and protection of the tree community within the group’s Terrace Reserve park has always been a prime consideration with strong measures proposed to Byron Shire Council to ensure tree health in the southern precinct’.

He said proposed plans for the Terrace Reserve park included:

  • Reducing the number of camping sites from 54 to 30 ‘to further protect the trees’;
  • Preparing Vegetation Management Plans ‘to address improving the quality of the tree community within the group’s Terrace Reserve park’;
  • Protecting cypress pine root zones ‘with a proprietary root protection system (load cells) where camping activities encroach into root zone areas’;
  • Reducing maximum vehicle sizes the southern precinct;
  • Installing a Terrace buffer zone along the top of the estuary to increase the regeneration area, improve public access and amenity; and
  • Relocating permanent residents encroaching on the foreshore to create the community buffer zone.

But activist Sean O’Meara said, ‘Council has to decide whether or not it will support the expertise of a globally recognised ecologist, Dr Rob Kooyman or Reflections Level 8 Arbortist.

‘The difference between the two approaches is to either recognise and act to preserve, protect and rehabilitate the natural ecosystem (as is legally required for an EEC) or to continue to allow camping in this area which according to Dr Kooyman will ensure the long-term demise of the EEC.

‘If no regeneration of the trees can continue, which it can’t in a tourist park, then the community of trees simply has no future,’ Mr O’Meara said.


Mr Pugh said that so far over 700 people have signed his petition, including over 650 on paper at market stalls.

The community can support the campaign by signing the petition at www.nswlabor.org.au/save_brunswick_holiday_parks.


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  1. The Trust’s application for an Approval to Operate the Terrace Holiday Park is for the whole of the caravan park for a period of 3 years.

    Remnants of a Coastal Pine Ecologically Endangered Community (CP EEC) is throughout the whole of the park. The vegetation management plan (VMP) is strongly focused if not wholly focused on the southern precinct and identifies for that VMP 115 of the 149 Coastal Cypress Pines that are listed by the Trust’s Level 8 arborist.

    The arborist’s report omitted all other remnant species associated with the CP EEC and the proposed VMP I recall did similar.

    Consultants supporting the Trust and its arborist have since stated they are in agreement with ecologist, Dr Rob Kooyman’s listing of the species that make up a CP EEC.

    The proposed 30 sites in the southern precinct are divided into 18 short term sites and 12 camping sites. The LGA requires a minimum of 65sqm for the former and permits moveable dwellings. Camp sites require 50sqm with en site vehicle. Monies generated from the proposed all year round use of these sites are said to fund the restoration, rehabilitation and protect, principally a 3ha area within that stretch of land in the Terrace Reserve (not to be confused with the Terrace caravan park) south of the caravan park and extending between Tweed Street and Simpson’s Creek to the Bowling Club. In a nut shell, the southern precinct is to be milked for offset plantings of EEC species.

    The use of load cells are controversial, particularly around aged trees and are not compatible with the restoration of the species in a CP EEC. Instead, they are deliberately being used to continue using the southern precinct for the commercial operations of the caravan park.

    The environmental values of this community will be tested on 20.9.28 when Councillors have to decide whether or not they will support the globally recognised expertise of Dr Rob Kooyman or the Trust’s Level 8 arborist in deciding the fate of the EEC throughout the Terrace Holiday Park, inclusive of that in the southern area.

    The Terrace Holiday Park is 4.88ha in area of which the southern precinct is 0.75ha. We have already lost over 4ha of what is now recognised as an EEC. It is not in the greater community good to lose any more. Added to these environmental values, there is also the acknowledged historial and heritage significance of the southern precinct a fact recognised by Council in its resolution to amend the LEP and heritage list it. The Trust’s supporting consultants have endeavoured to downplay the site of the site by arguing that it is 0.75ha within the immediate vicinity of 7ha and a wider community of 40ha. They have also diminished its significance to the local community by stating the EEC stretches from Burleigh Heads to Red Rock.

    As for Mr Edmonds’ reference to limiting the size of vehicles venturing into the southern precinct, I can assure him that I have not read anything of that ilk in the application and would appreciate his direction to it.

  2. Hey Chris,
    it would be great to remind readers that there are many permanent residents in the Terrace park, and other Holiday parks. These are also local people, many old and all mostly low socio economic, who are living in the Holiday Parks in the only affordable housing in Brunswick Heads.

    Some of the people were born in Brunswick. most are very long term residents. They are forgotten or seem to be collatoral damage. Please report on the full story, including the residents, maybe ask them. As well as Aslen Pugh, Patricia Warren and the BHPA about the people living there.?

    These residents are very rarely mentioned or contacted, nor included in many media discussions.
    its always about the trees, and the people who own houses nearby whose river view may be affected.

    • Agree Zenith and both Michele Grant and myself were always mindful of the situation of the long term tenants. and worked extremely hard to protect them by arguing for and getting boundary changes in Massy Greene in particular to do so.

      However, the legislation changed from a requirement to have 30% of sites (excluding camp sites) given over to long term tenants. The current legislation you may find only requires UP TO 30% which has a whole different meaning.

