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Byron Shire
December 3, 2022

Cr Bird ‘beyond devastated’ over Hepburn Park

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Since day one of the floods Cr Elly Bird has put her time and energy into flood recovery. Photo supplied.

Across the Northern Rivers there are families who are still homeless after the February and March floods and solutions to the problems are not coming thick and fast. For many the hope of a housing pod, though temporary, is the only hope of a home in the near future.

The issue is emotional and frustrating and Tuesday evening’s Lismore Council meeting saw more debate about how, and more importantly, where to house those in need.

Yesterday The Echo spoke to Lismore Councillor Elly Bird who along with Councillors Vanessa Ekins and Darlene Cook moved a rescission motion in the hopes of changing Council’s mind over the August meeting resolution to exclude Hepburn Park from the list of possible sites provided to the NSW government for pods.

Cr Bird says Councillors Peter Colby, Jeri Hall, Andrew Bing, Andrew Gordon, Electra Jensen and Big Rob, blocking the rescission clearly showed that they are completely disconnected from the trauma and devastation that the community is living with every single day. ‘They voted against a very reasonable middle ground to provide some temporary accommodation on a portion only of Hepburn Park. 

Beyond devastated

‘I am beyond devastated. I have spent every single day and every waking hour since February supporting people whose lives have been torn apart and this decision is absolutely shameful. 

‘Not once have any of those people visited either Resilient Lismore or the Koori Mail, in nearly nine months they have never walked through the door or asked if there is anything they can do to help. They have no idea what people are living with or how complex and impossible it is to secure housing for those who need it most. From where I sit they have totally failed in their duty to serve our community. From the comfort of their safe and privileged lives they have abandoned the people they were elected to serve. 

Cr Bird was particularly hurt and offended by comments made by Councillor Rob whose arguments against Hepburn Park as a location for pods included citing his own experience as an accommodation manager. ‘Let me tell you, in these boardinghouse rooms I manage, we don’t get told what someone’s history is. What happens is, every now and then police come through and arrest someone for being a paedophile. So this is in a place with 40 rooms, we don’t know who’s coming in, and we’re going to put that right next to kids playing sport?’

Utterly, utterly shameful

‘Cr Rob referred to paedophiles and drug addicts in his speech, clearly labelling the thousands of ordinary people who have nowhere to go as unsavoury and unworthy,’ said Cr Bird.

‘Utterly, utterly shameful. I have been proud to serve Lismore Council for the past six years but today I am ashamed. We deserve real leaders who care and who have the courage and moral fortitude to make uncomfortable decisions in the best interest of the people we serve. To anyone in our community who this decision affects I am so sorry and I hope you take comfort that there are many, many other people in this community who see your suffering and are working as hard as they can to help.’

Cr Bird said Tuesday’s meeting was one of the most difficult she has ever had to sit in. ‘I’ve been in some challenging debates since I was elected but nothing has ever come close to the feeling of a majority of Councillors voting to refuse a proposal that attempted to meet the fundamental, basic human right of providing shelter for our displaced community.

‘Lismore was the most heavily impacted community in this disaster of epic scale and I am shocked and appalled that compassion was not the primary factor in making this decision. Instead, it seems that Councillors have been motivated by their anger with Resilience NSW and voted accordingly except it is the people who are desperate for housing who are the ones that get punished.

There is a disconnect

‘I can’t help feeling that there is a disconnect and that they just don’t understand the scale and complexity of what is happening in our community. I see many people every day who are homeless because of the floods. Those people desperately need housing.’

Cr Bird said the arguments that were put forward in the Chamber were hollow, misinformed and insulting. ‘There were numerous suggestions that flood survivors are drug addicts and alcoholics who can’t be trusted to live in “nice” neighbourhoods, or to live close to a club where they would be gambling and drinking.

‘We had a very reasonable middle ground on the table to provide some temporary accommodation on a portion only of Hepburn Park. The motion was a compromise that addressed all of the community concerns that had previously been raised – in fact, there was not a single person who spoke against the motion [during Public Access] in the Chamber.

‘It’s my understanding that with the refusal of this motion, Resilience NSW will continue to work to provide housing however they can, by expanding other pod villages, and through further promotion of the Caravan at Home program through Camplify, but they are very challenged to find enough housing for everyone who needs it.’

‘I am devastated’

After the vote Cr Bird excused herself from the Chamber. ‘At the end of the debate and after the vote I couldn’t stay in the Chamber. I am devastated that this has happened and that a message, deliberate or not, has been clearly sent to our community that a majority of Councillors do not care about them.

