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.
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.
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.