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Byron Shire
May 24, 2024

Options explored to save Bruns native habitat

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15 Torakina Road, Brunswick Heads. Google maps

Byron Council could seek federal government intervention in a last-ditch effort to protect a pocket of precious bushland in Brunswick Heads from development.

The 30-hectare site at 15 Torakina Road, next to the Bayside housing estate, is home to scores of native trees and flowers, which provide food and shelter to koalas, black cockatoos, gliders and the threatened Wallum froglet and sedge frog.

However, the site has been approved by the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) for a major housing development by the Clarence Property Group.

Given the ‘significance’ of the development, it is determined by the NRPP, thus avoiding Council.

Council staff supported the application at the time.

Called ‘Wallum Estate’, it features 124 residential lots, three medium density lots and a series of roads and supporting infrastructure.

A number of lots on the site have already been sold, meaning that the start of construction may only be a matter of months away.

But that hasn’t stopped a large and growing group of locals from campaigning to stop the development from going ahead.

They have been lobbying Council and the federal and state governments in a bid to force an eleventh-hour intervention to halt the project.

Urgency motion unsupported

At last week’s Council meeting, Greens councillor, Duncan Dey, moved an urgency motion, to bring the matter onto the Council agenda. Cr Dey told the meeting that his motion would seek Council support for an application to the federal government seeking intervention under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Under the Act, a referral can be made to protect a specific site on the grounds that it contains unique and/or threatened plants, animals, habitats and places.

Cr Dey said, ‘I think it’s important that we know what we want to do, so that people who are thinking about purchasing the properties know.’

But Mayor Michael Lyon knocked back Cr Dey’s urgency motion, arguing that it was more appropriately brought before Council as a normal notice of motion that could then be properly scrutinised and commented on by Council staff.

However, he indicated that the matter could be brought back to Council’s October planning with the addition of this extra material.

The meeting also heard that councillors had been discussing the possibility of approaching the Clarence Property Group directly in an attempt to negotiate some additional protections for the site.

This echoes comments made by the mayor on the ‘Save Wallum’ Facebook page last week.

‘I have asked for a meeting with the owner to discuss what other options may exist to enable some or all of the trees to be retained,’ Cr Lyon said on the page. ‘That meeting will occur in the next few days.’

In its now-approved DA, Clarence Property said that over 18 hectares, or 60 per cent of the site, will be retained and enhanced as conservation zones.

Earlier in Council’s meeting, local ecologist and bush regenerator, James Barrie, asked Council about the level of community consultation that had been undertaken by the developer in relation to the project.

He also questioned measures the Clarence Property Group were planning to undertake to ‘protect’ the Wallum froglet and sedge frog, including installing artificial ponds.

Ineffective measures

‘Our ecological understanding is that the Wallum froglet and sedge frog aren’t going to find the constructed ponds adequate, and in fact, the [ponds] will favour the cane toad and the striped marsh frog, which secretes a hormone into the water that inhibits the development of other tadpoles.

‘The breeding scenario of the Wallum froglet and sedge frog is reliant on the peat salt marsh. Basically, the ponds wouldn’t be effective as they’re presented to be.’

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  1. To add to this complaint that mentions cane toads: The drain that starts behind Excelsior Circuit, that runs to the river past Mills wholesale nursery, has literally many thousands of tiny new cane toads hatching there every season. This needs to be addressed ASAP. The drain was poorly designed in that it never dries out like it should at spring low tides. As it is, it is a breading ground for toads and mosquitoes, always has been since the estate was built, and needs to be re-engineered properly. Likely it needs to be filled in some and graded down to the river so stagnant water can not pool.

  2. What wallum is and its importance in the ecosystem…

    Here are some links to websites that provide information about wallum:
    • Wikipedia article on wallum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallum
    • Australian Native Plants Society: Wallum and coastal heathland: https://anpsa.org.au/study_group/wallum-and-coastal-heathland-study-group/
    • Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland: Wallum sedgefrog: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=1821
    . Cooloola Coast National Park: Wallum: https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/cooloola

  3. Would the expert investive team of journalists at The Echo care to expand the bland statement “Council staff supported the application at the time.’, Please.

    There is more to this statement, isn’t there?

    Try checking Facebook,again, if in doubt for a comment, from the Mayor, Michael Lyon.

    Looking forward to your deeper report on your above statement

  4. The Wallum development approved by the NRPP, pending sign off of final consent conditions is based on retrospective approval of a Concept Plan 2013. It fits within the definition of a ‘zombie development’ – i.e. the development has to conform to planning standards from that date, regardless that it is out of step with current state and federal biodiversity legislation. i.e. when the concept plan was approved, the Koala (habitat on site) was Vulnerable. It is now Endangered for example and any significant impact on their population should be assessed as a Matter of Enviromental Significance. It means that the approval also does not comply with Byron Shire Councils state legislated DCP – Biodiversity chapter, or Byron Shires HEV vegetation mapping. This is reflective of wider systemic issues, but in no way out of Councils control to act.


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