Michele Grant, Ocean Shores (ex-Greens party member)
Byron’s Greens councillors’ dismissive response to criticism from esteemed elders is disappointing and disheartening. Where’s the love, the admiration and respect for those foundation members who transformed our local communities from a Nationals stronghold into a growing green oasis along the north coast and hinterland?
Being nice, respectful and friendly with staff, government departments, business groups and developers is always the first option, but it’s not the solution. Everyone tries nice first, but when opponents bend and evade the rules, withhold information or employ deceptive practices to avoid scrutiny, and mislead Council and the community to achieve their goals, then how do you call that out without offending anyone?
Community activists have a longstanding relationship with Byron councillors; most were established with the explicit intent of providing support with the ever-burgeoning workload. Councillors Tom Tabart and Jan Barham were quite strict – all issues had to be synthesised into dot points, for and against, with solutions or preferred options included. Strictly no emotions, just facts and evidence that could be used to mount a case for or against a particular proposal – and it had to be no more than one A4 sheet or it was unlikely to be read; supporting documents could be attached.
Twisting the truth and marketing a dream is what the big boys do, seeking to minimise any adverse impacts and avoid any unnecessary outlays. While activists focus on the issues, opponents attack the individual.
I’ve witnessed Council staff perjure themselves in court and Crown Lands has evaded the word ‘encroachment’ during consultation and in POMs (plan of management) for the caravan parks for two decades. The recent discussion about the Short Street development – 10 double bedrooms with ensuites is not going to become an Airbnb – well you really would have to be living in lala land to believe that. Anyone who believes the Byron bypass will reduce travel time along Ewingsdale Road has also failed to read the many traffic reports.
While I concede our new councillors may be well intentioned, the attitude and outcomes certainly haven’t impressed the community. Pumped-up egos seem to belong to the new team who don’t welcome any advice from elders or community groups ‘who have had their views promoted for decades’ because they believe they know what’s best for our community. Perhaps they’re just too lazy to do the homework or simply naïve and get sucked in by the spin, or just more conservative and want the business-oriented point of view to prevail.
It’s a tough gig and the Greens, like all political parties, struggle to find decent, capable, trustworthy candidates. It works both ways; councillors need to trust their community too, so you don’t have to rely on staff, government departments, business groups, or proponents – all with huge vested interests – for your information.
The community has just 12 months until the next council elections, so we either find new candidates or knock the current mob into shape. Open, transparent government that includes respectful community participation is what we’re all hoping to achieve.