There are a few times when a tiny violin is required to be taken out of its small instrument case to sooth the sounds of the monied class.
It’s needed to play as they whine about whatever it is that stops them from making even more money.
Now is one of those times.
At last week’s Council meeting, a parade of developer reps stood/Zoomed before our erstwhile councillors and moaned about the prohibitive cost to develop in Byron Shire.
It’s too expensive, they bleated, and the cost is waaaaay more than other councils when temporarily hiring footpaths and road reserves to build large commercial buildings.
When the foot soldiers of wealthy developers finished their speeches, councillors said nothing.
So, given the absence of councillor curiosity as to why that expense was imposed in the first place, let’s explore why.
For years, the general consensus from residents was they didn’t want to entice large developments in Byron.
We are different, we told ourselves, and we are not the Gold Coast. Almost all councillors would agree with the sentiment, of course. Yet, as anyone with a cursory interest in politics knows, once a politiican is elected, ambitions take hold, and they begin the sad exercise in selling one vision to the public, while actually voting for another. Deception and public persuasion is, after all, a core business activity of politics.
The reason why costs were high to develop in Byron was to maintain pressure on developers and maintain the low-key vibe of the town. Giving wealthy developers free rein, for example, results in places like the Gold Coast. It’s always a good time to ask ourselves if that’s what we want for the future of the Shire.
Being different from the Gold Coast requires councillor knowledge of planning law and the courage to implement reform. Policy levers matter, and what councillors voted for last week was a weakening of a policy lever to favour large commercial developers.
And Byron’s development activity doesn’t look to be suffering, despite whatever the developer’s foot soldiers complain about.
Meanwhile, height limits in the town keep being pushed and pushed, thanks to a Council too scared to defend themselves in court or willing to strengthen planning policies.
Wealthy property developers already have a massive advantage over individual community members who are affected by their DAs, for example. The laws and courts are in favour of development. If Byron wants to be different, it starts with councillors implementing clear policy around what the community expects. Otherwise, it’s a lot of empty rhetoric claiming to want one thing and then voting for another.