Executive Council staff have refused to answer key questions around a large amount of soil that was dumped on Marshalls Creek floodplain in The Pocket recently, which is believed to be stockpiled for Council infrastructure projects.
Last week’s story, Soil dumping on Marshalls Creek, found to be Council’s stockpile, reported that staff only became involved after Cr Duncan Dey raised the issue; previous attempts by concerned residents to contact staff fell on deaf ears.
The EPA has told The Echo it was not notified of the issue, ‘and will enquire with Byron Shire Council about the site and material’.
The matter was already under ‘delegated authority’ by staff, which so far, has seen the landowner at 295 Pocket Road, The Pocket, escape a fine and be given over four months to remove the fill.
Such unauthorised works usually attract large fines and immediate restoration orders.
On December 19, Council published a press release, There is no tolerance for illegal dumping.
It was in response to ‘reports of a pile of asbestos fibro sheeting that had been dumped in and around kerbside bins in the Byron Arts and Industry Estate’. It was cleaned up immediately, ‘because of the potential threat to public health and safety’.
An urgency motion at the last Council meeting by Cr Dey to immediately act on the soil dumping in The Pocket was unsupported by a councillor majority; Mayor Michael Lyon, Crs Mark Swivel, Peter Westheimer and Alan Hunter voted against.
When questioned online by a concerned resident around Mayor Michael Lyon’s ‘inaction and risk avoidance’ on the matter, he downplayed any urgency and supported staff over the residents who initially raised the issue.
Mayor Lyon downplays impacts, supports staff
He replied, ‘I just don’t need to put through an “urgency” motion of Council in order to get the necessary action from staff in relation to the matter. I am very confident the matter will be dealt with appropriately by staff’.
Cr Dey says there is urgency owing to the potential for environmental damage, given the wet season and the extended timeframe given for remediation.
Council’s Legal Counsel, Ralph James, told The Echo, ‘Following the December 15, 2022, Ordinary Meeting, where Cr Dey’s Urgency Motion was not supported by Council, the Director Infrastructure Services, Phil Holloway, has directed the Manager Works and other relevant staff to undertake certain assessments of the fill on the property and to report findings to the General Manager [Mark Arnold]’.
The Echo asked, ‘Will these findings be made public, and if not, why?’
Echo questions put to Council staff last week that remain unanswered are: ‘Why are staff allowing the landowner over four months to remove this soil? Aren’t staff concerned that this poses an immediate pollution risk to the creek?’ and, ‘Are there any reports that underpin the decision to allow such a delayed removal?’