Developer bonanza

Cr Cate Coorey, Byron Bay

Cr Michael Lyon’s statement in his letter regarding the Business and Industrial Lands Strategy (BILS) cannot be ignored. His comment, ‘I stand by our decision to identify additional lands for businesses to expand in the Shire and to attempt to put some downward pressure on rents’, astounds me. It sounds innocuous but those ‘additional lands’ are in fact a four-fold increase in what was recommended by the consultants Council brought in to assess what was needed for the next 25 years. 

One might expect such a statement from a Nationals or Liberal councillor, but creating an excessive supply of land to allow for more development to bring down prices is an outdated economic model that has proven elsewhere to fail. Has anyone noticed prices going down, and staying down, in Byron’s building boom? Cr Lyons’ position surely contradicts Greens policy of ecologically sustainable development. Those who voted for the BILS have built a giftbfor developers who will be rushing to rezone their land that got put into the Strategy.

Cr Lyon and the other Greens councillors (and Crs Spooner and Hunter) put aside evidence-based planning by ignoring the reports we commissioned. They included land that was rejected as unsuitable for an eco-village only months prior. They ignored the survey of our business community that placed business space as a relatively low priority – only eight per cent of respondents listed it as their main concern. 

The same councillors also supported a new potential area for business development, around Byron hospital, without it even being exhibited. Cr Lyons claims that the hospital area was always planned for this use, yet gave no evidence to support that claim. A so-called ’seniors’ development next to the hospital was rejected in 2014 after a substantial community campaign and a lack of support from the Department of Planning (DPIE).

These councillors have said that ‘just because land gets put into the Strategy doesn’t mean it will get rezoned’. We heard the same words from the previous Council about West Byron – ‘just because they get the land rezoned, it doesn’t mean they mean to build over all of it.’ They tried, and continue to try, to do exactly that.

In 2016, when the Rural Land Use Strategy came to the last Council, some councillors threw extra land into the Strategy at the last minute and without public exhibition; an outrage to the then Greens on council. In 2020, Crs Spooner, Hunter and the Greens beefed up the Business and Industrial Lands Strategy with up to four times more land than is needed and rejected community consultation. This too is an outrage. The level of growth that this Council has supported is poor planning that will, to my mind, create a future for Byron Shire that none of us want too see; it is difficult to reconcile it with a so-called progressive council.

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