The report of the public hearing on the draft Plan of Management (POM) for Railway Park and its categorisation for general community use rather than park is now finalised. Surprise, surprise it recommends that Council should proceed with its wish to change from ‘park’. Sounds innocuous? Have a look at the range of activities that can be authorised under ‘general community use’. Have a look also at planning guidelines for the two categories:
Land should be categorised as a park under section 36 (4) of the Act if the land is, or is proposed to be, improved by landscaping, gardens or the provision of non-sporting equipment and facilities, for use mainly for passive or active recreational, social, educational and cultural pursuits that do not unduly intrude on the peaceful enjoyment of the land by others.
Sound ideal for Byron Bay’s one and only peaceful green public area?
Conversely: Land should be categorised as general community use … (If it) (a) may be made available for use for any purpose for which community land may be used, whether by the public at large or by specific sections of the public, and
(b) is not required to be categorised as a natural area and does not satisfy the guidelines… for categorisation as a natural area, a sportsground, a park or an area of cultural significance.
As the land quite clearly satisfies the guidelines for categorisation as park and, arguably, an area of cultural significance, the wider categorisation is not appropriate.
To get an idea of the uses available under this wider category it is interesting to read the consultant’s comments: ‘In the context of the central location of the park and existing uses undertaken including New Years Eve activities, markets and the like, it follows that there will be a potential desire for other community and commercial activity to be undertaken in the future.’
This despite speakers for the change offering reassurance that it’s not about commercialisation of the park.
One source of reassurance though is contained in the consultant’s response to fears of the door opening to three-storey buildings across the park: ‘The statutory obligations of Council remain in terms of notifying the community of proposals, considering any applications in accordance with the legislative requirements and ensuring a transparent and open decision-making process.’ Feel much better now?
If the open categorisation is adopted (as is almost certain) the legislative requirements won’t offer much of a filter. Why can’t we have a categorisation as park, a follow-up consultative POM that allows for the licences and uses the public sees fit with the greater safeguards this would place on consultation before changes for future needs? Too much of a safeguard against the destruction of one last community asset.