After more than 30 years of talk, debate, disagreements, tears and political gridlock, Byron Bay has a new road to divert traffic from the CBD to the southern end of town.
The new $24m road runs down Butler Street, and turns left, emerging where Mitre 10 and Byron Music are located, at the end of Jonson Street.
Greens Mayor, Simon Richardson, joined Nationals MLC, Ben Franklin, on Saturday, ‘in a 1977 Bay Kombi van, to do an official first lap of the new road’.
Yet elected Greens MP for the region, Tamara Smith, told The Echo she declined an invitation to attend.
She said, ‘As usual in politics, anyone that was championing for better protections for the environment or for the protection of the Butler Street heritage neighbourhood was anti-bypass. Inversely, anyone who wanted the road was portrayed as anti-environment and indifferent to the plight of residents. Until we get beyond these binaries, we will keep getting win/lose scenarios’.
Biobanking ‘a joke’
Ms Smith said the ‘environment definitely lost out with the bypass’ and the project’s environmental offsets, or biobanking agreements, ‘are a joke’.
Biobanking allows like-for-like fauna and flora to be removed and relocated elsewhere to make way for development. It’s a practice that is unsupported by environmental scientists and the NSW Greens.
She said, ‘Can a unique human be offset? Of course not! Then why do we think endangered species can simply be replaced by something else, somewhere else?
‘We know that environmentally sensitive wetlands and more than 100 critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snails, as well as a peaceful heritage neighbourhood were all sacrificed for a new road and bypass. Was it worth it?’
‘So often, we look at individual instances of the destruction of biodiversity and say oh well, it’s only 100 snails. But who watches for the total impacts of the death from a thousand cuts? The planet does, and the consequences for humans are dire, as we know, let alone for the thousands of species on track for extinction’.
Meanwhile, the mayor spruiked Council’s largest ever infrastructure project as more than just a new road.
He said in a press release there are ‘three new roundabouts and almost two kilometres of new shared path and footpath’.
Largest ever project
The project has been mired in cost blowouts, delays and poor governance from the start, with environmental issues and strong resident opposition, including court cases.
Council staff admit the traffic is expected to be alleviated by around 20 per cent for the short term.
Despite the lack of scientific support, Mr Franklin and Cr Richardson claimed positive environmental outcomes from biobanking agreements.
Mr Franklin said, ‘While 1.5 hectares of vegetation was impacted to construct stage two of the project, an additional 44.5 hectares of similar vegetation is now protected in perpetuity as a result of two approved biobanking agreements at Lilli Pilli and Wallum Place’.
Cr Richardson added Council had ‘invested $81,700 towards the regeneration of 17.5 hectares of potential Mitchell’s rainforest snail habitat at Sunrise Boulevard Bushland, Butler Street Reserve and Midgen Swamp Reserve in Suffolk Park’.
Additional environmental outcomes, according to Council, were ‘10,068 new shrubs and trees planted, 900 metres of new fauna protection fencing, installation of a fauna underpass and 840 metres of bioswales to filter pollutants from stormwater runoff into the wetlands’.