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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Disappointment

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Michele Grant, Brunswick Heads

One of Byron Shire Council (BSC) Mayor Simon Richardson’s most memorable achievements will be his ability to completely miss the point. Replacing pro-active, independent, constantly evolving, community groups with a handpicked panel fed briefing notes by Council staff, is not empowering the community to make important decisions. It’s leading them down the garden path.

Like Scott Morrison, Simon has a problem with those vocal ‘squeaky wheels’ who ‘begin to multiply and get louder’. He suggests ‘BSC decision making develops a bias towards outcomes lobbied for by the most vocal people’. Instead of those quiet, secretive developers with brown paper bags and promises?

Surely, it’s a councillors job to deliberate on those critical divisive issues and negotiate the best win/win outcomes for all stakeholders?

Virtually all Greens Councillors have been actively involved in establishing and supporting those ‘squeaky wheels’ – community groups agitating for better outcomes for their community. They relied on the diverse range of groups across the community to keep them informed and elected. Together they built trust and confidence, often relying on talented, qualified community volunteers to prepare detailed submissions based on legal requirements and building codes, and sought solutions, amendments and modifications, or offered a range of preferred outcomes.

The developers and Council staff could not get away with dodgy development applications (DA), the omissions, errors and incompetence, as the community often provided a far superior case that routinely triumphed in Court.

Many of those noisy individuals, like Dailan Pugh have earned their reputations and only a fool would ignore their concerns or recommendations.

Brunswick Heads Progress Association (BHPA) has been to court with Council three times – objecting to DAs for Mona Lane, Bayside (which resulted in the sewerage moratorium) and more recently a boarding house at the old squash courts – and won every time.

Unfortunately, the current Greens councillors are far too busy to attend community meetings or events to keep in touch with their grassroot supporters – unlike former Mayor Jan Barham!

When Council stops listening to the community and the court’s ruling, we get really shit outcomes (see Mona Lane). Well articulated fears are not fantasy, but reality.

On one point I agree with Mayor Richardson, ‘When it comes to engagement, we feel like we’re living our own groundhog day’.

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