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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Suffolk Park bike track

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Kerry Wright, Suffolk Park

Thank you Echo (10 February) for your support in publishing an informative article about the Council-approved Pump Track Stage 2 development at Suffolk Park. To clarify, I am not a homeowner there, and I never call teens ‘adolescents’ (they hate it). I have lived here for many years, am very interested in processes, voice, and conflict resolution, and have no fixed agenda. Small issues are no different from big ones, and apparently we are in the right astrological phase for dialogue with open hearts and open minds, in Australia and globally.

The pump track issue is much deeper than complaints about ‘teens on BMX bikes causing a ruckus’: it is about listening, consideration, voice, widening understanding, not dominating or bullying, avoiding subterfuge, truthful negotiation, environmental education, and understanding real community decision-making, and wisdom.

Currently, the ‘pump track plan’ (as published) has no scale, accuracy or logic. It does not have an EIS (environmental impact study) of the creek, or its impact on community (skateboards and teens are noisy, as the skate park section neighbours will attest), and is largely confidently fluffy communication without proper information, much less attempted negotiation. Many residents directly affected were not even informed, despite claims of consultation.

After being invited in, and interviewing many people, and gathering up facts, it is fair for me to say there are serious issues here. Cr Paul Spooner did reply, with common sense. Simon Richardson’s slightly patronising answers did not address the very real concerns, but most alarming was the process, re: Stage 2 approval. There is nothing around this decision that is different from a ‘large skate park’ behind the library, with serious money involved, when there is clearly a need for a well-deserved Arts and Cultural Centre in town. We might want to look at how to stabilise the town in a healthy liveable way, for all, not just access big money for the loudest interest groups. As a former teacher and humanitarian I am very aware of teenage dynamics, and needs, as I try to be with all groups and voices in our diverse culture.

In Margo Kingston’s lovely words ‘Conservationists – true conservatives –  have gifted special places to their descendents for generations’. The original donor of this Parkland, George Mitsios, an environmentalist and activist, would agree wholeheartedly. At present, the use of the park is diverse, aware of issues as they arise, and balanced. Constant noise and more traffic down that end will throw things out, big-time.

If this process was not flawed, there would be no loud outcry from intelligent adult residents. Ballina and Lennox Head BOTH rejected a pump track near residences.

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  1. Kerry, I’m all for good process too, but as far as the pump track goes there has been much consultation via public meetings – conducted by both Council and the Suffolk Park Progress Association (SPPA) – detailed documentation of total site layout and design, the development of a POM and several surveys giving wide opportunity for community feedback. All this consultation has been transparent and goes back over several years. The wheels of democracy grind slowly and this certainly hasn’t been a flash-in-the-pan decision.

    It was the result of the community’s strong support for a pump track that this vision was adopted by
    Council and why Council endorsed a SPPA application for a state government grant that was subsequently successful.

    It’s a considerable outlay, and it’s understandably not everyone’s priority, but the outlay comes from the $150,000 grant and Council section 94 funds. Interestingly, the NSW government determined the awarding of these grants on the basis of giving communities the chance to vote on their preferred project, further evidence of support for the pump track. Section 94 funds are derived from developer contributions and have legislated parameters for their expenditure including the need for them to be spent in the area they are garnered from.

    Some controversy has been created by the decision to allocate extra funds to the project but there are important considerations underpinning this issue.

    Firstly, the “phase 2” of the project is no more than the original vision for the project ie a track that would cater for a range of age groups and abilities, with sufficient complexity to offer long-term challenge and usage. As inevitably happens, this vision could not be achieved with the grant and allocated funds and, rightly or wrongly – but after the resolution was put through the normal processes of advertised agenda item – Council opted to allocate the extra funds. This did not involve taking up any more space than the initial footprint used as the basis of negotiations, nor should it alter any environmental or other impacts.

    The other consideration, that may underpin Council’s decision, is that there are very considerable monetary savings in completing phases 1&2 as one project. I’d see this decision as a budgetary adjustment rather than a clandestine plot to slip in something the community wasn’t expecting. The concept and infrastructure of a pump track is also very different from skateboard park. It is not a duplication of the facility planned for Byron.

    Much as we all might want a large Arts and Cultural Centre in town there are obvious constraints on using these buckets of money for that purpose. It’s also a bit rich to tell a community driven project it suddenly can’t happen, after years of consultation, planning and the winning of a grant, because at the eleventh hour some voices decide they want the money spent elsewhere or that they wanted the land for something else. What would ever get completed?

  2. Further – I’d get behind an initiative to achieve an Arts and Cultural Centre and I agree it would be marvellous. It was an interest in this area that prompted my early involvement with the precious space in the library that was originally envisioned as, and still labelled a “Community and Exhibition Space”.

    Unfortunately I watched in dismay as the assumption for its usage contracted to a rather limited and uninspiring room to accommodate purely visual art. I’ve watched in further dismay as its administration went from a Council committee of community volunteers to a Board of
    Management, putting it further away from a diverse community facility.

    Hardly anyone seemed to notice though or particularly care. As in any community, vigilance and involvement are needed if we want to shape outcomes.

  3. Yet again:

    One of the reasons the budget for the project came up short was the complexities of the site including the extensive environmental assessments and restraints required like the area being designated a no-fill zone etc.

    The labels Phase 1&2 are confusing. Phases 1&2 WERE the original concept. When this could not initially be afforded the designers were asked to produce plans for two possibilities : a project in budget as well as separate additions that could later be funded but encompassed the original vision. There are considerable savings to be made if work is completed while crew and equipment are already on site and operating on the basis of one project.


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