With residents claiming a cypress pine, paperbarks, and eucalypt trees have been destroyed in the first phase of the Butler Street bypass project, it’s emerged Council are undertaking the large project without a contamination report or providing proof that they have met extensive requirements of Land & Enviroment (L&E) Court orders.
The L&E Court orders outline all management and reports that are required before undertaking the infrastructure project.
Butler Street residents say the established trees unnecessarily came down last week and they are now without privacy screenings.
Labor councillor Jan Hackett told The Echo, ‘I do not understand why the trees have been removed on the residential side of Butler Street. I have asked mayor Simon Richardson and staff to explain’.
Throughout the project, the Greens and Labor councillor majority have supported the project while having virtually no involvement – all management has been palmed to staff to manage under delegated powers. Only a vague mayoral minute asked staff, just prior to awarding the construction tender, to ‘identify areas of degraded wetland near the bypass and what the cost would be to do some restoration work’. This report is expected during the construction phase.
Given the lack of transparency, The Echo asked staff why this project has proceeded given crucial documents have not been provided to the public.
‘Why is Council doing this, given any commercial developer doing a similar project would unlikely be allowed to proceed without this information?’
Staff replied, ‘Council is focused on building the approved and funded bypass. Current bypass testing results are part of working documents associated with the construction contract (compliance with consent conditions) and are not publicly available at this stage’.
The Echo has also asked for the L&E Court orders to be provided – nothing is available on their website.
The long-running saga of what route alternatives were explored and why they were rejected remains unclear.
While Council’s website states, ‘Using the rail corridor to build a road would rule out the option of delivering a rail service in the future,’ it is at odds with recommendations from a government-funded 2014 ARUP Rail Trail study.
On page 32, under section 4.7.5, it states: ‘It may also be possible to include both rail trail and the proposed bypass and the proposed Byron Bay Community and Tourist rail shuttle within the corridor…’
The Echo understands no formal request was ever made to Transport NSW to explore all uses for transport within the corridor. Staff were asked to comment, but there was no reply. After an attempt by Labor councillor Paul Spooner to investigate route options was knocked back by fellow councillors, he then supported the final tender in late May.
Meanwhile, a protester at the construction site told The Echo on Tuesday that contractors had stopped work and police were on their way owing to the blockade. They are seeking an urgent meeting with the mayor so he can explain his decision, he said.
The blockade is expected to continue.