Requests for councillors to halt an aggressive pursuit of unauthorised dwellings in Main Arm fell on deaf ears at last week’s Council meeting.
Representing Main Arm Residents Association (MARA), former councillor and aspiring Greens mayor, Duncan Dey, requested councillors table an urgency motion during public access.
The suggested motion asked that Council ‘cease hinterland action on perceived unauthorised dwellings’. The request further sought that if Council were to resume the program they ‘do so only after considering public submissions on its Draft Unauthorised Dwellings Policy’ and ‘after resolving to adopt such a policy’.
However, the request was ignored, despite Councillor Michael Lyon acknowledging that the draft policy and letter was ‘waffle’ and that the current approach was ‘not productive’ and is ‘scaring people’ as pointed out by MARA representative Matthew Lambourne.
‘The request went in writing to the councillors and the general manager and was repeated in public access, but was ignored,’ Mr Dey told The Echo, following the meeting.
‘It is disappointing that the councillors couldn’t even pause the process until the public have had the first opportunity to comment on the policy, which should also outline the procedure that is already underway starting with the robo letters.’
Responding to detailed questions from The Echo on the policy and letter, Byron Shire Council staff again contradicted themselves.
At the previous Council meeting of September 17, Shannon Burt, Director Sustainable Environment and Economy, stated that the letter sent to Upper Main Arm residents was ‘a show cause letter – not an enforcement letter.’
Yet a Council spokesperson stated on September 28 that, ‘The letter sent to residents was not a letter of demand or a show cause letter’, leaving residents unsure of the implications of the letter.
‘The aim of the letter is to initiate a conversation between Council and those landowners who may have unauthorised dwellings located on their property’, the spokesperson states.
‘Council’s Enforcement team works on a wide range of matters and over the next 15 months its focus will also include unauthorised dwellings.
‘Council’s message to residents who may have unauthorised dwellings is to contact staff so any problems/issues can be clarified and resolved’.
Are you next?
Ms Burt had previously laid out that the next areas targeted with letters would be: Goonengerry, Upper Coopers Creek, Coopers Creek, Palm Woods, Federal, Huonbrook, Coorabell, Wanganui, Wilsons Creek, Possum Creek, and Koonyum Range. Questions from The Echo asking if council staff would continue to send out further letters to residents in Byron Shire were not answered by either councillors or council staff.
NSW Greens spokesperson for Planning, Jamie Parker, told The Echo that while Council does have a legal responsibility in relation to safety of buildings and fire risk, ‘It is clear that it needs a light touch. These [people] aren’t developers’.
‘What’s clear is that there are many legacy issues. Following the Aquarius Festival, many people were following their hearts. Things need to be addressed on their merits.
‘The community would hope they were being flexible – but making sure a building is safe’.