Byron Council is holding its ground in the fight to protect a collection of Cypress Pines located in a Brunswick Heads holiday park, refusing an application that would have likely further decimated the endangered ecological community.
But local residents say the company responsible for the facility, Reflections Holiday Parks, is still continuing to amputate large branches from the trees, even while the matter is before the courts.
The pines in The Terrace holiday park have been the focus of a community-led preservation campaign for more than a decade.
The trees have a high level of both environmental and heritage value, having been home to native species on the site for more than half a century.
Reflections Holiday Parks, which is a NSW government-run corporation, recently submitted an activity application that seeks, among others things, to expand its use of the southern part of the park where the pines are located.
If approved, the application would override a previous condition forbidding the company from conducting any activity in that part of the park and requiring it to remove any infrastructure where it was safe to do so.
Council has, to this point, held back on approving the recent application in the hope that an agreement could be reached to preserve the pines.
Reflections takes Council to court
However, Reflections responded to this delay by launching proceedings in the Land and Environment Court for deemed refusal of its application. The proceedings are continuing.
At last week’s meeting, councillors unanimously voted to formally refuse the activity application.
‘If Reflections don’t adapt and redesign their plans for the park, it’s a loss for the community,’ Mayor Simon Richardson said. ‘We need Reflections to reflect Council and community values’.
During the public access section of the meeting, John Dunn from the Brunswick Heads Progress Association presented a series of pictures that appeared to show that Reflections had been amputating large branches from the pines in recent months, despite the ongoing fight over their future.
‘This failure [to protect the pines] has a long history,’ Mr Dunn said. ‘It’s death by a thousand cuts.’
In a report to last week’s meeting, Council planner Ben Grant said it was ‘clear, based on the available information, that the Holiday Park has degraded the pines in the Southern Precinct over several decades, and these effects are likely to continue into the future, unless ameliorative actions are taken’.
A Reflections spokesperson told The Echo they ‘totally refute’ the claim they had consistently amputated Cypress Pine tree limbs from the site, when it was not necessary to do so.
Additionally, The Echo asked, ‘How does Reflections respond to Council’s decision to refuse the activity application?’ They replied that they would continue to pursue the matter, ‘as planned, through the Land and Environment Court process’.
It’s pleasing to see Reflections openly admits that it is violating its obligations as the Crown Land Managers to protect the endangered ecological community of coastal cypress pines in the southern end of the Terrace Reserve. This ecological community consists of a variety of plant and animal species that exist beneath the pine tree canopy, not just the trees themselves. I must agree that Reflections has not “consistently” amputated limbs from the cypress pines. If it did this consistently, there would be no forest left. However, Reflections has consistently damaged the community by removing all of the lower branches in 2008 to allow vehicular access under the canopy. This has led to the total destruction of the understorey and severe damage to the fragile root systems and consequently the health of the trees. The very actions of Reflections in attacking the forest has led to the need for further damage for “safety” reasons. As independent ecologists have determined, camping is simply not compatible with the survival of the endangered ecological community. Council staff and councillors should be commended for their refusal of Reflections’ application.