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Byron Shire
February 29, 2024

Editorial – Untethering from developers

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There’s no doubt that social and affordable housing in NSW is in need of life support.

Thankfully, the NSW government put out a media release last week to say the entire system will be rebuilt. But how? NSW Labor minister, Rose Jackson, is in charge of such things, and said a new government agency has been formed, called Homes NSW.

She says, ‘Homes NSW will bring together the housing and homelessness services of the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), with NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) and key worker housing, all under one roof – making the system more efficient and accessible’.

She also claims Homes NSW will ‘drive collaboration’ between the NSW government and other stakeholders.

‘Collaboration’ was also promised with her government’s recent affordable housing reforms (under the State Environmental Planning Policy), yet it was clear from the peak body representing NSW councils (LGNSW) that their input was mostly ignored. It was a developer win!

As for social housing, The Echo asked the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure what exists, or is in the pipeline, for Byron Shire?

They replied in part, ‘There are 247 social housing properties in the Byron LGA. In the surrounding LGAs, a further 240 social housing homes (119 Tweed, 61 Richmond Valley, 29 Ballina and 22 in Lismore) have been committed to as part of the Flood Recovery Program’.

Given affordable and social housing are tied to developer profits, it’s public housing that is perhaps the most important investment that governments can make (apart from taxing the fossil fuel industries, like Norway does).

As public housing is government-run, there is less pressure to return profits. It could also close the wealth gap that is currently emerging. Yet government investment in public housing has been in decline over generations.

With the lack of public, social and affordable housing in the Shire, this week, councillors will vote on whether to proceed with a Byron Shire Council-led land trust.

As reported on page 4, Council’s planning supremo, Shannon Burt, says her staff are ready to tackle it.

It’s actually courageous, because Council are not known for being entrepreneurial.

A land trust could, for example, apply to the former Mullum Hospital land that is now up for rezoning. It wasn’t mentioned by Mayor Michael Lyon as an option in his reply to questions about the Mullum hospital site, nor was public housing.

And it’s worth asking the questions, because under his leadership, Council does not provide much information around its grand visions.

It must be hard to articulate any-thing when making it up as you go.

Additionally, Council’s track record of flogging off public assets isn’t great.

Back in 2013, Council made the case that their finances were in trouble and needed to sell off low-hanging fruit. Despite a hard-fought community campaign for it to be retained as a public asset, a valuable piece of real estate at the top of Ocean Shores, called the Roundhouse, was sold by Council well under market value.

Let’s hope the former Mullum Hospital site doesn’t suffer the same fate.

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  1. Where will they build new housing in the byron shire when all the green idiot protesters don’t want to develop new housing estates?.

  2. “Back in 2013, Council made the case that their finances were in trouble and needed to sell off low-hanging fruit. Despite a hard-fought community campaign for it to be retained as a public asset, a valuable piece of real estate at the top of Ocean Shores, called the Roundhouse, was sold by Council well under market value.”

    Remind me Hans, was not the Council in 2013 a GREENS led Council with a Green Mayor?

    On that Council wasn’t Duncan Dey a Councillor?

    • From my recollections as a long-term northern rivers resident (over 40 years), the Echo has been constructively critical of every Byron Council no matter which ideology or party was dominant. It’s their job. Yes, there’s a ‘left’ leaning bias to the Echo (whatever that even means any more – to me it means you care about the public good more than personal gain, and you’re conservative when it comes to preservation of the ecological systems that sustain life and quality of life) but as far as Council reporting goes, I think they’ve always been even-handed in their challenging of Councils.

  3. Lizardbreath, you are so angry. Why?, does a little reallity not sit too well with you?. Where will anyone build low cost housing when the green Einsteins don’t want land released and they insist on height limits. Only a fool would try to develop housing in the republic of byron, there are great nearby alternatives. I am sure Gregrrrrrrrtrrrrrr would agree, and by the way, what is wrong wih high rise apartment blocks?.

    • Not angry at all Ivir, and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there are “fools” lined up to develop housing in Byron Shire – a never ending stream of them.

      And nothing wrong with high rise apartments (except buyers are forced into the nightmare of bodies corporate), but good urban planning must take in a range of considerations – that I won’t go into because you’ve told me you’re unlikely to read it anyway. I’d hazard a guess (though not knowing where you live) that you and your neighbours might lodge a few submissions if faced with the prospect.

      It’s very important to resist reducing these little battles to tensions between NIBYism and/or uncompromising environmentalism and providers of affordable housing. These battles are generally about the cherry picked spots that, while extremely lucrative for developers, are unlikely to result in houses that ordinary people could afford.

  4. Lizardbreath, hollow words you use to try to describe the very essence of the problem which is nimbyism and environmental lunacy stopping a weak council from providing the tools to make things right. Nothing else only selfish little people standing in the way of progress. I would encourage everyone looking for a place to settle down to look at neighbouring council areas, they want you and provide great services unlike the republic of byron. Why do you call people fools that want to line up to develop housing in the republic?, are they fools because you know they will never succeed?, or fools because it is such a crappy republic?. There are places for single block housing, high rise apartments, medium sized apartment complexes in every shire, just not the byron republic, the lefty’s and nimby’s run the circus….

  5. Many years ago when we were all quite young, there was a huge building boom just up the road over the border. It was said the boom really got started because the Qld Premier dropped ‘death duties’ / inheritance taxes in the state. High rise towers sprung up like mushrooms quite like Miami, Florida. There was a lot of work there and a huge amount of accommodation going up from Surfers to the border with people streaming in for all point souths including NZ. Lots of retirees. Back down the coast a ways, the Byron Shire was rural and had this quite beautiful bay with a terrific surf break. Surfers from far and wide started showing up. Not everyone viewed the Qld high-rises as paradise but rather a threat to the ambience and beauty of Byron. It was quite a contrast. Surfers were not ready to retire and nobody had the money or inclination to buy a unit on the continuously booming Gold Coast. However, land was being sold in Byron by retiring farmers and many people bought blocks often pooling their money to do so. Quite a different vision. And give the community credit, they stuck to their sylvan vision and were successful in keeping high rise towers and big unit developments out of the Shire. Quite an amazing feat. Zoom to today and there is a stark choice: Keep the rural open space whose price has gone into outer space or start the high density urban ‘sprawl’ subdivisions everywhere with some state welfare housing included. In reality probably 2-5% would go to low cost state housing. The price of keeping Byron rural is a lack of housing and high prices – but at least it would still be there to visit, something like a national park with private inholdings and a couple of towns. A happy medium seems hard to find.


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