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Byron Shire
June 26, 2024

Council claims of high environmental standards for Byron bypass disputed

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Work on the contentious Byron bypass stage two and three has now begun while stage one is in the final stages of construction.

In their press release Byron Shire Council’s general manager Mark Arnold states that, ‘The environmental management protocols for this project have been meticulous. Our environmental management throughout the initial Stage 2 works has been meticulous.’

Particular emphasis is placed on the night time surveys independent ecologists took prior to clearing for the Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail and  that these surveys were repeated the next day before clearing work started.

140 critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snails were found in the direct path of the Byron bypass.

‘A total of 140 snails were found and they were all removed from the site to suitable habitat outside the construction zone,’ Mr Arnold said.

‘In addition to the existing biobanking offsets for the project, Byron Shire Council has resolved to allocate an additional $81,700 towards bush regeneration works at Sunrise, Butler Street Reserve and Midgen Swamp.

‘This demonstrates Council’s commitment to going above and beyond what is required by legislation when it comes to environmental matters on this project,’ Mr Arnold said.

Not rigorous says former Mayor

However, this has been disputed by former Mayor Jan Barham who told Echonetdaily that, ‘It’s now obvious that the environmental assessment for the bypass was not rigorous and there should be an explanation as to how and why it wasn’t. Over 20 years ago the current route was dismissed due to environmental concerns, so it’s still unclear how and why this route was allowed to proceed, other than the now obvious inadequate environmental assessment.

‘There is no above and beyond legislative requirements, it’s been a shameful case of avoidance of rigorous scientific investigation, as legislation requires that has led to the construction in this location,’ she said.

‘No amount of offset or compensation can ever account for the destruction of a wetland and critically endangered species.

‘What has been meticulous is the deception and avoidance of standards and a genuine commitment to biodiversity protection.’

Reducing town traffic?

Local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin said the bypass will help reduce traffic congestion and improve the liveability of the town.

General manager Mr Arnold was clear to point out ‘that the bypass will not be the silver bullet solution to the town’s traffic woes,’ however, the level of potential reduction has been disputed throughout the process with some of council’s documents citing up to 30 to 40 percent traffic reductions.

‘The most comprehensive assessment put the reduction at up to 15 per cent,’ said Ms Barham.

‘In one submission to the federal government the council gave the figure of 20 – 30 per cent, and in another one they said it would reduce it by 40 per cent. No assessments have ever said that it will reduce traffic by 40 per cent.; at most the figure has been 20 per cent.’

‘The point is that they haven’t initiated anything else like out of town parking. With that $25m they received from government they could have created a shuttle bus from Cavanbah Centre, where they already have the parking, to town.’

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