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Byron Shire
March 4, 2021

Brunswick caravan park contention

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And then there was silence. No one spoke against the motion led by councillors Sarah Nydiaye and Paul Spooner to exclude all activities from the area of the Coastal Cypress Pines in the southern area of the Terrace Reserve caravan park and to remove all existing infrastructure other than the existing amenities block. It was a unanimous decision!

It was a principled position and represented councillors using their legislative power under s68 of the Local Government Act.

So what is the sad history about the management of the southern area of the caravan park? Community members have been fighting for this area for 20+ years that, hopefully, has been brought to an end with this latest resolution.

In response to new legislation in 1986 to regulate caravan parks and camping grounds Council identified in June 1988 over 11,000sqm of illegally encroached land in the caravan park. The legislation also restricted unserviced sites to within 100m of an amenities block.

In the early 1990s Council constructed a new amenities block on the road reserve (!) and park management, without any POM (plan of management) or approval, used the land within 100m of the amentities block for unpowered camping sites at Christmas and again at Easter.

In the early 2000s, again without any POM or approval, park management put in power and water to some of the sites and operated them 24/7.

As the agent of the Crown Reserve, Council endeavoured to address all of the non-compliance and operational boundary problems with successive POMs in the early 2000s. These were not approved by the minister. Council was then dismissed by highly surreptitious means as the Reserve Trust manager in 2006 and management was taken over by the state’s newly created business entity called North Coast Accommodation Trust and managed locally by North Coast Holiday Parks (NCAT/NCHP).

In 2008 the Coastal Cypress Pines were listed under the Threatened and Endangered Species Act 1995 as a Coastal Pines Endangered Ecological Community (CP EEC). About this time, and in preparation for the high tourist season 2007/08, NCAT/NCHP put in a temporary amenities block, during the Clause 45 Sewerage Moratorium, in the southernmost section of the park and opened up the whole of the southern section of the park to 24/7 use.

NCAT/NCHP proceeded to savagely prune the lower limbs of the CPEEC to allow high-set caravans and mobile homes into the southern area. Council’s resolutions on the management of the caravan park reflected the community’s outrage, culminating in the 9 August 2012 resolution which set the boundaries and conditions of operation for the preparation of POM for the park.

Instead, the then NCHP manager ignored the resolution and prepared a POM on an interim licence, given in good faith by Council to argue to the Board of NCAT that he had agreed operational boundaries and conditions.

In spite of public outrage and submissions against the POM, Minister Humphries approved them in June 2014. Community outrage followed. This included a profound lack of trust between the community and NCAT/NCHP and in particular the manager who was responsibility for the preparation of those POM.

In June 2013 NCAT/NCPH was replaced by NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust. Restructuring of the Trust saw the now notorious manager’s contract paid out but his legacy of distrust and outrage at the approved POM continued. In response, the Trust has taken on a review of those POMs. Included in that process has been a determined effort to try to establish some trust with the community.

That trust will now be measured by how it’s CEO, Mr Steve Edmonds responds to Council’s resolution in his advice to the Board and minister Gabrielle Upton.

It would be opportune for Mr Edmonds to graciously explain to the minister that the opportunity costs are too high. The protection, rehabilitation and restoration of the CPEEC is incompatible with the use of the area for 30 sites, that the proposed vegetation management plans rely largely on ‘off-set banking’, and the proposed controversial load cells around the pines prohibit any regrowth.

The long-term demise of the CPEEC is at stake. Given that Minister Upton has just given $166K towards the protection of the EEC in the southern precinct I imagine this advice would be well received. In addition, their historic significance to the community cannot be overstated.

In giving his advice, Mr Edmonds is well aware of the need to establish trust with the community, a trust that has been destroyed by those responsible for the 2014 POM leaving a poisonous overburden he, to his credit, continues to work through.

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