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Byron Shire
March 22, 2023

Editorial: It’s a deflatable political wrecking ball challenge!

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It was odd to listen to Council’s meeting audio last week (the chambers are still closed owing to flood damage).  

The mayor and his compliant and unquestioning councillors were desperate to limit debate on what flooding effects would occur from developing the Mullum rail corridor.

It was all because of one, lone pesky councillor who asked about it. 

‘Can we please vote on this?’ Cr Asren Pugh kept on asking throughout debate. Yes, there’s plenty you can do if you want to cut corners.

In all the years of Council reporting, this was still surprising given that this is a serious issue. 

Planning to develop on floodplains actually matters. Explaining how you will do it matters too.

Cr Cate Coorey should know that, having been very vocal with the charge against the West Byron suburb. Yet, she voted for this to proceed.

Council’s intentions

While Council’s intentions with affordable housing in a rail corridor are unclear, philanthropists Christopher and Linda Dean have been getting on with the job, trying what they can to deliver real affordable housing.

The Deans propose two detached dual occupancy dwellings with four expanded modules to house around 40 people on rural land, which is close to town and not flood-prone.

They also plan to keep the property, and not sell it, if approved. 

That in itself is a rare commitment and should be commended (and legally binding). 

A Rainforest 4 Foundation (R4F) nursery is planned to produce around 150,000 plants per annum, say the accompanying documents. 

The nursery has Council approval, and will provide 12 full-time positions. 

So far, Council officers have expressed three principal concerns about the proposal, according to architect David Brown. 

They are the ‘departure from the DCP provisions relating to expanded dwelling house modules and consistency with what is meant to be two dwelling houses (dual occupancy); the Dual Occupancy arrangement of a living/kitchen/laundry component with seven bedroom elements linked by a roofed walkway; and ‘the idea of seeking consent for a group home (Class 3 building) proposal’. 

Brown has responded to the concerns, citing court decisions that have favoured flexibility with planning decisions and definitions.

As for precedent, Brown believes that there are elements that could be minimum preconditions for future proposals: ‘A variety of accommodation options to attract a diversity of residents; long-term rents affordable to key worker households; on-site employment in a value adding rural activity; a reasonably level flood-free site; single ownership of the land and all buildings; and a maximum 2.5 kilometre level cycle distance from a town centre’.

Relying on philanthropists to provide actual affordable housing solutions is not ideal, but it’s the best we have. That is, unless an elected NSW government in March manages to do the hard work of reforming the planning system.

Hans Lovejoy, editor
News tips are welcome: [email protected]

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  1. Just another attack from The Echo on Mayor Michael Lyon but not as personal as some.

    How unusual!

    The Editor has now tossed the rest of the compliant and unquestioning councillors ( except Cr Dey aka Cr No ) into the same attack. The more the merrier?

    If only Cr Dey had become the Mayor and The Echo was the entire Council, just imagine where Byron would be now!

    Living in a caves?

    The Editor obviously needs a holiday, a very long one.


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