Sean O’Meara, Brunswick Heads
After ongoing complaints about the state of the three Brunswick Heads public toilets and our riverside public reserves, Reflections Holiday Parks CEO Steve Edmonds claimed in last week’s Echo that it was all the fault of Byron Shire Council.
Sorry, Steve, but you’re the CEO, you choose the contractors, you allocate expenditure, and you’ve had years to fix it. This fiasco is entirely owing to Reflections’ poor management and a huge conflict of interest.
When Council controlled the Brunswick caravan parks 12 years ago they made over $3 million a year. Much of this revenue (as per Crown Land regulations) was used to maintain our other local public spaces and amenities.
In 2006 the state government controversially took control of all the Brunswick caravan parks. They ‘stole’ this revenue from locals and left a large hole in Council’s budget. We were assured that the caravan parks would now be better run, generate more income, and this additional money would be allocated to better updating our public parklands and facilities.
Fast forward to 2019 and Brunswick’s riverside parklands and public amenities (under Reflections control) are now in an appalling state after a decade of neglect, zero improvements, and no expenditure.
In this same decade, Reflections has spent millions renovating their private facilities and building brand-new amenity buildings and playgrounds for their clients.
Reflections is now set to spend tens of millions of public money rebuilding their Brunswick caravan parks while our public amenities and parks fall further into disrepair.
While the reported $250k Reflections pays Council for the upkeep of our public parks and amenities may sound significant it is grossly inadequate for the amount of work and remediation required across Brunswick’s large public areas and its huge increase in tourist numbers.
It’s obvious the bizarre experiment of handing over a town’s public parks and facilities to a commercial caravan park operator, and then letting them decide if money is spent on public facilities or directed to their own tourist operations, is totally flawed.
If Mr Edmonds really believes he has fairly allocated public moneys between his private caravan parks and our public spaces we need more financial disclosures. Firstly, how much has Reflections taken in revenue from its Brunswick parks in the last 10 years and how much of this was spent on its dependent public spaces?
Secondly, how much is about to be spent totally redeveloping his three Brunswick caravan parks and how much has he allocated to upgrading the deplorable state of our local public parks and replacing our three public toilet blocks?