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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Bypass gets green light, small business future unsure

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While the Byron bypass passed its final hurdle at Thursday’s Council meeting, there is uncertainty around how businesses located in the old Norco building will operate, given that all parking has been consumed by the bypass.  

Council staff are yet to reply to The Echo as to how these businesses will continue – Byron Music will perhaps be the most affected, along with a sound-recording studio and others in the same building. 

On Thursday, the Greens bloc supported a $14m tender to a QLD-based construction company with last-minute inclusion of a biodiversity enhancement program and plans to relocate the Byron monthly markets from Butler Street for six months to the beachside. 

The approved Byron Bay bypass, aligned with Butler Street. Source Byron Shire Council

The weekly farmers markets, held at the same location, will relocate to the Cavanbah Centre.

In favour of the tender approval were the Greens bloc: mayor Simon Richardson, Crs Sarah Ndiaye, Jeannette Martin, and Michael Lyon, along with Labor’s Paul Spooner and Jan Hackett. National Party-aligned Cr Alan Hunter also supported the motion. 

Independent Crs Basil Cameron and Cate Coorey voted against.

Byron Music’s Nick Sergi told The Echo he is ‘quite nervous’ about the future of his business, given there are no parking and truck-access allocations in the plans. 

Parking not considered

He says around 20 to 25 people turned up to a meeting with staff on Monday night, and staff were adamant it was all going ahead.

Sergi said, ‘The meeting was combined with residents and businesses, which was a bit disappointing because we have quite separate issues.’

Noise-mitigation issues may be addressed for businesses he added, ‘Yet none was included in the Noise Mitigation Plan, as approved by the Planning Panel’. 

During Thursday’s morning access, Butler Street resident Paul Jones stood before councillors as ‘defeated’ and outlined claims of deception and lies that led to the decision, none of which were refuted (See Council roundup page 4).

Under pressure to apply more vigorous environmental oversight, Greens mayor Simon Richardson was supported by all councillors for a report on ‘establishing a biodiversity enhancement program separate from, and above that which is required by the biobanking component within the Byron Bay alternative route construction’.

Biobanking is where a like-for-like flora and fauna are destroyed and a credit applied elsewhere. 

Despite that policy being unsupported by the state and federal Greens, locally it has been accepted by the Greens councillors, largely without question. 

During the meeting, it became clear that the biobanking component is a voluntary agreement, yet the mayor told The Echo last week he was ‘acting within the rules forced upon us.’ 

The Echo asked the mayor, ‘Which is correct – is biobanking voluntary or were you forced to use biobanking as part of this project?’ He replied, ‘The two options available to us both included biobanking. Of the two paths available, one was of biobanking as a standalone process (which we chose) and the other had biobanking as part of its process, so in reality we always had to satisfy the biobanking requirements. Biobanking is now mandatory’.

Confused mayor 

In reply, ecologist David Milledge told The Echo, ‘I think the mayor is confused’.

Milledge says he has completed training for the new Biodiversity Accredited Assessors Certification and has lodged his application with the Office of Environment and Heritage.

He said, ‘Banking was only ever a voluntary scheme. Two options may have been available, but the option with biobanking as part would still have had that part as voluntary.

‘In reality, the second option with biobanking as part could have all been assessed with respect to biodiversity under Part 5A of the EPA Act 1979. However, this is likely to have had more stringent conditions attached to it by government agencies, particularly OEH.

‘In fact, because biobanking was not allowed to be used in the 7(a) Wetland Zone (an Environmental Zone), Council had to use Part 5A of the EPA Act 1979 to assess biodiversity in the section of the southern roundabout that fell within the 7(a) Wetland Zone (refer to the EIS prepared by GHD).

‘Biobanking now no longer exists; it’s been replaced by the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (under the new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016). The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is mandatory for all developments that are likely to have a significant effect on biodiversity (threatened species, communities, and populations)’.

Meanwhile former Greens mayor and state MP Jan Barham told the chamber in Thursday’s morning access that the rainforest in question for destruction is recognised as primary habitat for the Mitchells Rainforest Snail, ‘which has Commonwealth status as critically endangered and qualifies as being unable to withstand further loss, including loss of habitat in this region’. 

She maintained the process was flawed, given ‘the number and type of ecosystem credits required to compensate for the loss of biodiversity from the bypass construction [is] substantially under calculated’.  

604 objections

Despite 604 objection submissions received by Council for its proposal in February 2016, planning staff member Chris Larkin considered it to ‘be an appropriate response to site and locality characteristics and circumstances,’ within his report. 

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  1. Hallelujah! A victory for all the folk who actually live in Byron and whose lives will be improved by the bypass. I’m sure the Echo, former mayors and newly minted ecologists will find other causes for their considerable talents.

  2. Too little to late. The bypass being built now was good for 1990 but traffic congestion has so grown since then that the bypass is now inadequate and should have gone done the train line to Old Bangalow road at least. It has taken so long to be approved and started that it is now just pathetically useless and under done.

  3. I, and the hundred or so attendees at the quickly called Butler St Reserve Rally, and a significant percentage of Byron bay residents know it is not a victory for us . Council has Adopted to extend the CBD to Buttler st and Butler st will become a main st shopping area not a freeflowing bypass rd, and watch how it will facilitate access to more development. A tourist bus station on the industrial estate with an extension of the electric train to cemetary rd would likely remove more cars from the roads. And who says that the former Mayors and newly minted ecologists are finished with this major environmental threat? Business as usual is heading us into a massively destructive environmental cycle, and 10 minutes of a car trip is not a worthwhile exchange.


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