Brunswick Heads residents are concerned that the managers of the Terrace Reserve Holiday Park are failing to stick to a court-ordered plan for the park, resulting in a potential loss of public access to the precious Brunswick River foreshore.
The state-owned corporation that manages the sprawling riverside camping ground – Reflections Holiday Parks – is currently undertaking compulsory works that were ordered by the Land and Environment Court in a judgment handed down on May 25.
The judgment was the outcome of a long-running dispute between Reflections and Byron Council over the former’s proposed Plan of Management (PoM) for the southern section of the park.
This included a dispute over boundaries, and the environmentally and historically significant Coastal Cypress Pine Forest community located in the park that were being damaged as part of the operations of the park.
As part of a court settlement between the two parties, the judge ordered Reflections to implement a detailed Community Plan on the site that set out carefully delineated areas for camping, and others which were to be protected.
However, members of the Foreshore Protection Group and the Brunswick Heads Progress Association say that the state-owned corporation is failing to properly implement the plan.
‘We want the court orders implemented according to the law, not Reflections’ sub-standard, profit-seeking manner,’ Michelle Grant from the Foreshore Protection Group said.
‘We want Council to do its job as license provider and compliance officers and not turn a blind eye to what’s going on in our crown reserves.’
A key concern among residents is the restriction of access to public land. Ms Grant says that Reflections are failing to ensure that there is a clear three-metre buffer zone between the campground and Simpsons Creek, as set out in the court-sanctioned Community Plan.
This buffer zone is essential for public access to the river, including the creation of a public walkway along the riverbank which residents say has been included in multiple Council plans and policies.
‘Our public walkway/buffer zone has been included in every Plan of Management (PoM) for Terrace Park since 2000,’ Ms Grant said.
‘It was included in the 2014 PoM, and in the revised 2017/18 concept drawings endorsed by BSC. Why should we miss out now?
‘Terrace Park remains the only section along the riverfront between the Bowling Club and Ferry Reserve that obstructs public access.’
Ms Grant said that the Foreshore Protection Group and Brunswick Heads Progress Association had written to Council and Reflections management about this issue, as well as about their concern that fencing around a coastal pine regeneration area had been inadequate.
Independent Byron councillor and mayoral candidate, Cate Coorey, has moved a motion seeking greater Council scrutiny of Reflections’ ongoing works.
Coming before this week’s full Council meeting, the motion urges staff to contact Reflections management and assert that any site plan for the park must be interpreted with the minimum setbacks and buffers as agreed by the Land & Environment Court ruling.
It also seeks the drafting of a new Community Plan that accurately depicts the actual minimum setbacks and buffers.
However, Reflections has consistently maintained that it is sticking precisely to the terms of the court settlement and all other applicable plans and policies.
This position is supported by Council staff in their response to Cr Coorey’s motion.
‘Based on the available information, there appears to be no inconsistencies between the operational boundaries of the park outlined in the PoM and the approved community plan,’ staff said.
Crucially, staff said there was currently no requirement for a public pedestrian walkway along the foreshore of Simpsons Creek.
No requirement for public walkway
Council staff said, ‘Previous strategic planning documents for The Terrace did include the requirement for a foreshore pathway, however, these provisions were not carried forward into the 2014 Plan of Management’.
Page 48 of the PoM acknowledges there have been previous proposals for a foreshore pathway, but concludes that the physical attributes of the site, and the presence of significant vegetation, dictate that the proposal should not be pursued within the timeframe of the PoM.
In relation to concerns about the three-metre buffer zone, staff said that they had inspected the site earlier this month, and found that ‘most of the bollards and survey pegs were identified as being three metres from the top bank’ of the river.
‘There is no need to redraft a new community plan. The approved community plan is consistent with the boundaries identified in the PoM. Even if such a plan were drafted, it would have no legal effect and would be an aspirational document only’.