As in previous years, Byron Shire again danced the mambo of environment versus development while holding ground against outside political and corporate interests. And so sets the stage for a year of wins and losses.
A big win in 2012 – which favours a more sober Shire – included Byron’s unanimous rejection of a Dan Murphy’s mega-booze outlet in the CBD.
While Byron’s tenacity paid off, that decision was ultimately at the behest of the NSW liquor and gaming authority. But reasonable given the national media attention last year over alcohol-fuelled violence on Jonson Street.
As for Council, they marched onward and awkward despite teetering finances and a public barney between the then-mayor and general manager. It culminated with the GM’s sudden departure and an election in September.
Council correctly defended knocking back a 27-room boarding house development in Bruns too. But its draft local environment plan (LEP) copped a lot of public flak over out of date mapping and complicated zonings.
And there was a reversal on Council’s decision on its flawed tender process for surf schools and kayaking. Thankfully that allows the Byron Bay Surf School back in the water. Large festival events also featured last year, with Splendour’s site in Yelgun being given the go-ahead for this year by an independent panel, despite equally noisy opponents.
Public infrastructure pressed ahead with the opening of Council’s $17 million Byron Regional Sport and Cultural Complex (BRSCC), although many teething issues continue throughout the year such as soggy fields.
Heavy rain washed away a section of Wilsons Creek Road on Australia Day but Lighthouse Road fully reopened – six-and-a-half years later – in February.
But by far the most frustrating part of the year was the slow churning bureaucratic pace at which the state government operated. Still to be sorted is the Bruns caravan parks saga, which is wrapped in state government inaction, arrogance, greed and belligerence. Another was the mooted video-conferencing replacement of Mullum Hospital’s night doctor, which took from May until November to be decided. But hey, at least that’s a win.
So it wasn’t all such a bad year, as long as you don’t count the planned expansion of the non-renewable CSG industry by the state government.
Thankfully public activism against the insanity of polluting land and water gained momentum throughout the year.
Will we see the continuing austerity measures the state Liberal/National government has assumed? Most likely.
At least Byron Shire maintains a point of difference against the bullshit narrative that economic rationalism delivers. And finally, farewell to all those we lost last year and welcome to all those that are found.
The NSW Nurses Association rightly prevented health district chief executive Chris Crawford from replacing Mullum’s night doctor with teleconferencing technology.
But instead of an apology to the community for the anxiety caused, Mr Crawford instead explained to The Echo that ‘Mullum is not ready at the moment to do it on a doctor-to- nurses basis.’
And while Mullum Hospital nurse Shauna Boyle told The Echo that nurses were not against telehealth per say, they were opposed to having to operate the video-link system without a doctor.
Here’s where the message was lost: she also added that staff at other hospitals using the system told them it was never meant to replace a doctor. So – was the rollout of this technology meant to complement existing staffing levels or replace them?
Clearly in Mullum’s case it was to replace, while other hospitals that didn’t have a night doctor, it was a complement to existing staffing levels. Cost-cutting under the guise of ‘new technology’ is austerity by stealth, and while Mr Crawford may have been given the hatchet job to try to skim a budget, The Echo suggests he could start with his own salary.
According to www.abc.net.au on November 24 this year, the latest salary increases granted to top bureaucrats in New South Wales rose by nearly $12,000.
‘The [bureaucrat] heads of the premier’s department, Trade and Infrastructure NSW are now all being paid well in excess of $500,000,’ claims the article.
Labor’s Walt Secord told the ABC reporter, ‘A 2.5 per cent increase to a nurse or a teacher does not compare to a bureaucrat on $400,000 a year. You cannot compare them,’ he said. ‘That is coming at a time when the state government’s cutting 5,000 public sector jobs and slashing $1.7 billion from education.’ Mr Secord also said that the director-general of Premier and Cabinet will now earn $545,000. ‘That’s substantially more than the premier,’ he said.
Fortunately this outcome was not decided by bureaucrats but by nurses, who are paid much much less.