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April 16, 2024

Former Byron mayor recuses himself from large eco-resort DA decision

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Former Byron Mayor Simon Richardson
Greens Mayor Simon Richardson. Photo David Hancock.

Former Byron Shire mayor, Simon Richardson, will not be voting on a large eco-resort DA, called the Linnaeus Estate, located in rare littoral rainforest along Broken Head beach frontage. 

Richardson is a member of the Northern Regional Planning Panel, which overrides Council’s decision making on large and significant DAs. 

They will decide upon the contentious Linnaeus Estate DA on October 19.

Richardson was appointed as member to the Planning Panel by councillors unanimously in April 2022, after quitting as mayor in April 2021.

During his term as mayor, Richardson was supportive of developing the ecologically sensitive land when it was before Council. 

This week, Council staff released a report roundly criticising the DA proposal, owing, in part, to serious environmental concerns (See: Exclusive beach eco-tourist proposal not so eco-friendly).

According to NSW Government Boards and Committees Remuneration documents, a Planning Panel member earns $39,463 pa, yet can also earn $1,435 per day ‘under special circumstances’.

It’s now the second DA assessment Richardson will not vote upon as a Planning Panel member, with the first being Council’s large bio energy facility proposal in Byron Bay. That facility was approved by the panel in May 2022, yet Council are yet to announce how it will be funded, since its grant application was recently rejected by The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). 

Last week, The Echo asked the Northern Regional Planning Panel if Richardson would vote on the Linnaeus DA with the panel, as concerns were raised that he had a potential conflict of interest, ‘and has aired comments publicly via social media around this proposal which are incorrect’.

A statement was supplied by a spokesperson for the Northern Regional Planning Panel: ‘Mr Richardson has declared a conflict of interest and won’t be on the panel’.

‘Planning Panels are independent of the Department of Planning and Environment, which only provides administrative assistance’.

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  1. A great % of the ‘LInnaeus Estate’ is already cleared with pockets of ‘littoral rainforest’ and bush preserved.
    It has been sympathetically ecologically developed as a private resort – why would their clients go there otherwise ?
    [Go there and see for yourself – rather than eco-sniping from the sidelines, EG – MIlledge and others.

    • Let me get this straight…. Rob L, you’re claiming by your viewing of the site, you have greater understanding of all the environmental values threatened by this sham development AND have greater ecological knowledge of the site than David Milledge? Wow who needs planning instruments & processes? I’d like to try & see things from your viewpoint but there’s no way I could fit my head that far up there

      • Obviously from your comments you haven’t actually been there M. Clarke – you seen to rely unthinkingly on your hand-picked eco-experts.
        Perhaps a site-inspection by all planners + objectors may be helpful in this matter ?

        • Perhaps adherence to DA processes, existing zonings & DA approval conditions would be helpful in this matter & avert any need for a “site-inspection” [sic].
          Your series of posts on this proposal shows that you approach it from a perspective that all developers can be trusted to do the all right things, & all developments are good. The history outlined in the above article & Mr Lazarus comments below both demonstrate the opposite.
          BTW Rob, I’ve seen this site & like the council planners who zoned the land & previously applied conditions, I saw it very differently to the way you & the developers portray. Furthermore not all the site values are evident in a simple “site-inspection” (why a hypen anyway?) which is why the legislation requires a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report. Basic stuff, DA lodgement 101, so when the trustworthy developer fails the basics they increase the size & estimated value to bypass council. Now what part don’t you understand? Or was M. Clarke correct in his observation? Bit of pattern – slagging off Dr Walker & Mr Milledge on the same day. Why stop when you’re on a roll, who’s next on your list of experts?

        • Hi Rob, you’re wrong, I know the site & I never hand-picked Mr Milledge, you did, though I acknowledge his expertise as the pre-eminent ecologist of the shire & his detailed knowledge of that site would surpass yours & mine combined. When you try ridicule people with such knowledge you look an even greater fool. (Thanks Nat good job)

  2. This is developers planning creep – first you get Consent for a low key educational facility, then you add on some housing, and then you turn it into a Tourist Resort. Brandon Saul is a part of this LInnaeus Estate Tourist development. He used the same strategy with Habitat – that got Consent for a light industrial development, with a workers canteen (with reduced parking requirements and reduced developer contributions as it was ‘largely for the site workers’) that has now turned into a similar development as the shopping centre and apartments opposite, and with a now larger licenced public restaurant and other cafe outlets, and with originally attached work/live apartments separated and used for just accommodation and holiday letting. Sauls also got the Contract from Council to develop the adjacent Lot 12 development, of which he will retain a part of that land for…? (Council wanted to give him a part of the Lot 12 as payment for him developing the rest for Council, but even the State Govt rejected Council gifting land to him, so Council then Adopted to sell a part of the land only to him – not put it up publicly for sale for the best price

  3. Time for another moratorium on development in Byron Shire. It’s past madness that the Land and Environment Court saw fit to approve the West Byron development-on a flood plain!!-when the area was coping with the worst flood in history.

    Too many people worked hard for many years to stop this destruction of the natural environment and now some cashed up speculators are cashing in big time. They need to take their ‘eco-developments’ to the Gold Coast where they’ll fit in nicely. None of these developments will provide affordable housing for born and bred locals who can no longer afford to live here.

    PS: The last thing we need at Christmas, when the place is already full of holiday makers, is a large ‘music festival’-on another flood plain- for tens of thousands, which even the Land and Environment Court found was not a suitable development for that site. As we saw earlier this year, they were right. Just hope there’s just enough rain to keep the ground sodden so that the ‘event’ is cancelled to protect those planning to attend-and the local community-from another disaster.


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