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Byron Shire
December 4, 2023

Funding secured for Bruns pines as Council staff ‘acquiesce’

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Some of the historic coastal cypress pines surviving in the Terrace reserve.

Hans Lovejoy and Chris Dobney

Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) has welcomed $166,000 in funding to be used to save an endangered ecological community of coastal cypress pines at Brunswick Heads and three species of large forest owls that live in the area.

But she has accused Byron Council staff of being ‘strong-armed into agreeing with developers’ demands over an approval to operate (ATO) request from the managers of the three holiday parks in the town and called on them to delay its approval of Terrace Reserve.

Ms Smith yesterday asked environment minister Gabrielle Upton at Question Time to preserve the coastal cypress pines in the southern end of the reserve and prevent damage to them from large vehicles and intensive year-round camping.

‘In response to the concerns I raised today and in May this year, funding has now been awarded under the state-wide Save Our Species program to secure threatened plants and animals in the wild in NSW,’ Ms Smith said in a statement yesterday.

‘The minister gave me her assurances in May that the coastal cypress pines EEC are protected under the requirements of the Biodiversity Conservation Act, but it is my fear that the current application for camping within the EEC by Reflections Holiday Park avoids these requirements,’ she added.

The coastal cypress pines in the Terrace Reserve, pictured, as well as much larger ones there have been heavily pruned, residents say, to make way for larger vehicles in the camping area. Photo supplied

Staff ‘acquiesced’

In this week’s Byron Shire Council agenda, senior staffer Shannon Burt and building certifier Stephen McCarthy made the remarkable claim that they have ‘acquiesced’ to Reflections Holiday Parks over the ongoing issues at the Terrace Reserve holiday park.

And while staff recommend ATO approval for The Terrace Reserve Holiday Park, subject to conditions, they also offer two other options for councillors. One is restricting camping in the southern end of the park and the other is only allowing ‘new works or activities’ in the area once appropriate planning consent/approvals are in place.

Within the agenda, staff table independent advice suggesting more information is needed before approval is given by Council.

The ATO approval for Reflections Holiday Parks – or not – will be voted upon at this Thursday’s Council meeting (September 20).

Formerly known as North Coast Holiday Parks Trust, Reflections has for many years been locked in battles with Council and locals over park boundary encroachments, restrictions of public access to the parks as well as other issues.

The latest attempt by the government-run corporation is to maximise its profit with camping activities at the Terrace Reserve.

Yet concern over poor management of the vulnerable and protected coastal cypress pine community in the southern end of the park has angered residents, as has the suggestion by Reflections to manage the issue with ‘loading cells’ around the trees so it can accommodate camping activities. Reflections have rejected Council’s request for no use or activity in the southern end of the park.

Yesterday Echonetdaily reported that the Labor candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh, had launched a petition to save the trees and make the park an election issue.

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

Further report called for

Ms Smith said, ‘The latest ecological report on the area says that any development or camping within the EEC is a threat to this precious community of trees’.

‘We now know that the stand of cypress pine trees in the southern Terrace Reserve is up to 300 years old and is part of a larger endangered ecological community of trees. It is absolutely vital that we protect these trees and the Biodiversity Conservation Act demands their protection.

‘It’s very disturbing that Byron Shire Council staff feel that they have been strong-armed into agreeing with developers’ demands to allow camping in the EEC.

‘I think Council is well within its rights to delay making a decision on camping pending further ecological reports, meanwhile I am calling on the environment minister to tap her colleagues, the ministers local government crown lands on the shoulders and remind them that corporate interests should not trump the protection of a significant EEC, part of which is on crown land.’

‘Any proposed development within the Brunswick Heads coastal cypress pines EEC should be held to the strictest requirements of the Biodiversity Conservation Act with the preservation of the coastal cypress pines taking priority over potential profits,’ Ms Smith said.

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  1. In fairness to ALL, the Coastal Cypress Pines, were listed as an Endangered Ecological Community (CP EEC) in 2008. We have ALL learned more about the meaning of their listed status since then and their environmental value.

    Having said that, it is also important to look to the history of what has happened SINCE Byron Shire Council was dismissed as Reserve Trust Manager of the caravan park sin 2006. The then North Coast Accommodation Trust/North Coast Holiday Parks, at about the time of the EEC listing were savagely pruning the lower branches of the pines to accommodate caravans and mobile homes.

    In preparation for the high tourist season 2007/2008 NCAT/NCHP installed a ‘temporary amenities’ block in the most southern area of the caravan park, and without any license to do so, opened it up for camping. The whole of the southern precinct was operated 24/7 without approval as required under s68 of the Local Government Act.

    It is within the aforementioned context that Mr Steve Edmonds, CEO of the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust, is arguing they are ‘protecting’ the EEC by reducing the number of sites from 54 to 30. But they didn’t have them in the first instance, so it is somewhat mischievous to argue they are ‘giving up’ sites?

    In the early 2000s, a consultant/manager of the caravan parks, without any Plan of Management or approval to do so, installed power heads and water to some sites.in the southern area. By this action he changed the nature of the use of part of the southern area to a different type of site i.e. powered.

    The Trust is now seeking a license to operate to allow 18 short term sites (this are NOT camp sites because they are 65sqm in area and allow moveable dwellings) and 12 camp sites to be operated 24/7. The Trust is arguing that they can both protect, through their Vegetation Management Plan, the CP EEC and operate the 30 commercial sites by installing load cells around what is called the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ). Chris Pratt, former Byron Shire Council’s strategic planner thinks not. His report to Council is a gem. In his opinion, load cells are for the purpose of continuing operations in the southern section and not for the restoration of the EEC. Other arborist’s have also warned of the failure of load cells because of compaction of the soil over the TPZ.

    Rob Kooyman, globally recognised ecologist’s report is damning of any interference with the EEC.

    Council will have to decide who to support – the ecologist or the Trust’s arbortist .

    Fortunately, as advised by Tamara Smith, the $166K will go to the NSW Nature Conservation Council for, in part, the protection of the EEC


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