Shadow lands minister Mick Veitch yesterday visited the Terrace Holiday Park in Brunswick Heads to pledge that, if elected, a Labor state government would ban camping on the Southern Terrace Reserve and return it for use as a community space.
The ancient and endangered coastal cypress pines on the site comprise a rare a significant ecosystem and the community has been fighting for years against the encroachment on them by the state-owned Reflections Holiday Park group.
Mr Veitch promised the future of the Terrace Reserve would be a key election issue in the upcoming March state poll, saying a Foley Labor Government would save the public space and the endangered pines, while a Liberal National Coalition Government would ‘continue to favour development over the environment’.
He added that lands minister Paul Toole ‘only had to pick up the phone to the trust responsible for managing the parks to give this land back to the public and ensure the protection of its endangered ecosystem’.
‘Labor has listened to the concerns of the community,’ Mr Veitch said.
‘If elected in March, one of my first decisions will be to ensure camping can no longer occur in this sensitive part of the park and return it to open community space.’
Labor’s candidate for the state seat of Balliina, Asren Pugh, has backed Byron Shire Council in firming up its opposition to any plans to use the southern part of the park for commercial purposes.
Over the last three months, more than 1,000 locals have signed onto his petition to return the Terrace Reserve to public space and save the pines.
‘The community’s position on this is clear, with over 1,000 people signing the petition to save our public space and the endangered pines,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘But it’s more than that – I am seriously concerned that having already flogged off billions in public assets, the Coalition government will turn to our priceless coastal caravan parks as a way of propping up the budget bottom line,’ he added.
Mr Pugh accused the trust managing the park of having a pro-development agenda, raising concern that the privatisation of a number of coastal caravan parks would be on the cards if the Government was returned next March.
‘Labor would dedicate parks like the Brunswick Heads caravan park and Southern Terrace reserve to ensure it was protected with ‘parliamentary oversight,’ Mr Pugh said.
National Party Ballina candidate Ben Franklin has responded that park management ‘is committed to ensuring environmental protections are at the forefront of its operations.’
‘Reflections has committed to significantly reduce the number of camping sites from 54 down to 30 and will introduce revegetation and replanting along with protecting cypress pine root zones.’
Yet despite the claims, Council’s own independent arborist report says the only way to improve the trees’ health is by not camping around the root system. A proposal to place load cells around the roots to allow cars and caravans has also been met with ridicule by residents.
Regrettably, Mr Ben Franklin’s comments do not withstand scrutiny and reflect badly on the Member’s understanding of what is going on in the area of the southern precinct of the Terrace caravan park.
The area was never part of any licensing agreement under Byron Shire Council’s Resolution 12-627 of 9 August 2012. That resolution was intended to set the operational boundaries for the Terrace Caravan Park and the development of the Plans of Management for it. The then North Coast Accommodation Trust didn’t like it and complained to the then Minister for Local Government, Mr Don Page. He instructed NCAT to go back and negotiated with Byron Shire Council. Nothing was forthcoming from that in terms of changing the operational boundary.
In fact, 6 years later, in Resolution 18-610 of 20 September 2018, Council,firmed up its position to exclude, as a condition of operation in the 3 year Approval to Operate given under that Resolution, the whole of the southern precinct from any activity. By this time, Councillors were well and truly across the Threatened and Endangered Species listing of the Coastal Cypress Pines, their historical significance to the local community and the smoke and mirrors management proposals used by the Trust’s consultants to ‘protect’ the pines. The Trust’s transparent intend was and continues to be, milking the southern precinct and using part of the monies generated elsewhere to restore and rehabilitate the wider Threatened and Endangered Bioregion of Coastal Cypress Pines.
