The never-ending war against inanimate objects – in this case drugs – was highlighted recently with police dog operations targeting children as they entered both Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby high schools.
Subsequently, The Echo sought to examine the warrants used and to raise awarness about your rights if a cute puppy attached to a policeman happens to sit down next to you.
Despite The Echo being denied access to view the school warrants, two other related warrants for Byron Bay and Murwillumbah streets and parks were made available.
It revealed that police were relying on previous drug detections and ‘suspicious activity’ for their application.
And it turns out the only drug that was detected in those operations appeared to be very small amounts of cannabis.
Dated July 30, 2014, both warrants viewed were submitted at the Murwillumbah Court House by Murwillumbah-based senior officer Jason McGinley.
The warrant application included an attached map of both Murwillumbah and Byron Bay, with requested search areas highlighted.
In the case of Murwillumbah, officer McGinley claimed that after information was obtained on the previous search operation, it resulted in ‘12 cannabis plants being seized during the operation within the CBD. No illegal drugs were located but numerous detections were indicated.’
This last sentence is interesting; despite detections being ‘indicated’, ‘no illegal drugs were located.’ It reinforces the finding of the NSW Ombudsman that such use of police resources is of questionable value.
Byron Bay’s warrant was slightly different, with the last operation resulting in ‘19 drug detections (cannabis)’ which resulted in cautions.
McGinley wrote, ‘Byron Bay has a high transitory population… [there is a] large volume of persons in possession and partaking in the consumption and supply of illegal drugs. Recent information received is that it is continuing… in the presence of holiday makers and families.’
So what oversight is there of police undertaking these types of operations?
While budgets and results are difficult to extract from police and politicians, a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Justice (DoJ) told The Echo that officers lodging warrants are required to do so under oath and there are penalties for giving false information. Under Search Warrants Act 1985, providing false or misleading material ‘in or in connection with an application for a warrant’ can attract a maximum penalty of ‘100 penalty units or imprisonment for two years, or both.’
Additionally the determination of whether to seal the warrant is the decision of the local courthouse clerk where the warrant is lodged, the DoJ spokesperson said.
But what about your rights if stopped and searched by police in public if you have not been arrested?
Kirsten Cameron from Legal Aid NSW pointed to a 2001 NSW court of criminal appeal ruling for R v Rondo which highlights ‘reasonable suspicion’. She told The Echo, ‘Despite considering a repealed section, [this case] still has weight in determining whether a search is lawful.’
From paragraph 53 it reads, ‘Reasonable suspicion is not arbitrary. Some factual basis for the suspicion must be shown. A suspicion may be based on hearsay material or materials which may be inadmissible in evidence. The materials must have some probative value.’
But conventional wisdom of course is to always be polite and offer your name and address if asked. And if arrested, there is a right to silence.
It’s your right to seek legal advice before talking as well.
If being stopped and searched, you are also permited to ask the officer’s name and which station they are from.
The website for Legal Aid NSW advises that police have the power to search you – and your car, boat or other vehicle and possessions – if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect that you are carrying stolen goods or goods unlawfully obtained; prohibited drugs; an item that has been, or may be, used in a serious crime, for example tools to break into a car or house; knives, weapons or ‘dangerous implements’ and laser pointers.
Strip search rules
‘Police can pat you down, ask you to remove your outer clothing and shoes, look into your clothing and belongings and use an electronic metal detection device. They can also ask you to shake your hair and open your mouth.
‘Police can only perform a strip search if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that it is necessary and the circumstances are serious and urgent. They must provide you with as much privacy as possible.
‘As far as is practicable, the search must be carried out by a police officer of the same gender as the person being searched. In the case of a strip search it should be, as far as practicable, in a private area, out of sight of people of the opposite gender to you, out of sight of other people not involved in the search.
‘A strip search must not involve a search of a person’s body cavities or an examination of the body by touch.’
And remember, if you believe an officer has misused their powers, including being unreasonably intimidating, you can make a complaint.
