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Byron Shire
March 23, 2023

‘Locals’ West Byron DA refused

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The packed house at Byron Theatre to hear the JRPP’s pronouncement on February 4. Photo Jeff Dawson

Few shows at the Byron Theatre receive such a resounding standing ovation as the Joint Regional Planning Panel on Monday (February 4) after it voted to refuse a development application (DA) that would have seen a contentious 387-lot suburb built at West Byron.

Its unanimous vote – the latest stage of a tussle that has been a decade in the making – saw the panel accept Byron Shire Council’s assessment of the plan, which recommended refusal on 19 grounds. Members even voted to insert an additional ground.

But it is not the end of the matter: Council will face off with developers in court next week (February 12) after they previously claimed a ‘deemed refusal’.

Nevertheless, the vote is significant, with chairman Garry West saying Byron Council had ‘prepared an assessment report and asked us for a determination’.

‘We have to question it and … I believe there are issues … that give me discomfort in giving approval.’

DA proponent Stuart Murray addresses Monday’s (February 4) Joint Regional Planning Panel meeting. Photo Jeff Dawson

In the end, the three state appointed panel members – Garry West, Stephen Gow and John Griffin – voted with the two council appointees – Tweed Greens mayor Katie Milne and Lismore Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins – to refuse the application.

But not before spokesperson for the proponent, Stuart Murray spent 20 minutes railing against Council’s reasons for refusal, describing them as ‘political’.

Rapturous residents

‘It was an amazing turn of events and so gratifying to hear the community burst into rapturous applause and give the panel a standing ovation,’ said Cate Coorey, Byron Shire councillor and spokesperson for Byron Residents’ Group (BRG).

‘It was BRG that lobbied hard to get the JRPP to hold another meeting after the last one in October was left unresolved. The last-minute dumping of new material just prior to that meeting meant that neither Council nor the panel had adequate time to consider it. The owners of the site had already lodged an action in the Land and Environment Court that meant the court would have made a decision, ahead of the Panel, effectively thwarting the planning process.

‘Our community should especially give thanks to Byron Residents Group’s Dailan Pugh OAM, whose exceptional work has helped our community to better understand the impacts of the West Byron developments and who has been tireless since the beginning in pushing back against this damaging project that takes so much from Byron Bay whilst giving back little of value.’

Byron deputy mayor Michael Lyon described the vote as ‘a win for the community who should be applauded for their respectful but very vocal opposition’.

‘Now we move on to the court proceedings, which is in the form of a conciliation conference. However, council staff have no delegated authority to resolve the matter.

‘As a community we need to pursue a rejection by the court, just as the JRPP has done.’

[Byron mayor Simon Richardson is on leave.]


Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) congratulated the panel on its decision and BRG on its tireless work, saying, ‘There was no social licence and it was very disappointing that the developer chose to attack the community and Council instead of seeing the raft of issues within the DA, let alone the true costs to the environment and the community of this inappropriate development.’

‘I continue to call on the environment minister to compulsorily acquire the land and make it part of the Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve to be managed by National Parks and Wildlife Service in conjunction with the Arakwal People,’ said Ms Smith.

Labor’s Asren Pugh is now tying his hopes to a compromise proposal that would see the high conservation value parts of the development area compulsorily acquired by a future state government and a scaled-down development take place on the remainder.

‘There is a proposal put forward by the community for the government to purchase the most sensitive areas close to the Belongil Estuary and look at rezoning the remainder of the site to reduce its overall impact. This looks like a sensible approach to me and I have raised it with the shadow minister responsible to look at whether this can be done and what the cost might be,’ he said.


Ballina Nationals candidate Ben Franklin has said, however, he would not support a buyback, adding that he believed infrastructure was the real issue.

‘I believe that compulsory acquisition of the site is not the answer. I would much rather focus on working with Byron Shire Council to make sure that the end result is one that assists Byron with improved infrastructure and more affordable housing,’ he said.

20 grounds

Members of the JRPP considering the West Byron application, L to R: John Griffin, Stephen Gow, Garry West (chair) Vanessa Ekins and Katie Milne. Photo Jeff Dawson

Council’s 19 grounds, which the panel endorsed, were mostly related to the developer’s failure to address Byron’s Development Control Plan (DCP) on issues including coastal biodiversity, flooding, management of earthworks, erosion and sediment control, traffic, biting insects, subdivision guidelines, orderly staging and development, road design, drainage, environmental zone encroachments, stormwater, groundwater depth and quality changes, noise, air quality (dust), surface water quality, vegetation, fauna, ecology and the Belongil Creek ICOLL.

