Marley Berry-Pearce, Suffolk Park
I was randomly selected to participate in the Byron Model community meetings set up by New Democracy in partnership with Byron Shire Council. My concerns included homelessness, youth empowerment, economic prosperity, Indigenous rights, and environmental integrity.
I want to congratulate both NewDem and Council staff for their professionalism and enthusiasm about creating a new way for democratic decisions to be made in the Shire.
On Tuesday there was a reconvening of the remaining participants. We had the rare chance to sit face to face with GM Mark Arnold and Vanessa Adams as they described how Council would be addressing the community expectations set during the initial Byron Model meetings.
Some of the new measures Council are committing to are positive; submitting new projects to a pro forma to indicate what level of community engagement should be sought by Council in decision making for said project, opening avenues for petitioning, and adopting new measures to curb homelessness and engage marginalised people.
However, I have some concerns about the culture within Council, particularly the idea voiced during the meeting that Council should be in control of this newspaper. Another concerning moment during Tuesday’s meeting was when I was apologised to personally by a Council staff member in reference to the completion of the bypass, as if to bring up its completion was personally offensive.
Despite Mark Arnold’s reasoning that ‘the culture of Byron Shire’ belongs to the people who do business here, I will take to my grave the resolve that the culture of this place belongs to the land and the people who take care of it.