      The latest legislation does protect resident’s rights.

  3. ‘ This foreshore parkland being given over… to turn it into 30 commercial sites’ Really? Parkland that has been used for commercial camping for at least the last 80 years, and for most of that time under Council management. Why make out that this is something new being proposed by the Park Trust? Dr Rob Kooyman is the very same Ecologist whose report refutted the story of the Pines being planted as a WW1 memorial, having established that they were aged between 200 and 400 years old and therefore obviously not planted post WW1..

  4. Hi?… at New Brighton markets this morning I stopped and chatted to the young man collecting signatures for ‘Saving Brunswick Parks’…. I was curious to know more.

    I then realized he was referring to the campground where I’ve lived for the past nine months. I felt his ‘facts’ were highly emotive and some untrue… for example ~ that the trees in the southern area of the Terrace campground were being cut down.

    What kind of information is given to passing people to have them sign this petition?

    He also mentioned not wanting these parks to become like the Gold Coast. Of course ~ a lot living in this beautiful atea have worked actively for this over many years.

    In some ways the horse has already bolted… house prices are beyond what most people can afford. I love that there’s still a blend of lower socio economic, the homeless and long time residents amongst all the wealth moving into he area.

    Would I prefer my own home in my own private space… of course. But facts are I don’t have enough cash. Health issues have brought me back to the coast from my retreat in the country (where prices are much lower). It costs a lot now even to live in the campground. I’m fortunate I have something… many don’t.

    Thanks for your time…. marilyn

    • Hi Marilyn,

      That was me you met earlier.today. I’m a volunteer helping with this petition. It is indeed an emotive issue for me but there may have been some miscommunication this morning. I didn’t mean to imply the trees of Terrace Reserve were actively being cut down, which would be silly to say given how easily disproven it is, but that we want to ensure that they aren’t in the future. Sorry if there was any confusion!

      The main goal of the petition, and what I often say to people, is that we simply want to rule out privatising our holiday parks. Sometimes I use examples of the stories I’ve heard from people up the coast where they have had similar experiences, or just chat about concerns for the general changes I see looming ahead of us, and the key role the nature of our Holiday Parks play in this.

  5. History of the southern area of the Terrace caravan park
    Until 1986 there wasn’t any legislation in relation to caravan parks or camping ground. This came in in 1986 and Byron Shire Council identified all the illegally encroached lands in each of its caravan park in Minutes 14 June 1988. Included in that was encroachment into the southern area of the caravan park. But that encroachment was largely made up of encroachment onto it own road reserve known as Brunswick Terrace. There was a sliver of land adjoining Simpson’s Creek that was Crown Land.

    Indeed primitive camp sites did take up the southern area at Christmas and again at Easter only. i.e. it was seasonal.

    Fast forward to the consequences of the new legislation. In the early 1990s, Council built the amenities block at Nana Street. It was and is non-compliant because Council built it on its own road reserve. It is still none compliant because it is within 10m of the current road reserve. However, it allowed the southern area to be used for primitive camping to within 100m of the amenities block.

    In the early 2000s, without any Plan of Management or approval to do so, a consultant to Council put in power heads and water and turned primitive tent sites into powered sites.

    By 2006 there had been unsuccessful Plans of Management to address all of the non compliant issues in the caravan parks. Council was dismissed by surreptitious means as the Reserve Trust Manager and the caravan parks came under the management of then North Coast Accommodation Trust/North Coast Holiday Parks.

    In preparation for the high season 2007/08 NCHP installed what was stated as a temporary toilet block in the southern most end of the caravan park. This occurred during a Clause 45 Sewerage Moratorium and the amenities block wasn’t connected until 2011. Prior to that it was supposed to be pumped out. But it mean that NCHP now operated more sites, albeit without any approval to do so.

    It was about this time that the Coastal Cypress Pines were savagely pruned to allow high set caravans and mobile homes into the southern area. Note, that this pruning was about the time the Coastal Cypress Pines were listed as an Endangered Ecological Community.

    So, for the Trust to ‘sell’ its position that it is reducing the 54 sites to 30 is mischievous as it presents as rewriting history to satisfy its own agenda.

    The Trust’s arborist has identified 7 to 8 trees that warrant removal with many others that are ‘on notice’. This is certainly not made clear in the latest of consultants reports supported by the Trust. However, the evidence is in Appendix F of the arborist’s original report. That is available on the website. (And if you really want to get annoyed/confused consider these numbers…..Arborsite Assessment Report on the Terrace Caravan park identified 280 coastal cypress pines. These are located in the report by a GPS reading. Arborsafe’s Level 8 Arborist identified 149 coastal cypress pines in the southern area of the Terrace…and along comes the latest consultants report that identified only 115.)

    As for the current vegetation management to protect, restore and rehabilitate the EEC……to my mind there is a profound lack of credibility in it that can be readily substantiated.

    The Trust’s agenda is to take the southern area for a combination of 18 short term sites (that alone permits all sorts of occupancy), and 12 camp sites, use the funds so generated to do what is called in large part ‘bio-banking’ on off-site land.


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