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Byron Shire
July 28, 2021

Illegal development

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Earlier this month a Friday Hut Rd developer lost his appeal over Council’s refusal of his development application (DA). As the hearing was held in Ballina and I was a registered objector I attended in order to look over the shoulders of Council’s lawyers, as it were.

They ran it in a different way than I would have, but the Commissioner’s judgement made it clear that he’d seen what I would have explicitly drawn his attention to: that things weren’t quite as they were purported to be.

The purpose of this letter, however, is to draw attention to the compliance issue. Though the developer failed to get consent, his unauthorised building remains, and his unauthorised use of other approved buildings will no doubt continue. So what happens next? Nothing, I suspect.

In February, Council staff presented their annual Compliance Priorities Program; an overview of what Council staff have been doing and what they propose to continue doing. The report gives an apparently impressive picture that seems to cover all bases, but I have deep misgivings about mixing up complaints about dogshit, or illegal camping, with illegal development matters.

Apparently there were 819 complaints last year about ‘illegal development’, with no explanation or breakdown.

What we were told was that there had been one successful prosecution that resulted in a fine of $1,500! Wow, what a deterrent! Justice seen to be done.

What we were next told was that over 700 of these complaints had been ‘completed’. Again no explanation or breakdown. Then we were informed that this 700-odd figure was partly comprised of an unspecified number of carry-overs from the previous year – again no explanation or breakdown.

In public access I suggested that councillors would be, not just negligent but willfully so, to accept this aspect of the report as okay without requiring further information. I’ve known brick walls to be more responsive than this lot, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that they voted to simply accept said report, with a pathetic amendment by Cate Coorey to the effect that if any councillors had any problems with the matter they could raise them at the next (so-called) strategic planning workshop.

She raised this amendment in a regretful tone that seemed to contain an inbuilt apology for daring to question staff or daring to support something I suggested.

The purpose of this letter is to suggest that the Friday Hut Rd matter is now to be counted as ‘completed’ even though the situation on the ground remains precisely the same as it was.

It’s the process you go through that counts, apparently, not the outcome.

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  1. Fast Buck$,
    If there are 819 complaints last year about ‘illegal development’ with only one successful prosecution it does sound a bit “off” when Council is elected by the public.
    As you state in your letter if any councillors have any problems with the matter they will raise those concerns at the next strategic planning workshop.
    When 700 complaints have been “completed” it means in-house jargon is being used when for the public’s understanding, the process of completion and what “completion” means needs to be explained.


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