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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

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Legal system fails to keep kids safe

Fifteen years ago, Karen Bell’s three children – Bon 18 months, Maddie 5, and Jack 7, were found with their dead father Gary Bell in a vehicle at Perico – a collapsed hippy colony on the NSW far south coast.

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Rally in Byron against Gaza war

Locals are being called to join in a rally at Byron Bay this Saturday at 2pm calling on the Australian government to take action against the deaths of Palestinians in the invasion of Gaza by Israel. 

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Flood 2022

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Bimbo Jimbo

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Cartoon of the week – 22 May, 2024

The letters deadline for The Echo is noon Friday. Letters longer than 200 words may be cut. The publication of letters is at the discretion of the letters editor.

Pickleball takes Alstonville by storm as new courts open

Alstonville now boasts tournament-standard pickleball courts that opened to an enthusiastic crowd and players last Saturday despite the rain.

Matthew O’Reilly

President of CABS and a proud member of the NEW Byron Greens team

It seems that some readers have taken my comments on the 2021 Land and Environment Court Decisions (Sked v Byron Shire Council) out of context.

My statement in January 2021 (in the context of the Sked decision) was, ‘This is another example where it is the Byron LEP 2014 and the Byron DCP 2014 which have failed the community. The 2014 LEP which was adopted under Sol Ibrahim, Rose Wachap and Simon Richardson is a PRO DEVELOPMENT LEP and moved significantly away from the precedents of the older 1988 LEP developed by Green Councillors and Mayor Jan Barham over 20 years’.

I was NOT saying that the 1988 LEP was solely developed by Jan Barham or Green Councillors. I used the term ‘developed’ similar to the way a sour dough ‘develops’ after it has first been made. The 1988 LEP and the sour dough were not perfect when they were first made but were ‘developed’ to satisfaction over time.

I was also clear that I was talking about the 20 years from 1994 to 2014 which corresponds to the 1995 Byron council election campaign when the Byron Community Action Network (CAN) was first established and a number of Byron Greens candidates were elected. The strong progressive and Green vote in 1995 was in response to a pro-development council running the Shire from 1991 to 1995 that left council with a $7m debt, polluted waterways and a number of large inappropriate developments.

Sharon Shostock’s film, Mullumbimby’s Magic -The Culture of 70s-80s Part 2 – Activism & Politics, shows Jan Barham acknowledging, congratulating and thanking previous councils for their foresight and achievements. She also acknowledged that during her time on council it was a guiding principle to continue the great work that was done by previous councils and progressives such as Anudhi Wentworth, Rhonda Ellis, Richard Staples, Hugh Emacora and Jenny Coman.

The Byron LEP 1988 was adopted in 1988 but was subsequently amended by Greens dominated Councils over 140 times. The Byron DCP was amended even more often and was completely replaced in 2010.

The 1988 LEP and DCP which served the community so well for almost thirty years were replaced by a state-mandated Standard Instrument and in parts by the Exempt and Complying Development SEPP.

It was the ALP who initiated the state wide Standard Instrument and a state wide Exempt and Complying Development SEPP, which in effect wiped out many of the significant planning rules that had been implemented under the Byron LEP 1988. That LEP was what differentiated us from any other councils in NSW, as the values we hold and the pressures we face are quite unique.

My recent comments about planning suggested that we have seen stronger rules to protect the environment and social amenity under the previous documents (including the 1988 LEP, the 2010 DCP and the Rural Land Use Strategy of 1998).

My statements argued that during former Greens Mayor Jan Barham’s time on council there had been strident commitment to maintaining, preserving and updating the many planning protections that had been initiated under the ground breaking 1988 LEP. I was not suggesting that she and the councils she served on were solely responsible for all those protections.

During the 1990’s and 2000’s, council recognised the value of its LEP and DCP and applied the lessons learnt from legal cases and contemporary ecological thinking. These Councils responded to negative social impacts by continually amending the LEP to maintain its strength and reacting to ongoing inappropriate development when technical failings were pointed out.

We are continually frustrated and disappointed at State governments foisting inappropriate State wide planning rules on our Shire such as its inappropriate Short Term Holiday Accommodation rules that remove dwellings from long term housing pool but are supported by both the ALP and the Coalition.

The current council has missed opportunities to stand up to the government and present a case for why Byron Shire shouldn’t be included in those state wide planning rules. The protection of our natural environment, our heritage, social amenity and our major industry (tourism) are vital for our future. Let’s not forget that Byron’s attraction is that it is different, due to decades of protection by the many progressive people who represented the community on our council.

Many of us are grateful for the decades of progressive thinking that shaped this place.  I am standing for council in the hope of maintaining the values and ensuring strong protections in our planning instruments.

I use the term ‘progressive’ as a person favouring social reform whereas I believe that some others incorrectly use it in relation to the ongoing development of the Shire as a form of ‘progress’.  That type of ‘progress’ saw the colonisation of the Arakwal and Bandjalung people; the whaling Industry; the collapse of Byron Shire’s dairy farming, fishing and banana industries; and the rise of Short Term Holiday Letting, unaffordable rents and McMansions.

As a Greens candidate for the 2021 Byron Shire Council elections I do not support everything that the current Greens Councillors have resolved over the last five years. Yet for every decision I disagree with there are probably ten that I do agree with. You may not hear of the things we agree on as they are usually quite uncontroversial and not newsworthy.

I have been a member of the Byron Greens for over two years and before that I was a member of the NT Greens for many years. In my time with the Greens I have found the average Greens member to be respectful, intelligent, passionate about protecting our environment and biodiversity, disillusioned with the mainstream neo-liberal, capitalist economic landscape and committed to making positive change in our community and society.

These are all ideals that I believe in and uphold. Any talk of disunity in the  Byron Greens is just a distraction that those seeking to profit from our Shire are using to try and divide us.

20 years of Green Councils from 1995 to 2015 have created the Byron Shire that is the envy of the world and as a consequence is attracting profiteers like vultures looking for a sign of weakness. We can give in to the vultures or continue to move towards a different and more Green future.


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  1. Hi

    Most readers lose interest after about two paragraphs. And so it is with me although I was most interested in the reference to “the mainstream neo-liberal capitalistic landscape”. I am not sure how I managed to get that far. I you sure you are in the right party?


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Homelessness service funded – but only for a year

With 2024 Street Count data indicating a 16 per-cent increase in rough sleepers in Byron Shire, the NSW government has responded to say that the previously-announced Assertive Outreach team will receive $1.3m in funding for a year.

Rally demands action over Gaza

As the crisis in Gaza continues to escalate, a march through Byron’s streets last Saturday demanded immediate action from the Australian Labor government to stop the genocide and mass starvation of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza.

New witnesses in long-running kambo inquest

Proceedings reopened in Byron Bay Courthouse yesterday in what is expected to be the final stage of the long-running coronial inquest into the death of Jarrad Antonovich.

Police appeal again to locate man missing from Mullumbimby

Police are again appealing for public assistance to locate Gage Wilson, a man missing from Mullumbimby, since Saturday, 18 May.