‘It looks like a duck, it’s quacking like a duck and it’s walking like a duck – so don’t tell me it’s a chicken.’
And with those immortal words from Greens Byron Mayor Simon Richardson, the application for a ‘primitive campground’ at MacLeods Shoot was plucked.
The plan, which came before last week’s Byron Council planning meeting, seemed pretty reasonable at first blush.
The owners of the 13.5-hectare St Helena Road property were seeking permission to set up eight camping spots so that tourists and other visitors could stay on the site.
Having planted 21,000 native trees on the picturesque escarpment site, their proposal appeared well suited. But a closer look revealed that the proposal was not exactly ‘primitive’ as required under the 7d Scenic Escarpment zoning.
Think ‘heyday of the British Raj’ and you get the idea.
‘We wish to address the notion that what would be constructed are removable, temporary tents as required by the zoning,’ concerned neighbours Phillip and Margaret McMurdo said in a letter that was read to the meeting.
‘The tents proposed here are fixed to the land. They consist of a timber floor, timber framing fixed to it … a bath, a shower, a toilet and kitchenette.
‘And above that is a fixed PVC roof.’
The local planning firm that wrote the application – Ardill Payne and Partners – sought to emphasise that the proposal would have little or no visual or environmental impact.
‘The [wooden] platforms will stay on site and unoccupied tents will be removed,’ Mr Roberts said.
Six hour packdown
‘It will take about four-to-six hours to take down.’
But these arguments failed to cut any ice with the majority of the councillors.
It didn’t help that the manufacturer of the safari tents described them on their website as ‘high-end glamping villas’ and ‘eco-resort luxury accommodation’.
Also somewhat unhelpful was the fact that, according to Council staff, the property’s owners have been using it as a wedding venue without permission.
And they had already built an unauthorised safari tent underneath a set of powerlines.
‘The issue I have is that it isn’t what it says it is,’ Cr Richardson said.
‘For us to say: “this is a piece of land being used as an unauthorised wedding venue, and we’re putting basically permanent structures on it,” is sending the wrong signal.
‘We need to send a clear message as to what we’re expecting on these sites.’
And with that, the proposal was cooked like a chook.
All but one councillor, Labor’s Jan Hackett, voted to support a staff recommendation that it be refused, leaving the owners with little choice but to scratch around for a new proposal.