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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Call for development pause: is more strategic infrastructure planning needed?

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A call for a one to two-year pause on development in Byron Shire by MP Tamara Smith has been supported in part by councillors Cate Coorey, Basil Cameron and CABS (Community Alliance Byron Shire). They have said a slowdown in development would provide the time for the council to catch up on infrastructure.

‘It would be good to have a slow down in development because there are concerns around both sewage treatment plants [STP] and roads,’ said CABS president Matthew O’Reilly.

Water scarcity and flood management have also been raised in relation to sustainable growth capacity and climate change impacts. It is understood that conditions of consent for both the Byron and Brunswick Valley STPs are not presently being met, particularly in relation to water re-use.

‘On Thursday’s council agenda they are looking to commit $1.5m to put the flow from the Byron STP through the Arts and Industry Estate, and out to the ocean instead of actually facilitating re-use,’ said Mr O’Reilly. ‘We are in one of the worst droughts in Australian history and we are pumping our water out to the ocean.’

‘Last year we called for a proper audit of Byron Shire’s infrastructure both in relation to existing and future needs of residents and visitors. As far as we are aware this has not been done.’

Targets exceeded

According to councillors Cameron and Coorey, Byron Shire has been exceeding its required state targets for dwellings.

‘There is definitely scope to reduce the pace of housing growth to allow for some infrastructure catchup,’ said Cr Cameron.

‘The pressure on infrastructure in Byron Shire is not just coming from housing development. Our local and regional infrastructure continues to strain under enormous pressure from tourism visitation.

‘This situation is likely to get worse as the state plan aggressively promotes tourist development without any substantial investment in regional transport links.’

Planning done

However, Mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo, ‘The development of Council’s current suite of strategic plans, including residential, rural land use and business and industrial lands, have all been done with regard to current infrastructure capacity and capital works planning needed to provide for varying growth scenarios and environmental conditions… These plans include ongoing consideration of water and sewer capacity (30 year Strategic Business Plan).’

Former councillor and current member of the Water, Waste and Sewer Advisory Committee Duncan Dey told The Echo that ‘there may be a business plan but where is the environment plan? Many believe the Belongil catchment is already overloaded with water from Rocky Creek Dam, including sewage from the Byron town and its suburbs, like Suffolk Park and the A&I Estate. To assume that that load can double is bad science or no science.

‘Based on table A4.13 in Appendix 4 (water and sewer infrastructure analysis) the forward planning on the sewer capacity is based on ABS residential information. That is inherently flawed for two reasons.

‘Firstly, it doesn’t include tourists, and the ratio of tourists to residents in Byron town is huge. It also ignores business, commercial and industrial contributions to the system.

‘Secondly, for sewer works planning, the guidelines say if you have existing data then use that, and only use ABS data if you don’t have anything else.’

Good news: LRMD

Mayor Simon Richardson has announced that ‘a further deferral was granted yesterday by the Minister for Planning to Byron Shire from the application of the Low Rise Medium Density Housing (LRMD) Code until July 2020. This is the code that allows development in approved areas for manor-house style development under complying development rules. Concerns had been raised with the minister by MP Tamara Smith, especially in relation to the impact of amenity and infrastructure.

An ‘independent review identified strong support for an increase in housing supply and diversity,’ said Mayor Richardson. However, ‘it also found that enhancing local character is important to the success of the Code. The temporary deferral of the Code will allow Council time to complete our Local Strategic Planning Statement, Local Residential Strategy, and update the Local Environmental Plan (LEP).’

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  1. If Holiday letting is not restricted to tourist zones, then there is no workable Strategic Plan or Residential Strategy or any credible Forward Plan for provision of residential houses, and no workable Strategic Plan for provision of water, or management of sewerage (residential houses have an average of 2.4 residents, while holiday lets have more occupants and cause holiday peaks of demand that have to be serviced). And despite Rouse Water stating earlier this year that we must reduce our water use, the State Govt then granted Consent to Splendour/Falls festivals of up to 58,000 free and paid ticket holders.


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