It was a surprise to learn the West Byron Project developers have yet to address Council staff concerns from 2011 over traffic, housing density and flooding.
One has to wonder what type of development this will become.
A positive so far, however, is the developer’s offer to pay $7,000 per residential lot which would go a long way towards an estimated $8.2 million bypass. But offering the community infrastructure such as roads to get your way – even in good faith – typifies what is wrong with ignoring due process. Why bother with councils at all? When you leapfrog Council to get to the state for large-scale approvals – like Splendour’s Yelgun site or Mullum Woolies – it means developers are instead wearing the boots that popularly elected representatives should be wearing.
It means the community’s voice comes second to the state government and the developer is doing what they want on their own terms.
Ultimately it’s a risk–reward ratio exercise. Almost all developments are for financial gain, so social capital (the public’s goodwill) is weighed up against perceived financial outcomes.
Losing a little social capital here or there is okay if the final outcome means a good cash return. It’s similar to political gains.
But it doesn’t work that way here: many who have ignored the wishes of this engaged and savvy community have failed before. It’s a community with a proven history of repelling inappropriate development.
And that’s where local NSW Nationals MP Don Page comes in.
As with the Brunswick Heads residents currently dealing with an 800-page ‘grand design’ document for their town, the West Byron decision rests with Don, we are told. Still, there is an opportunity for the West Byron Project landowners to make that suburb the envy of all.
One example is just up the road: the Currumbin Eco Village. It’s a community that is based around sustainable housing principles.
Retaining Byron’s unique character should be at the forefront of this development. Let’s hope the developers work with all of us so we can avoid the dull visionless consumeristic urban sprawls that are unfortunately part of the mainstream Australian urban landscape.
Public submissions close this Friday at http://bit.ly/westbyronplans.
Being present in the Byron Bay courtroom last Friday was like watching a slow motion implosion. It was never going to be a happy ending for the accused.
Oh but what theatre: a casually dressed and slightly over-confident Shai Major claimed he couldn’t afford a lawyer (legal aid refused) and struggled with some of the legal jargon. Adding to that, English is his second language. He was charged with ‘development without consent’; in other words he organised a group of schoolies to board at his Byron Bay share-house for a week.
The prosecution included two Council lawyers with a town planner and a Council compliance officer as witnesses.
Despite his very bad odds, The Echo is not sympathetic to Mr Major’s case – he did after all break the law. But fining an unemployed person nearly $100,000 only means two things: declare bankruptcy or pay back $12 per week, as per Centrelink’s debt repayment plan. That equals 160 years of debt, and the prospect of ever recovering Council’s legal fees of $20,000 is remote.
Rules to consider if unrepresented: never talk over the magistrate and don’t make assumptions in any questions you ask.
Stay on topic and defend the facts. As hard as he tried to highlight the hypocrisy of holiday letting and counter-accuse Council and APN media of racism and unfair treatment, leniency wouldn’t be applied by any reasonable magistrate because it’s off topic. Pleading guilty may have been a start, but that means you acknowledge accountability.
Hopefully this result will widen the debate over community housing versus holiday letting in a town where the main currency is tourism. Clearly defined areas need to be applied under Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) so there is little doubt what constitutes someone’s house or party dorm accommodation.
Would Mr Major have continued to host schoolies if his neighbours didn’t dob him in? Does this send a ‘strong message’? Who’s next? Will Council continue to act upon the small fry?