Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) has called on the NSW government to buy the West Byron development site and make it part of the Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve in perpetuity.
The call comes at the eleventh hour as the proposal by R&D Pty Ltd is due to come before the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) for a decision on Monday February 4.
Ms Smith wants the government to acquire the part of the site currently owned by R&D – a collection of local land owners.
‘If the government can afford to spend $1 billion ripping up perfectly good sports stadiums in Sydney they can afford to buy this important site,’ said Ms Smith.
‘If this development goes ahead it will threaten coastal wetlands, core koala habitat and the Cape Byron Marine Park and Belongil Creek. Not to mention the millions of tonnes of land fill, thousands of extra car movements on Ewingsdale Road and the doubling of our residential population in Byron Bay.’
Ms Smith was joined by local Arakwal representative Delta Kay in her call, saying that the compulsory acquisition of the land merely requires the ‘stroke of the minister’s pen’.
‘This is definitely a money maker,’ said Delta.
‘This development has not included proper Aboriginal consultation. All Aboriginal stakeholders need to be included in the discussion on how this site is managed. I get quite emotional talking about it because this is where I grew up.’
As her first act in parliament four years ago, Ms Smith asked the then planning minister to visit the site.
The minister expressed concern about the West Byron development, but the NSW government has steadfastly refused to change its official position on the issue.
‘I am calling on the environment minister to take this bold move that will assure this area is available for future generations and visitors alike,’ said Ms Smith.
‘This is the gateway to Byron Bay, this is a once in a generation opportunity. This is an area that could be enjoyed with passive recreation for future generations.
‘The government has an opportunity right now to enter negotiations to acquire this land at a reasonable cost before the subdivision is approved and the opportunity is lost forever.’
‘I urge the government to listen to the more than 5,000 submissions submitted by our community against this greedy and destructive development.
‘The environmental, social, economic and health costs of pursuing the West Byron development far outweigh the cost of compulsorily acquiring this land.’
Ms Smith said that once the sub-division had been approved the government would receive hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue via land tax and stamp duties and this is why they have failed to take action.
‘The minister has significant power to compulsory acquire land as we’ve seen with West Connex and the Pacific Highway upgrade,’ she said.
‘Currently the site is only six lots and the government could acquire this at a significantly lower cost now than after the sub-division has been approved.
‘The list of problems from each of the consent authorities is insane, that’s before you factor in the objections from the community. The social and environmental costs of this development far outweigh the cost of compulsorily acquiring the land.’
The JRPP meeting to decide on the first of the two West Byron developments will be held This Monday at 4pm at the Byron Theatre, 69 Jonson St, Byron Bay.
‘This is our last chance to demonstrate our community opposition to this development,’ said local ecologist Dailian Pugh.
The developer has proposed converting six existing rural lots into 163 residential lots, 14 super lots, a business precinct and an industrial zone.
However, even if the JRPP refuse the application the R&D Group have the opportunity to take the case to the Land and Environment Court.
‘It is up to the landowners to pursue it in court,’ said Mr Pugh.
Second West Byron development
VillaWorld, a Gold Coast developer, are not expected to have their DA before the JRPP prior to the NSW state elections said Mr Pugh.
However, he said that VillaWorld had told him that if their application was refused by the JRPP they would be taking it to court.
‘I think that the developers factor in the cost of taking the development through the courts into the scheme of things so for them the cost is not exorbitant,’ he said.