Planning for a Byron bypass has been a difficult road to travel for Council – and for the community.
Will it actually reduce traffic in town? How much of an impact will it have on Butler Street residents?
The other big impacts to be considered include on the critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail (MRS) and on the ecological community it will cut through.
Nevertheless contracts have been signed, work has commenced, the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE) was alerted to the destructive impact of the bypass on the MRS by former OEH officer, Ross Wellington, and Council was required to self refer to the DoEE. Ultimately it is the DoEE who now gets to decide if it goes ahead, doesn’t go ahead, or takes an alternative route.
The Butler Street Residents Group (BSRG) is pursuing an alternative route. BSRG proposes utilising the work currently done for the bypass and then running it down the existing transport corridor of the unused railway line.
‘The revised bypass and transport interchange concept plan was devised by our group as an outcome that could utilise works thus far undertaken and better manage the majority of impacts,’ said BSRG president Paul Jones.
‘I believe this outcome would be cost-effective and overall a superior solution. The bus station will be more efficient and the precious water tower could become a focal point in a heritage railway park.’
BSRG believes the route has the potential to save not only endangered species but also significant costs. The group says it reduces the need for a roundabout in the wetland, a costly fauna underpass, and reduces the amount of fill required while leaving space for both the light rail and rail trail.
Not a new idea
Putting the bypass in the rail corridor is not a new idea and was pursued by former councillor Duncan Dey in 2014 and current councillor Paul Spooner in 2017.
‘What a shame that our councillors don’t pull the pin on this project now, rather than wait for regulators to do so,’ said Mr Dey.
‘We now know the snail is there. Why are they prepared to risk its survival as a species? There is a far better way to provide the transport service of the bypass without risking snail habitat – change the route.’
‘I sought to do this in 2014 but that despicable council stuck to its resolution, insisting on a route outside the rail corridor except to cross it at Browning Street.
Facilitates a multi-use corridor
‘This drawing (above) has been prepared recently, though sadly not by our council, for a route that relocates the roadway to beside the railway embankment. The new route enables and supports future use of the rail corridor, as per Council’s own multi-use principle.
‘It would be good if a Green – or am I dreaming? – councillor re-put Paul Spooner’s motion and if Cr Basil Cameron could see that adding a road is not the same as subtracting a train.’
Mr Dey, who is a hydrologist, says there is a danger that the DoEE may recommend bridging the wetland that the current proposal is set to run through to save the snail.
‘I don’t believe it can,’ he told The Echo. ‘Bridging may resolve flood and stormwater issues but will put shade over the land surface, and will cause huge disruption during construction (eg a wide gravel access road for the pile-driver).’
The BSC recognises in its referral submission to the the DoEE that, ‘The existing road network within the township of Byron Bay has little to no spare capacity’.
However, the claim the bypass will shift approximately 30–40 per cent of traffic away from the town centre has been questioned, with previous estimates, such as in the Byron Bay Masterplan document being as low as 15–20 per cent.
Further questions also arise over Council’s statement in a referral document that, ‘In the longer term, additional bypass options would be explored to build on the solution provided by the project’ and what this means for Byron Bay.