Byron Council ignores state development advice

Paul Bibby

Byron Council will forge ahead with its plan to investigate using large areas of land in the Shire’s north for business and industrial use, in defiance of the NSW Planning Department.

During a heated planning meeting last week in which Mayor Simon Richardson tried unsuccessfully to limit the debate, a majority of councillors voted to continue with the proposed Business and Industrial Lands Strategy (BILS), ignoring the department’s concerns.

The BILS involves earmarking more than 40 hectares of land across the Shire for possible industrial development.

Around half of this is contained within three separate areas, known as the Gulgan Road precincts, located on vacant land near Mullumbimby, Tyagarah and Brunswick Heads.

In a recent letter to Council, the NSW Department of Planning said that it did not approve the investigation of these precincts for industrial use.

In a similar argument to that made by local opponents of the BILS, the department noted that ‘the estimated yield in the endorsed investigation areas and existing vacant industrial areas will exceed the 8–12ha total projected demand, which Council estimates will be needed by 2040’.

But at last week’s meeting, a majority of Byron councillors voted to follow a recommendation from their own staff to the effect that Council should dismiss this advice from the department.

Councillor Alan Hunter said there was nothing wrong with Council including extra land in the strategy.

‘We’ve lost jobs in this Shire and we’ve lost investment because we haven’t had parcels of industrial land big enough to meet the requirements of businesses,’ Cr Hunter said.

‘There’s no cost to having more land in the investigation stage of the process than we need.

‘The more we can equip ourselves for the future, the better off we’re going to be.’

Staff misrepresentation

However, Matthew O’Reilly from the Saddle Ridge Local Area Management  Planning Association said that Council staff had misrepresented how much land was needed by failing to include existing vacant industrial land in their calculations.

‘I think you [the staff] should be ashamed at how this is represented in this report,’ said Mr O’Reilly, who is planning to stand for Council at the next election.

‘It’s very [Donald] Trump-like: if we say the false thing enough, people will believe us. Well, the department is not going to believe you, and neither is the community.’

Council staff defended the report by saying that a significant proportion of the Shire’s vacant industrial land was no longer deemed suitable for use, and so it was not useful to include this in future projections.

Independent councillor, Cate Coorey, did not accept this argument and moved a motion that Council redraft the BILS in accordance with the ‘qualifications and amendments’ requested by the department.

Mayor attempts to stifle debate

However, Mayor Simon Richardson then intervened, in a bid to prevent any debate on the amendment, using his position as chair of the meeting to immediately put the amendment and the original motion to a vote.

When Cr Coorey questioned whether this was permitted under Council’s code of meeting practice, Council’s legal counsel, Ralph James, advised that it was not.

While this allowed debate to continue on the amendment, it made little difference to the final outcome.

Greens councillors Simon Richardson, Michael Lyon and Jeanette Martin joined with Cr Hunter and Labor’s Paul Spooner in voting down the amendment and supporting the motion recommended by staff.

Cr Coorey, Cr Basil Cameron, and Cr Sarah Ndiaye (Greens) voted against.

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7 responses to “Byron Council ignores state development advice”

  1. Rossco Phillips says:

    O.M.G. !!! I can’t believe what I’m seeing !!!

    Again the Greens vote with Cr Hunter for more development.

    At least Cr Ndiaye had the guts to stand against the three repeat offenders.

    I really don’t know what substance these people are on, or how they sleep at night, knowing this is NOT what they were elected to do.

    How unfortunate that the elections have been put back a year. This Council is arguably in “caretaker” mode and shouldn’t be making any far-reaching decisions … but going along the lines of nearly all modern-day politicians, they don’t care about accountability or honesty anymore.

    SHAME !!!

  2. Michael Murray says:

    Once again another completely inaccurate representation of the facts by the Echo. For anyone who follows these things, it becomes tiresome to see the slanted, biased, and misrepresentation displayed every week. This is obviously a beat up by the Gang Greens to try to make an issue of it for the next election – disregarding good policy.

    This is the main quote from Jeremy Grey, Regional Planning:
    “I am pleased to approve the strategy, subject to the following qualifications and amendments: ….”

    How do you people sleep at night? Anyone who wants to see the full letter pls contact me and will send.

  3. bill says:

    It’s very disappointing to still , after all these years, to have a non-representative bloc dominating the Council. Roll on the election!

  4. bill says:

    It’s very disappointing to still , after all these years, to have a non-representative bloc dominating the Council.
    Roll on the election!

  5. Belinda Berkaya says:

    It is fascinating that the Mayor tries to pass himself off as Green.
    It is also interesting that staff in most councils are able to provide misleading information to councillors. It seems in my opinion that staff see themselves as the marketing department for developers and regard the law and our elected councillors as an inconvenience.
    This needs to change.

  6. Jo Faith says:

    What hope is there for the integrity of Byron Shire Council, Rate-payers and community ? Who does Byron Staff really represent? A strange dynamic. Staff chooses to ignore the recommendation of the NSW Planning Department instructions opposing investigation of large tracts of land for business and industrial use for development. Staff fail to reveal how much land was needed by also failing to reveal existing vacant land in their calculations. The Mayor attempts to stifle Free Speech and debate using his illegal ‘assumed powers’ as Mayor. Result? Corporatization spreads throughout the Byron Shire aided by Byron Council. Vale the Rights of Nature.

    The polymorphous virus of Cronyism spreads minus guiding principles, upholding illegalities, denying democratic Free Speech and debate, totally dismissing the legality of Public Rights and the Rights of Nature.

    The Game of Mates is successful and this is how Crony favours bleed the Nation! The Council ‘Faux Green’ majority aided by two Crony minions triumphs, thus revealing its real transparency and empty soul; at a time when global communities are working hard for an ecological Planet to arrest Climate Change. Civil society is removing the noose from its necks. Many voices oppose this behaviour and abuse of democratic representation. Listen to those voices.

  7. Michael Murray says:

    Again, how many of you writing these comments have been into the Byron Arts and Ind. Estate lately? It is full and overflowing. It is easy for those of you who do not run businesses or employ people to say these things. More industrial land was needed in this shire many years ago. A number of local successful businesses have already had to leave the shire. The duly elected councilors are just responding to an obvious demand by the community.
    But mainly pls be aware that the Echo reporting on this story is false. The NSW State planning is supporting this policy and this is being misreported. But I am sure most of you will stay with blinkers on and not wish to look at the facts.

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