Jo Faith, Newtown
The recent proposal by ex-Mayor Simon Richardson to Byron Councillors to approach the NSW Government Planning Department to rezone E4 Tourist zoning to Environmental Residential Zoning at Elements Resort should be of grave concern to Arakwal First Nation peoples, environmentalists, ratepayers, renters, locals and the Byron business community.
From a human point of view Elements have made a ‘puff’ gesture to persons wishing to access the beach. Should Elements’ privatisation residential rezoning occur, tourists and locals can still access the pathway to the beach. The rest of the resort is totally privatised, making alternative access to the Belongil prohibitive.
Will the land be rezoned residential with a sliver of zoning marked E4 tourist? Or is this gesture a gentleman’s agreement with the community?
Indeed, one can view aspects of social feudalism in this gesture. Claim the Commons and keep the nature lovers happy with a pathway to the beach. Just stick to the path and avoid any trespassing. The ratepayers pay for this gesture with blood sweat and tears!
Indeed, overall, the Belongil biodiversity has severely suffered as well as the social economic relations of whole Byron human community; which over time, further deals with the inability to be housed or employed in Byron Bay. The trickledown effect of such social/economic/land grab developmental relations is devastating to the habitat and wellbeing of all sentient beings.
Changing this zoning also raises economic and environmental questions. Does this rezoning mean that rates rise for Elements Resort? Do they pay extra for residential land? Or do ratepayers continue paying for this folly? Will the developer honour the rights of nature?
Ratepayers need to be aware that there is no ‘cap’ on rising rates. Byron Bay rates are now two-and-a-half times higher than those in inner Sydney. Sydney is a tourist town with an abundance of beaches, tourists (in non-COVID times) and infrastructure.
Should the Byron Community trust this ‘access to beach’ gesture? An examination of the history of Elements is most revealing and disturbing. A report by highly respected local activist/ecologist Dailan Pugh reveals deep concerns that address the dismissal of Nature’s Rights, and Federal Laws (Commonwealth EPBC Act Environment Protocols and Biodiversity Act ) that insist upon legal protocols for protecting biodiversity. This dismissal has been a consistent feature over years as Elements undertook modifications to the Resort.
Byron Council has approved four modifications since 2012–16 without requiring compliance with current planning and environmental laws. Neither did the proponents refer their proposal to the Federal Minister despite it significantly impacting numerous matters of national environmental significance (it’s a matter of trust).
Dailan Pugh’s review identifies six matters of national environmental significance that face sufficient threat by the modifications to the Resort to have warranted referral to the Federal Environment Minister for determination as a control action. These are:
- Critically Endangered Ecological Community Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets of Eastern Australia.
- Vulnerable Koala (Phascolarctos Cinereus).
- Vulnerable Long-nosed Potoroo.
- Vulnerable Wallum Sedge Frog.
- Vulnerable Stinking Cryptocarya Foetida.
- Migratory Shorebird Species
Finally, Dailan states:
‘It is readily apparent that NO adequate attempt has been made to survey for, consider impacts on, or adopt required mitigation measures for any of these matters of national environmental significance. The proponents maintain that their substantially modified development is a variation to a 1987 approval and therefore doesn’t require assessment in accordance with current NSW Laws. This is incorrect because S96 (3) of the Environmental Planning Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) requires the consent authority to take into consideration the relevant matters under S79C (1) in deciding the modification application. This requires consideration of, amongst other matters, relevant environmental planning instruments including Local Environmental Planning instruments including Local Environmental Plans (LEP), State Environmental Planning policies (SEPPS), likely impacts, and the suitability of the site. The modification is required to comply with current law.’
Byron Council seemed to be looking the other way during these modification periods. Where does trust fit with all of this?
Thanks to all activists, past and present, for ongoing care for this land and a deep apology to the First Nation Arakwal peoples. We will never give up on this struggle for nature’s rights.