This can be done by contacting the Ombudsman’s office (toll free) 1800 451 524.
More can be found at www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au.
Butler Street residents in Byron Bay say they are gearing up to save their street from becoming a bypass after a majority of councillors voted against a proposal to pursue the unused rail corridor.
A motion at last Thursday’s meeting by Cr Duncan Dey requested written confirmation from the state government to ‘make land permanently available within the multi-modal rail corridor’.
But it gained only the support of Dey and the mayor; Crs Ibrahim, Cubis, Woods, Cameron, Wanchap, Spooner and Hunter instead voted against.
And while proceeding the current course reflects advice from the general manager Ken Gainger and staff, the Butler Street Community Network’s Paul Jones says that Council’s failure to ‘fully explore bypass route alternatives’ is a fundamental requirement of their application to state planning for the project approval.
‘We feel Council is its own worst enemy as they are so afraid of appearing to be indecisive and delaying the process that they vote to proceed into a legal and procedural quagmire,’ says Mr Jones.
‘As a result this will certainly have the effect of delaying the outcome and wasting precious financial resources’.
But the town’s chamber of commerce, Byron United, remains hopeful of a rail corridor outcome.
Vice-president Adrian Nelson said in a newsletter to members, ‘What was an encouraging outcome is that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study for the bypass will need to consider possible alternative options. This may provide for the state-owned and unused land adjacent to the rail line to be considered for multi-modal use.’
During Thursday’s debate, Cr Sol Ibrahim turned directly to the Butler Street residents in the gallery and said, ‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late.’
He said that Council had already allocated and spent much of the $250,000 on exploring the current route.
‘Will the current government say yes? Most likely they will, but we would go back to square one.
‘We don’t have the money for a new EIS. At the start of this council’s term, the bypass was on everyone’s lips. The previous council debated it for four years. All Butler Street residents have known for the last four years if not longer that this was likely.’
It was around that time that Council pest Fast Buck$ interjected from the gallery and demanded to know if a cost analysis of the proposal had been undertaken.
After repeated bellowing by Buck$, the general manager eventually said that the state government asked Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for one but Council have yet to see it.
Cr Basil Cameron received applause from the gallery when he said that ‘it doesn’t stack up to spend a lot more when we are not going to address the traffic problems in the long term. We are geographically constrained, so it doesn’t matter how many bypasses are built.’
Meanwhile Mr Jones says that he and fellow residents will now ‘object in every possible way to prevent approval of the project EIS submission as Council has left them no alternative.’
He says Council also failed to acknowledge the work done by the GTR proponents in clarifying so many misconceptions and in tabling an innovative proposal that addresses most if not all community, business and environmental concerns.
‘GTR has provided a superior bypass plan that avoids the Shirley Street roundabout bottleneck and enables extension through to Cemetery Road addressing the increasing traffic congestion approaching from the south of town and helping to retune Bangalow Road to far better residential amenity.
‘Butler Street Community Network will continue its work to protect our town’s cultural and built heritage.
‘We love this place in which we live and we will strive to ensure a workable, inspiring bypass solution that will enhance and support our town’s unique people-friendly character.’
n See letters page 11
Mayor Simon Richardson’s plans for how Council should respond to the state government over the contentious West Byron development were trumped by Cr Sol Ibrahim at Thursday’s Council meeting.
The mayor – supported by the Byron Residents’ Association – was seeking to ask the the state government to defer rezoning West Byron over what they say are inadequate traffic and acid sulfate soil studies. Additionally, Cr Richardson asked that any decision be held off until the Byron Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) and the soon-to-be-completed Lo- cal Growth Management Strategy (LGMS) is released. The mayor also called for a baseline assessment of the Belongil Creek and estuary to be completed.
Instead, a watered-down motion by Cr Sol Ibrahim will see Byron Shire Council request that concerns regarding one of Byron Bay’s largest ever urban developments be ad- dressed to the minister’s ‘satisfaction’.
