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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Wrong way, go back: Byron council asking the wrong question

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Dailan Pugh, Byron Bay

I am alarmed by the council ads informing us that they are seeking tenders from four developers for their proposals for the redevelopment of the old eight hectare South Byron Sewerage Treatment Plant.

By leaving it up to developers to decide what they want for the site, council has the whole process around the wrong way.

The first step should have been to identify the most environmentally significant areas, such as the old sewerage ponds that are now important wetlands and the Endangered Ecological Communities, and socially important areas, such as the walking/bicycle track, which need to be retained under community ownership and management.

Then council should have assessed what the community wants for the site. Allowing for community open space is an option, or even purchase by the NPWS for addition to the Arakwal National Park.

Instead Council undertook a secretive expression of interest process that didn’t specify land use or development requirements for the site and was open to all viable proposals.

Even after they shortlisted four developers they refused to tell us what they proposed.

Now they have moved to a tender process, and it is only after they have selected their preferred tender that they will tell the community what development they have decided on.

This is an outrageous process for important community land, and is another example of contempt for due environmental protection and community consultation by this Council.

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  1. Thanks, Dailan for so succinctly nailing the abysmal process that has surrounded this project.
    Council wanted to retain public ownership, make some money, cover remediation and maintenance costs and gain some community benefit. All good except that they have locked the community out of information and feedback from the start.

    Council has missed a golden opportunity to – as you suggest – first identify what the community would value in terms of environmental and recreational enhancement and ensure the tender documents outline some basic expectations. A reasonable return from the developer for access to this potential real estate gold mine.

    Council’s Supporting Partnerships Policy’s first objective is ‘to develop partnerships that demonstrate transparency, probity, accountability and consistency from their inception.’ I too am incredulous that no information or consultation will now be available until the preferred tender has been selected.

    What will be up for comment? The applicants will have outlined what community benefits they choose to offer and Council will be left to take it or leave it.

    A plan of management was drafted for this area for public exhibition but fizzled. Instead Council put up signs last year asking ‘suitably qualified’ individuals to partner in the ‘master planning and development’ of the site.

    How generous that after the ink has dried, Council will share with us the ‘vision for future use’ of the site. As my 95-year-old mum would say: a bit arse about.


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