Pip Carter, president, Preserving Lake Ainsworth Inc, Lennox Head.
The community has every right to be angry after Ballina Council at its September 1 Special Meeting voted 6 to 4 to close the Lake Ainsworth Eastern Road, effectively reducing the access for disabled, aged and families to enjoy the eastern side of beautiful Lake Ainsworth.
Along with a handful of community members, Council has ignored the broader community’s request, the Police, the RFS and the Ambulance to maintain the Eastern Road and improve the whole lake area. To these people, we tried to put all your points across, especially about easier access, but it would seem the new route will favour those who are more abled to walk freely to the eastern side.
The embankments of the lake and the surrounding areas decayed state today did not just happen overnight and the past 20 +years of Council’s neglect of the lake precinct have been slack to say the least.
Led by the mayor and his 5 cohorts, they ignored 4369 individual letters, plus a further 80 sent by mail, from locals, surrounding districts and beyond, all supporting to keep the Eastern Lake Road open.
At this meeting from the Councillors in favour of the road closure comments, out of the approximately 150 supporters asking to keep the road open (probably over 90 per cent of the public majority attending) many could be forgiven for feeling there was a predisposition of bias against their request, and some left in disgust.
Yes, there were people making comments during the council meeting when they should not have, however many comments coming from these Councilors seemed to beggared belief. I do not condone the hecklers behavior, but I can understand their utter frustrations boiling over from having to experience a majority of community being spoken at, and dictated, rather than listened too.
The Coastal Reserve Plan of Management (2003/2011), which has been formally gazetted by the minister, directs,‘Implement Lake Ainsworth Management Plan (2002)’. The proposed removal of the Eastern Road is inconsistent with the adopted Plan of Management by the Mminister.
The mayor has openly said to me that he did not want the Byron Bay Buses with their surfers coming here. Who is next? Some have asked me if Council’s decision is a smokescreen to discourage, if not stop people from the lake altogether by making it harder to find a park and walking further to the eastern side?
What’s next, eventually putting in limited timed parking?
Anyway, enough questions, more to the point. The result of closing the eastern road will be more traffic and parking spilling back into the nearby residential areas and more people moving further around to the southern and western sides of the lake. All encouraged in this direction by new (and reduced) parking along a soon to be sealed road. This will open up a new can of worms, where currently there is relatively little human interaction on this more passive side of the lake.
A big thank you to those courageous councillors, Ben Smith, Keith Williams, Stephen McCarthy and Eoin Johnston who have supported the broader community throughout to keep the eastern road open.
To the other 6 councillors, the community majority has noted your lip service and deaf ears. Ballina Council has already ruined our markets now you’re going to kill the ambience of the beautiful lake area.
It makes you wonder, what happened to democracy in this country?