‘Like many other people in our community, I am exhausted by this recovery and I couldn’t just sit there and vote on any other business that was before us. There is nothing more important to me than caring for our community and I can’t understand why it isn’t the unified and singular priority of our entire Council.

‘If there is anyone in our community reading this who this decision affects. I am so sorry and I hope you take comfort that there are many, many other people in this community who see your suffering and are working as hard as they can to help.’


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29 COMMENTS

  1. I really don’t know what Big Rob’s job experience has to do with pods?, and I don’t appreciate being judged by his standards, because that’s what it feels like.
    Gross people can be anywhere, isn’t that what gross people do and why we have police?, supermarkets, football matches or any public place, could have a wierdo lurking,.
    Ridiculous and insulting using it as an excuse not to help flood victims.

  2. I understand your devastation, Elly. The whole damn situation looks as if the bulk of Council are no better than a pack of uncaring scathing brats.
    Could be ‘shock jocks’ is more to the point. No brainers do not get the genuine hurt of others. Try to arrange a ‘talk’ with Lifeline so these fools
    may get some focus on reality. Hell isn’t on holiday in Lismore.

    • The mayor proposes a study tour around the world for himself and a couple of others what a numptie through and through …
      remember how quickly he got his business up and running again with very few free coffees given out … isnt there a teacher shortage lol

  3. so why has elly bird been against the north lismore residential development for years!

    that should have been built 10 years ago if it wasnt for the protests and legal challenges of which shes supported or at least has not tried to support the developers, who were trying to provide flood free housing

    political games here , 40 pods vs hundreds of house sites that could already be ready to go…that is what really is shameful, the previous councils poor handling of housing and development, total NIMBYs!

    what goes around comes around, i just feel sorry for all those affected, stop making this political and get on with north lismore, I have absolutely no connection to the development, its just a reasonable and good proposal.

    What about that land council gave away to mickey ryan , why can’t we use that for pods ?

    • How true Mick.
      Cnr Bird + her council-comrades past and present have a lot to answer for in LIsmore.
      But ‘London to a brick’ I bet they don’t even realise it yet – probably never wil, l living as they do in their righteous cocoons.
      On one level the green counsellors are “all for the community”.
      On the other hand, they are opposed to everything that tends to mitigate our housing problem post-flood 28/2/22.
      [I’ m thinking of the word…Hmm..I think it begins with an ‘Hy…’
      Maybe more politically it’s just ‘having their cake and eating it’.

      • Elly – I was referring to the eco-problems in council by greens over North Lismore Plateau and other needed subdivision development in LIsmore – not your other ‘resilience’-type projects, which are generally commendable.

      • Hi Elly

        If you have voted to support it at the council meetings, then I apologise for the incorrect claims, however the previous council(s) that you were a part of never got it going at least, its been deadlocked for years, and I never saw you going out on a limb to support it.

        I do also commend you on your work with the flood affected.

      • I.e. why don’t you or any other councillors put forward a motion to fast-track and assist with the north lismore residential development, it seems a no brainer, we could allocate a huge chunk of that area to relocated houses from south and north lismore, its nearby and keep people in the same neighbourhood. If council / state gov assisted with payment of some of the services, in reciept of land from the developer to allocated to relocated dwellings from north and south lismore. This could be done quickly, and save the need for pod villages, and have long-term investment outcomes rather than temporary housing.

        • Common sense, ain’t that common , greed and personal insults rule LCC. dominated by a loud mouthed bigot looking for revenge and profit before helping us flooded, washed out of thr town we are from.
          Another workshop or committee that could have been started months ago, if some weren’t so feeble as to take others ideas, rubbish them, re-word them and call them their own.
          Tonight’s Lismore council meetings, Another circus……🎪

          🫂’s… to you Cr Rob Big, self appointed head clown 🤡
          People REALLY can’t wait for your next act of heartlessness, self promotion and failure to apologise, if if unintended.

  4. After hearing an interview on ABC radio this morning with one of the 5 councillors, I feel despair at how a person with such looney and disfunctional ideas can be elected to a council. Councillor Bird has a very difficult job.

    • To my eyes and ears, peddling division in our community using Trump tactics is what the guy on ABC exels at, personals attacks on anyone that disagrees with his agenda, over inflated sense of importance using terms like “fake news”, relies on social media to peddle his view’s, acts like a petulant child when things don’t go their way, loves attention.
      How we ended up here as a community is truly depressing for me, I wish Cr Bird all the luck in the world, she’s been out with us in the mud, not just streaming it to a facebook page giving opinions.

  5. Cr Bird worked tirelessly for the flood affected Lismore community after the 2017 flood. She has done so again after this one. It is easy to understand why she deels’devastated’.
    The response to the plight of those needing shelter by Councillors Peter Colby, Jeri Hall, Andrew Bing, Andrew Gordon, Electra Jensen and Big Rob was shameful.

