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Byron Shire
April 22, 2021

Compliance cops for council

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I’m somewhat bemused by the current attempt by Council staff to scare the people of Main Arm over unauthorised development.

Every February staff trot out a document called the ‘Compliance Priorities Programme’ (CPP), a slick but dodgy and evasive list of what’s happened over the previous year, which also contains vague proposals for what compliance staff will supposedly be focussing on over the coming year. Let me assure readers that last February’s to-do list did not contain any proposal whatsoever to harass the people of Main Arm. Which is why the staff, in attempting to justify their latest manoeuvrings, have not referred to the CPP at all, but have instead cited compliance policy, a background document that no councillor will have read.

Why have a CPP if you can ignore it at will? The answer is that the true function of this document is that it gives councillors the appearance of having been informed and consulted. However, last February’s document advised us (for example) that Council had received well over 800 complaints about holiday letting, but you had to flick past two pages of other material to learn that no-one had been prosecuted! We weren’t ever told whether the complaints referred mainly to noise, amenity issues, or the illegality of the practice of holiday letting – which is, incidentally, a form of ‘unauthorised development’ in itself.

Perhaps our compliance chappies are not upset about unauthorised development as such, but only forms of it that allegedly occur in Main Arm. Why would that be, I wonder? The first thing to understand is that the compliance crew are essentially council’s cops. The second thing is that cops, as an organised force are invariably conservative, and are almost always politicised to defend the people with the money – which always means the development industry, and the National Party, of course.

The bigger picture is that developers are currently very nervous about their prospects subsequent to council elections next September. They know that their hero, Simon Richardson, is not going to be around, and they know Sarah Ndiaye and Michael Lyon are not going to succeed him. This could mean a Council that is actually Green – bearing in mind that four of the current councillors are actually greener than The Greens.

I predict that over the next few months there are going to be many more attempts to ram through dodgy and desperate proposals; such as the $27 million loan for a solar farm, and the $70 million current money sought for road upgrades at Ewingsdale, without a Council vote. They will go hell for leather, and dirty tricks will be a central component of the strategy, a la Trump. The arbitrary harassment of Main Armians seems to be a taste of things to come.

Nor will Simon Richardson intervene; indeed I would guess that he knew in advance. As for Council’s letter to Main Arm residents early in September, its natural habitat is the rubbish bin; it lacks legal force.

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