It was a chaotic and often confusing Council meeting last Thursday, yet a significant step was taken to begin the process of appointing a tenderer to start work on the controversial Byron bypass project.
Another milestone was approving the relocation of ‘nervous’ folk from the Farmers Market to the Cavanbah Centre.
Despite a plea from former Greens mayor and NSW upper house MLC Jan Barham to apply the precautionary principle on the bypass, councillors steamrolled onwards without really addressing her concerns or questioning much around the issues that have plagued the project.
Barham told them during public access, ‘This is all unknown… this is frightening. We have a proud history of pioneering biodiversity protections’.
‘I’m not sure you know what you are doing here – it’s a very poor process. You owe the community transparency’.
Acting Greens mayor Michael Lyon later said during debate that the Greens have a good record with environmental projects and policy, and referred to the Brunswick Holiday Parks negotiations (which have yet to be accepted by Reflections Holiday Parks).
Eventually a motion by Cr Paul Spooner was carried, which awards the noise attenuation (design and implementation) tender to Renzo Tonin Associates NSW Pty Ltd, with a ‘lump sum component of $142,000’ to kick off the project.
The consultants will now work through the noise issues that will face Butler Street residents. Crs Cate Coorey and Basil Cameron voted against the motion.
A motion from Cr Cate Coorey to delay and seek more information was knocked back – it would have established ‘whether all necessary requirements have been met in relation to the consent conditions and the biobanking requirements and issues raised by [ecologist] David Milledge in the document presented to councillors’.
Cr Coorey told the chamber she was, ‘gobsmacked’ to learn that, at a Byron chamber of commerce meeting years ago, the former general manager said, ‘we will have a bypass.’
‘It’s the last infrastructure trigger to enable West Byron’, she said.
‘There’s strong data to indicate that if you build a road, inevitably it will be filled within three years and benefits fade within a decade.
‘I can see the rest of you are all committed and I don’t know why. Why weren’t the [conditions of consent] made publicly available?
‘We haven’t done infrastructure all that well in the past’, she said, referring to the koala hotspot that was not addressed at the Ewinsgdale Road roundabout.
Yet Cr Lyon said he was ‘happy with the tender process’.
‘If something changes, we won’t have spent that much [Council money]. We need to do the baseline data again to legally fulfil requirements.
‘There is no reason not to go ahead, but I’m happy to look at the issues of biobanking. I hope to do more in the environmental space’.
Cr Spooner adopted a pragmatic tone and said the opportunity for the rail corridor was two years ago with his unsupported motion. ‘I suggest councillors have the “all or nothing attitude” which has got us to this point. It’s not a road or a bypass – at best it’s a ring-road around Byron’.