  6. Cr Bird needs to consider that attacking people as “privileged” – and then misrepresenting what they have said (which is immorally dishonest) – is not the way to win the support of people.

    Even if it someone unpopular

  7. The Echo often has surprisingly good journalism so it’s a shame you’ve let the side down.

    To say that ‘the Echo spoke to Cr Bird’ is misleading at best, when you then proceed to print what appears to be her Facebook post in full.

    A real journalist would have made a phone call or two to establish why the Hepburn Park decision was made. A good journalist would have popped out to one of the newly established pod communities to see whether claims of disfunction were validated.

    • Rhys – this example is one in a very long list.
      It is endemic in this scribe’s usual ultra pro-green dialogue.
      If “the other side’ did this, they would be shouted down by the mob and rightly so.

    • Hi Rhys,
      Just FYI
      The Echo had several conversations with Cr Bird over two days.
      If you feel misled then that’s a mistake.
      If Cr Bird gave the Echo comments that she had previously or later used on her Facebook page, then that is Cr Bird’s prerogative.
      The Echo has no sovereignty over where Councillors comment.
      If you had read the Echo story the previous day or attended the meeting yourself, you would know why the Hepburn Park decision was made.

      • I’m sorry, but your response to Rhys ducks the issue he raises. Which is that your article is poor journalism at the very least. You give full voice to Cr Birds views without seeking input from any of the Counsellors she has named and shamed, for their explanation of how they voted.

        You’ve accepted her position, and given voice to her really unpleasant personal attacks on the 6 named Counsellors, without considering whether they may have reasoned arguments for their vote. I’m no fan of Big Rob, but his inflammatory style does not automatically represent other Counsellors.

  8. First up, Cr Bird’s reputation seems to upset the few name droppers. It just goes to show the truth is in the right direction.
    This Council’s appalling menu only bleats how it couldn’t run a meat raffle. Trying to strut common sense is beyond them.
    The bullying tactics? Shameful.

  9. CLR Bird is implying that unless councillors have visited the Koori Mail or Resilience Lismore they are elitist. Well Elly while you were at the KM or RL some of those councillors you were referring to as elitist were helping out at GSAC or up to their ankles in mud and raw sewerage, week in week out, helping people in the community, both those they knew and didn’t. I don’t remember seeing you at the coalface. The reason these councillors are in their roles is because there was/is an overwhelming desire from the community to get rid of the previous councillors for their inability to do anything apart from sink the council into further financial debt. The fact is there are significant problems with putting the pods at Hepburn Park. If this had been stopped earlier we would have been well on the way to finding somewhere else. At last it has been realised there ARE houses available, common sense would dictate a house is better than a pod for supporting desperate individuals and families. The only ‘bullying’ going on is from the shameful remarks of Birds supporters including Jenny Dowell. So much for protecting and representing the people of the LGA. She only wants to protect a selected few. Now that is SHAMEFUL

    • So do tell me how people with a mortgage from sth Lismore who cannot live in their properties cam afford to rent from Gordons real estate…. its pretty unrealistic but you obviously have no idea of how difficult it is for ordinary people do you Phil

      • As I understand it those people paying a mortgage would be allocated one of the available rentals at no cost to them this being a less expensive option than building and fitting out a pod and obviously far more liveable.That I believe is what councillor Gordon was suggesting Paula.

      • Instead of pods, this lot are suggesting the government can just foot the rent, put money into Real Estates accounts directly and get the flood prone houses rented out again, its almost like some real estate agent came up with the idea, it benefits them so directly…

  10. I do understand the points and where the suggestion of issues are coming from, this does not mean I agree though.
    Rather than just saying “no” there needs to be alternatives offered when making that statement.
    Personally I am organising a trailer home for a retired pensioner to be put at my house, this could be a short term solution for many.

    • I’ve sat through the excruciating Lismore Council meetings waiting for action, its been a slinging match and clown show rolled into one, no alternatives put forward, every other Council around has pods on sporting fields, this lot, are fighting amongst themselves and still talking committees, talking of propping up the private rental market first, instead of reacting like we had an emergency and helping homeless, they work out a way to make money and push development as a first priority and put people right back on the floodplain in a rental that’s been hosed out, how is this even an option?.
      The time to act, was months ago.

  11. Well we certainly know what businesses to support and who to avoid in Lismore ….. what have any of those councilors done personally to help anyone affected. Its all about their commercial interests. Much thanks to people like Ellie. In fact how many actul people with businesses did anything for anyone else that was not to help themselves…. many people helped different bussiness persons but who did they help

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