Claiming to reduce the number of sites from 54 to 30 is thwart with mischievousness. The area was never part of the operational area for anyone to claim 54 sites were in existence. In fact Council, in 1988 acknowledged the seasonal encroachment (Xmas and again at Easter) as illegal. In 2006 when Council was dismissed as manager of the Reserve Trust, the then NCAT moved in, brought in a temporary amenities block during the Clause 45 Sewerage Moratorium, and extended camping to the southern extremity. Now Ben Franklin and the Trust want to argue ‘existing use’ not only since 2006 but prior to that during which time licenses had been granted in good faith pending resolution of all the illegal activity and non-compliant matters in the caravan park Good faith by Council was spat at.
It gets worse. A short term site is 65sqm. It allows for a caravan or a movable dwelling to use the site. A camp site is either 50sqm with a car parking space, or 40sqm without a car but a parking space must be provided within 30m of the site. The Trust and Ben Franklin may try to argue that the area is to be given to ‘soft camping. There is no such type of camping in the legislation to define this term. The Trust, in its application for an Approval to Operate made it quite clear that it wanted 18 short term sites and 12 camp sites in the southern area. If Council had not restricted the current license with a condition to exclude the southern area then there would be absolutely nothing to stop its use, under the legislation for these uses. And given the Trust’s current ‘accommodation offerings’ the term ‘camping’ has taken on a totally different meaning in terms of what people can expect to see set up or bring to a caravan park!
I suggest that Labour commit to returning all NSW caravan parks back to the management of the Councils, that the state govt ripped off by confiscating the parks and their revenue. The Bruns caravan park was profitable to Council, which provided Council funds for some of the off site infrastructure demands of the parks visitors. Now the State gets the revenue and the Council gets the off site infrastructure bills.
Nationals MLC Ben Franklin claims Reflections Holiday Park should continue to operate in the contentious Southern area because the Manager is “committed to ensuring environmental protections are at the forefront of its operations”. (Echo 31/10)
Is Mr. Franklin suggesting Reflections can operate outside their licensed boundaries – in defiance of Byron Council’s legislative powers?
The Echo states Ben Franklin “has backed his government’s controversial stance to allow commercial activity and current management to continue”. Who has “backed” what? When was BSC’s license agreement overturned and by whom?
Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton is responsible for endorsing Council’s new AtO with Reflections Holiday Parks – a new State Government Corporation that replaces our Crown Trustees. How long must we wait for Minister Upton’s endorsement?
As NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton provided $160,000 for the rehabilitation of the EEC area in Terrace Park, following a request from Tamara Smith, MLA for Ballina, just weeks prior to Council adopting the new license conditions. (Echo 12/9)
It would be quite a contradiction for Minister Upton to allow camping to continue on encroached land designated SEPP 14 Coastal Wetland with an Endangered Ecological community (EEC) of protected Coastal Cypress pine trees. Many pines were planted in Terrace Reserve as a WW1 memorial, old and new trees were incorporated into the ‘Lone Pine’ layout in subsequent years.
While Federal LNP has spent millions refurbishing WW1 memorials around the world, our Crown Reserve Managers have wilfully killed off 100 year old Memorial trees in Terrace Park over the past decade.
Despite Mr. Franklins assurances, the evidence indicates no one in Crown Lands management team is “committed to ensuring environmental protections” when there are profits to be made through the commercialisation of our public lands. Campers and tree preservation are simply not compatible.
Minister for Lands, Paul Toole represents the license applicant, he may not be happy with Councils decision but he is not the Minister who determines BSC’s license conditions.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Crown Lands just graciously accepted the umpire’s decision this time, instead of launching another campaign to white-ant and undermine Council and the community’s preferred outcome, or burying documents in the bottom drawer leaving everyone in limbo until the next election.
It’s time for Minister Upton to step up and end two decades of Crown Lands pigheaded thuggery, and endorse BSC’s Approval to Operate for Terrace Park. Let’s rehabilitate and regenerate our WW1 memorial park and retain our public land for community use. We can also swap the Land Minister to the more sympathetic Mick Veitch, with State elections on 23 March, now is a good time to pester our pollies to do endorse BSC’s new license conditions