Council also noted the proposal failed to address the requirements of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

Board member Stephen Gow cited an additional reason to reject the proposal, which was incorporated into the final motion, saying that ‘for pieces of land required for this development (including public road access) owners’ consent is required and we are told that consent was not obtained in a number of cases.’

A second DA; for an adjacent site owned by Villaworld is likely to be considered by the JRPP in April, and it too is likely to go to court if refused.


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  1. Congratulations to all who were actively involved in this DA. Dailun Pugh’s expertise and tenacity must be acknowledged. Cate Coorey’s energy has been poured into this prior to taking up a deserved seat as a Councillor.
    Tamara Smith’s proposal for a buyback hits the nail on the head. But then when I read Ben Franklin’s defence, it can only be described as ‘wanting’ I would invite him to read Mary Gardener’s work on the importance of ‘resilient infrastructure’ appearing as late as in the Echo 30.1.19. The theme of that article extends previous articles on wetlands, floodplains etc. ‘Things’ in the natural ecosystem, the importance of which we are coming to understand.
    Now let’s turn our energies to the Court case.

  2. It is all well and good for the boomers who already live in Byron.

    Such a clear nymby example from those who happened to be by luck
    born in the era of opportunity and yet wish to control everything…..

    • When over a thousand people, half of whom were under 40 ie. not boomers, march against the West Byron development, your comment is very hollow Rob.
      I dare say you don’t live here and don’t understand the implications of the development to the environment and the community.

    • Yes honestly we can’t win. Taking heed of the warnings that the welfare system would collapse under our numbers the ‘let it all hang out’ generation suddenly thought saving for retirement was the new responsible. Now we are all greedy opportunists – even the many living on the breadline. Protect our environment and we’re NIMBYs, let it all rip and we’re irresponsible vandals leaving a toxic legacy.
      Ease off us baby boomers or we’ll start banging on about smashed avocado!

    • We will all be dead soon Rob & you can stuff up what ever you like when we are gone but our Grand Children will hold you accountable.

  3. Now that we are on a roll I think they should also close Suffolk Park and the government can buy it back and turn it into a real park not a pretend Suffolk one. There are obviously already traffic and other infrastructure problems in Byron that Suffolk contributes to. The people in Suffolk will understand.

    Actually, why don’t we just go back to the building footprint of each town in the Shire at say…1990. Everything else must go. There were no problems back then. Everyone out, back to where you came from. You will get a standing ovation from the people left here.

  4. Great to see the residents and council of Byron Shire working together to protect what’s left of Byron Bay.
    Congratulations to all those individuals for the tireless effort of getting this far in rejecting the development.
    Unfortunately we can’t say the same for Kempsey Shire Council who are pushing for a new development at Crescent Head that will see the size of the village almost double.
    Major development is relatively new to Kempsey Shire, but Council are pushing hard to support their developer mates at the expense of all residents who object to the size and scale of the development and the obvious environmental impact that will result.

  5. Can’t thank these community treasures enough for working so hard on our behalf.
    Please keep going….and hopefully you can find the strength of character, time and energy to do so.
    Berenice Lancaster

  6. Many thanks to everyone who worked for at least 10 years on this. I remember Dalian Pugh and Mary Gardner, among others, there many years ago explaining to us locals all about the environmental impacts. We all wrote letters to everyone, but to you folk who really did the hard yards, I say THANKYOU!!!!!!
    I’m not against sensitive and sensible development, per se, but that was just such a bad place to do it…a no brainer!

  7. The arrogance shown by the developer spokesperson in not addressing the main points was pretty poor on their part. Whilst you can understand their frustration, they are attempting to create a monstrosity in a quite obviously sensitive environment.

    The proposed development needs more than 300 000 cubic metres of clean fill!!

    Where would they even think of getting that – knock over Mt Warning!

    Great result for the good guys – now to the monkey court.

  8. Thank You soooooooo very much Dailan & friends YOU DID THE IMPOSSIBLE. Hope you get an Order of Aust for this ? Do you already have one ?? You should get 4 ….what an enlightened /inspiring and wonderful human being you are. Your vision saw what many others refused to see, denial is a significant component of human nature. Your heart is pure & we are VERY grateful you live here, with ‘us’.

  9. Me thinks it a better spot for light industrial than the current estate that should be rezoned medium density residential. Everyone wants to live closer to the beach.


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