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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Byron Council reaches half-way point

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Council’s four-year term (or sentence?) has passed the halfway point!

As a refresher, local government is the third, and constitutionally unrecognised, limb of Australian government. They exist purely at the pleasure of the state governments, and while Byron Shire Council staff are paid reasonably, councillors are not.

It’s a tough job where everyone expects you to do their bidding. Councillors are often abused by the unwashed masses and are expected to be across complex issues.

Fun fact: other bigger councils pay their councillors much better. Anyhoo, what happened at last Thursday’s Council meeting? Glad you asked.

Greens finally protect some trees

Precious land in Brunswick Heads that was earmarked for camping activities by a large government-run holiday park corporation may be preserved, after councillors voted unanimously not to allow ‘use or activity’ within the southern precinct of the Terrace Reserve Holiday Park.

A protected and languishing Coastal Cypress Pines community has been the subject of much tussling over the years between Council and the North Coast Holiday Parks Trust – that has been changing names and CEOs over its short existence. Now known as Reflections, they appear to only exist to make money for the state government via increasing visitor numbers.

An approval to operate for the other section of Terrace Reserve Holiday Park has been granted. Wahoo!

Additionally, ‘All existing infrastructure (except the existing amenities facility) is to be removed [in the southern precinct] where it is deemed to be a safe option.’

Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye’s motion allows Reflections Holiday Parks an approval to operate (ATO) for the rest of the Terrace Reserve Holiday Park. Well done, councillors!

Anti-vax v anti-speech

An effort by Cr Paul Spooner (Labor) to refuse hall bookings from anti-vaccination groups or individuals was knocked back by the Greens/left majority at the meeting, which inevitably opened the floor to debate the merits of free speech. Or not.

Crs Cameron, Richardson, Ndiaye, Lyon, and Martin voted against the motion while Crs Spooner, Hackett and Hunter voted in favour.

It’s well known that Byron Shire has some of the highest rates of non-immunisation in the nation. Heidi Robertson on behalf of the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters told the gallery in public access, ‘We are known for diversity and inclusion, but we shouldn’t compromise ourselves.’

Later, when it came to the vote, Greens Cr Jeanette Martin told the chamber that her own experience led her to question the effectiveness of vaccination. She said she lost her baby to whooping cough, which was passed on by a sibling who was immunised.

OS subdivision

A DA to subdivide and create four residential lots at Coomburra Cres in Ocean Shores has been granted, after all councillors supported Greens Cr Michael Lyon’s motion. But the approval comes with conditions that may give pause to would-be developers keen to maximise floor-space ratio while trashing the ecological credentials of Ocean Shores.

A Vegetation Management Plan must be must be prepared, including compensatory plantings plans.

A geotechnical report is also required, which will certify there will be an ‘unlikely risk category from slip or subsidence.’

During public access, an affected resident said in addition to geotech issues: ‘The number of bins proposed along the street is unacceptable,’ adding that the site is too steep and soggy.

Planning controls

Tinkering with Byron Bay’s height limits has sparked yabber yabber and humbug for many years.

It was even an election issue two years ago, where promises were made to retain the two-storey height limit to avoid Gold Coastification.

Fast forward two years, and councillors have now voted (Cr Cameron against) to standardise the height of buildings within the Byron Bay Town Centre.

It will now be ‘subject to a maximum height of 11.5m, to include: a) the area bounded by Bay Lane to the north, Lawson Street to the south, Jonson Street to the west and Middleton Street to the east; and, b) the area bounded by Kingsley Street to the north and Browning Street to the south, Jonson Street to the west and Middleton Lane and an unnamed lane to the east.’

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  1. You forgot to mention that Council also voted to spend an extra $50K on top of the already allocated $200K for more consultants’ report on the Byron Line

  2. Speaking of free speech and vaccinations. I previously submitted both a letter and a comment about the dangers of vaccination to the Echo. Both were factual. Neither were published. I wonder if the Echo is indulging in its own ideological censorship?

    • The Australian Immunisation Handbook developed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and approved by the National Health and and Medical Research Council includes contraindications, precautions and adverse events, to enable medical professionals to properly inform patients about vaccinations. Providing a platform for unqualified people to give contradictory advice on the risks of vaccines creates confusion, undermines the principle that we should follow the advice of our GPs, leads people to the absurd notion that they are better qualified than ATAGI to do the research and assess the risks. We would not condone anyone allowing unqualified people to promote drink driving or tobacco smoking. Similarity no journal or shire council should be providing a platform for people to disseminate material which undermines other public health messages that, like anti-smoking and anti-drink driving, are backed by well qualified advice.

  3. Paul Spooner disappoints me! Killing free speech is unbelievable in this time and community.

    As we ‘anti-vaxxers’ ask, give us the right to choose. There is a lot of science supporting doubts of the benefits and dangers of compulsory vaccination.

  4. I am a frequent visitor to Byron Bay and the one most important thing that was not included in the “half way point” was roads. I pick yp my grandchildren at the back of the Byron Bay State School and its a wonder i dont lose them in the holes in the roads. Something needs to be done to all the roads urgently.

  5. It was extremely disappointing that the vote went to the anti-vaccination group that has a current HCCC public Health waring against it for ‘false and misleading information’. It is hardly a matter of suppressing free speech. They have all their online platforms. The 2 documentaries they screened at the Civic hall were both free to view online- they just charged people to go in and see them. They are free to hire any venue they please=- we just don’t want them in Council run venues. Every other council that has been approached about this agrees that to let them hire Council facilities is a bad idea. Byron council assured us they would post the public health warning up at the venue but reneged, placing a disclaimer on the door instead. Meanwhile, babies are dying, we have Diphtheria back in the region, chicken pox and whooping cough are everywhere, the shire has 9 x the rate of whooping cough as the neighbouring health district, and our Mayor refuses to even acknowledge publicly the importance and benefit of vaccination.

  6. Cr Jeanette Martin has demonstrated perfectly the propensity of some Green politicians to ignore qualified opinion. Of what possible relevance is her own unqualified views on vaccination to decision making on an important public health issues for the community in the Byron Shire and the many people who visit it? The sixteen members of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization include a range of relevant medical, epidemiological, pharmacological and public health academics and working professionals. ATAGI’s expertise is unmatched by any individual or group in the Byron Shire, and its work is governed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, an Australian Government body of high standards of governance and probity. It is the only body that any public official should pay heed to on this matter.

    Ms Martin’s willingness to to question ATAGI’s advice on vaccination reflects poorly on her own capacity to participate in government, but her public expression of her views and the Green left’s tolerance of the undermining of clear and unequivocal public health messages show the NSW Greens are not able to make well informed public decisions.


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