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Byron Shire
January 25, 2021

A new policy sausage is made

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New to the area? Perhaps you have become Council-curious. If so, here’s a summary of perhaps the most significant item debated and voted upon at last Thursday’s Council meeting: the long awaited Residential Strategy.

The document sets out expected residential growth and how to manage it, and underpins the much loftier plan that actually has legislative weight: the Local Environment Plan (LEP).

During morning public access, mayoral hopeful, Matthew O’Reilly, raised doubts about discrepancies in the plan around industrial zoning, education and transport. For example, he claimed that Council didn’t include dwellings in industrial estates. 

There appeared little curiosity from councillors around his concerns after he spoke.

Other concerns about adopting the strategy were voiced by Greens mayoral hopeful Duncan Dey. He said in public access that it is poor planning to proceed without a coherent water and sewage strategy. See his letter on page 11.

While Cr Basil Cameron made noises of caution during debate, it was Cr Cate Coorey who went against the grain and challenged what would otherwise have been a done deal.

She presented an unexpected amendment to delay the plan and hold a workshop, citing among other things, to a ‘recent spike in the demand for properties and sudden inflation of property prices and the social and economic impacts thereof’; and, ‘water insecurity in view of the Rous Water proposal for Dunoon Dam, and limitations on capacity to dispose of sewage’.

Such impertinence upset Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye, who launched into a rather personal tirade against Cr Coorey.

Cr Ndiaye also complained, not for the first time, that she isn’t paid enough as a councillor and is overworked.

Fun fact: Cr Ndiaye appears to still want to continue as a councillor, or even run for mayor, in the 2021 Council election.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

Eventually the mayor got his way, with everyone except Cr Coorey supporting staff’s recommendation to adopt the policy with a few amendments.

And is that all that bad? The mayor argued during debate that such plans can be always amended later, and besides, there is a housing crisis on. We need more housing!

This sentiment is where Trojan Horse development sneaks in, of course, at the expense of the community and the area’s valued and unique biodiversity. 

It’s still unclear how there will ever be ‘affordable’ housing in a Shire where the government’s ‘affordable’ metric is tied to house prices that are out of the reach of lower and middle income earners.

Meanwhile, Cr Paul Spooner (Labor), who now Zooms in from the NSW South Coast, said during debate that the growth rate pegged in the plan is around one per cent, while population growth is 1.6 per cent. Nothing to worry about.

Cr Coorey made the point, however, that all of the public consultation that underpins this strategy was taken around two years ago.

And ain’t it a different world now.

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