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Byron Shire
September 28, 2021

Editorial: Good process leads to good outcomes!

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Hans Lovejoy, editor

In an age of climate change, species extinction and mindless overdevelopment, it’s inconceivable to think the local Greens councillors would support over-development, minimise/ignore process and diminish residential amenity and biodiversity.

But that’s what is occurring in Council meetings, and it’s been happening for a long time. More than that, they ignore poor/inadequate staff reports and recommendations, which have enormous impact on residents. Deals with developers are to be made, apparently.

Residents have just over a year left of this until the September 2020 election. In the meantime, these councillors will no doubt continue to burn their social capital (reputation) slowly into the ground and then vanish, just like the preceding Council majority (Cr Hunter excepted).

When will there be an internal revolt within the Byron Greens?

Perhaps never, given the numbers appear to be dwindling. Arbitrary decisions are being made on the fly and without broad consultation. There appear only few members to consult with.

For example, The Echo understands there were 10 people who turned up to their monthly meeting recently, where the vote was split 5/5 on whether to proceed with the Byron Bypass tender.

Anyone wanting to vote at their meetings – and who is a Greens member – can attend their meetings every second Tuesday of the month at the Marvell Hall, located at 37 Marvell Street, Byron Bay. The dozen or so Greens supporters (including councillors) assemble at 6.30pm for 7pm start.

The Greens councillors showed little interest in the legal consequences of plonking events on rural lands at the Council meeting last week, including on lands of high agricultural value – RU1 .

Compliance and regulation for rural events has been handed to staff to manage, and the consequences of Council’s decisions are largely unknown, except there will be little return to Council’s finances.

The Greens mayor spoke against Cr Cameron’s push to reject rural events, saying, ‘You can’t wish the problem away’.

This is a favourite trope for politicians who are closely aligned with developers. The Greens appear to think that there’s plenty of scope to open the Shire up to more development, yet recent electoral outcomes do not reflect that attitude.

Limiting and controlling development is responsible in a highly desirable tourist destination – ask Noosa, or Venice Beach in California.

Cr Coorey’s motion attempted to apply responsible governance around rural events, and appeared reasonable.

Aligning a new policy with other strategies means a stronger case if taken to court. Putting strict conditions on a crumbling road network is also reasonable, yet this was all glossed over by the Greens.

Moving on, during the meeting, Greens Cr Lyon attempted to buy a very old, large tree on a residential block in Mullum’s Tallowood Estate.

Under community pressure to retain it, Cr Lyon triumphantly said under his motion, the land would become an affordable housing project as well.

The silence that followed was cut through by fellow Greens Jeannette Martin, who has said virtually nothing in three years.

She gently reminded Cr Lyon that developing the land would probably kill the tree. 

Eventually councillors voted to pay $300,000 to the Tallowood developers for the tree and its surrounding block.

Questions to staff from The Echo as to why this parcel was not put aside before the development stage was approved are yet to be answered.

Otherwise, the employment lands strategy, to be renamed the Business and Industrial Lands Strategy, was voted through with a minor amendment and will be updated. Presumably it will again come before councillors before being sent to our NSW bureaucratic overlords.

No councillor questioned the claim made in public access by Matthew ‘Cleva’ O’Reilly – he said the land contained within this strategy is far greater than what is required. He told councillors eight to 12ha was all that was needed. ‘A high-growth scenario is 15ha in 20 years,’ he said. ‘What is on exhibition is 40ha’.

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