A citizens’ lottery, how to manage the shire’s rubbish, recycling, and estuaries (fish kill, anyone?); water sensitive urban design and bike plans.
It’s a progressive-sounding list and just a small selection of some of the topics Byron Shire councillors will discuss at this month’s ordinary meeting.
But progressive may or may not be the right term. Perhaps a quick read about some of the work being done to improve democratic process in the shire will help.
Last year, councillors voted to endorse ‘The Byron Model’.
Is your name in the democracy lottery?
The Byron Model is described as ‘deliberative democracy’ and a way to bring together views from councillors, council staff, citizens and other stakeholders.
The council hosted a series of panel sessions on The Byron Model, the panellists wrote a report and the council has responded.
Byron Shire stakeholders who have participated in The Byron Model so far say democracy issues of concern centre around three themes:
- Identity, culture and diversity;
Consultants hired from newDemocracy Foundation said overall, the panellists’ recommendations show the council has been ‘on the right track’ but there is ‘room for improvement’.
One of the staff recommendations is for the council to set up a ‘citizens’ lottery’.
They say the council would use names of people who have already expressed an interest in The Byron Model panels so far and seek further expressions of interest for more names to go into the lottery.
The council would then use that pool of names for the next two years as a way to invite community feedback on various projects and plans.
Fish out of water
This year’s fish-kills at Tallow and Belongil Creek estuaries continue to enrage environmentalists, who have demanded authorities show more responsibility and care when opening estuaries to prevent flooding of creek-bank properties.
A deadline for public submissions on the Belongil Entrance Opening Strategy has passed but staff are yet to publish summaries or a response.
Staff are asking councillors to decide if and how the strategy, along with a Belongil Issues Study, will impact broader plans for coastal and catchment plans.
Meanwhile, Coastal Estuary Catchment Panellists met in August and voted to have an Additional Flowpath Project reviewed.
The project looks at flood mapping strategies across the shire, including splitting flows and using existing drainage areas in the Byron Industrial Estate.
Council staff have recommended funding of more than $1.2 million, which will make it one of the council’s most expensive projects in a while if councillors agree to the budget.
Speaking of water, Cr Coorey’s recommendations last year for what is called Urban Sensitive Water Design have had some effect and staff now have a draft policy ready for councillors to vote on.
The policy looks at how the shire manages water flow, including anticipated sea level rise, through landscape design and building approvals and how those processes interact with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency.
Climate change is largely considered the world’s greatest challenge but the global waste management crisis hasn’t gone away.
The Myocum tip is just about full, China and developing countries are refusing to take Australia’s recycling and the NSW government is having a hard time banning single-use plastic bags, let alone creating a circular waste economy.
But Mayor Simon Richardson is determined to see the shire work ‘towards zero’ both in terms of waste and carbon emissions.
The strategy includes plenty of challenges, such as the fact the shire doesn’t produce enough waste on its own to make certain recycling options financially viable for either ratepayers or business.
Until the state government decides to fund more efficient waste management, the council is pretty limited in its options but staff have recommended councillors endorse the Towards Zero policy and put it on public display for 28 days.
On yer bike…
Last but certainly not least, will the Byron Shire get some proper bike paths?
The council received 62 submissions over winter in response to suggestions for a bike plan.
Staff say the main issue so far is balancing a desire for better paths within villages with community requests for better connections between villages.
So far, there doesn’t seem to be decent funding available for ambitious bike path plans and staff have recommended the council consider initiatives over the next ten years when making planning and budget decisions.
This month’s Byron Shire Council ordinary meeting is happening Thursday from 9am at Mullumbimby Council Chambers – unless, of course, there is another bomb scare across the road.