Crs Dey, Richardson and Cameron voted against (Cr Spooner was absent).
The motion by Cr Ibrahim and seconded by Cr Wanchap reads: ‘That due to concerns raised by members of the local community, Council will write to the planning minister Pru Goward requesting that prior to making a decision regarding the rezoning of the West Byron Urban Release Areas the fol- lowing matters will have been addressed to her satisfaction:
‘1. The traffic study has followed
RMS guidelines and reasonably considered all the likely impacts of the traffic generated by the pro- posed residential and commercial developments.
‘2. The Acid Sulfate Soils Study has been produced and considered in accordance with the Department of Planning’s Acid Sulfate Soils Planning Guidelines.
‘3. That all koala habitat on the site has been identified in accor- dance with SEPP44 procedures and that it will be protected from dam- age and disturbance.
‘4. That all other environmental and ecological aspects have been considered in the rezoning.
‘Furthermore Council will seek funding for a baseline assessment of the Belongil Creek/Estuary from appropriate government departments, including from Minister Goward’s.’
Disgusted: Cr Woods
During debate, the mayor said that the development is something that has waited ten years, and should wait a little longer. ‘This is about respecting the community’s wishes for it to be a clear, transparent and a trustworthy decision.’
But Cr Di Woods spoke against the mayor’s deferment. ‘You say ten years in waiting – that is disgusting’.
‘We should be able to determine developments much sooner. Under the previous mayor it was refused, and Council said we didn’t have the resources. The developers said they will supply the resources but it was still refused. I have seen people who own that land go bankrupt. It’s not the proponent’s fault that this is with the minister. Acid sulfate and traffic can be dealt with – let’s work with them, get the zoning and move on.’
At that point, the full gallery murmured ‘shame’, prompting Cr Ibrahim to say it was unacceptable for the gallery to interject.
Cr Ibrahim then moved his amendment and spoke in favour of the development while also expressing a desire for due process and environ- mental protection.
When asked later why a regional growth strategy was not included in his motion, Cr Ibrahim told The Echo, ‘The mayor’s motion asked for a deferment until the strategy was completed. It was always going to be very unlikely that the minister would agree after the years that have been spent on this project. Anyway, the minister’s office will already have considered the regional growth strategy in place which includes Byron.
‘Secondly, with the work- load already stacked up for councillors and staff, I doubt that a new strategy will be completed in the term of this council. Thirdly, the fundamental debate about growth that is being played out regarding WB (West Byron) will be repeated for the growth strategy. So it will be a political decision anyway.
‘Finally, the WB lots will be released slowly over a de- cade or more. Despite the inaccurate claims that our water and sewer won’t cope, we will still have time to plan for expansion if it is required.’
As for how the community will have an adequate say in this or any development, Cr Ibrahim said, ‘Firstly, through their elected representatives. Through submissions about draft planning instruments (LEP, DCP, KcPOM etc). Through objections to DAs. Byron’s community is never shy on expressing their objections to developments.
‘It happens every week, and in many instances I have opposed development approvals (Mullumbimby, Bangalow, KFC etc).
‘I am currently fighting to have our Development Con- trol Plan (DCP) conditions fully applied in a Bangalow development. We have a legal system which allows a court challenge just about any deci- sion of a council.
Confident in DCP
‘Expecting some sort of guarantee from councillors is unreasonable. However, I am confident that our DCP, coupled with other statutory instruments and plans of management, can produce a great outcome.
‘So far, it has been my experience that if Council negotiates in good faith with a developer from the outset, very positive results are achieved (North Byron Beach Resort for example).
‘Council has already ex- pressed to the minister that we want to apply our own DCP to the site.
‘I wholeheartedly agree with this position. We are all waiting and hoping that she will grant this wish. This matter was not raised in the mayor’s motion or mine be- cause the request has already been made.’
Cr Ibrahim says the minister’s decision ‘is quite limited in scope’ and that, ‘All the other details, lot sizes, density, roads, setbacks, construction etc will come to Council within a series of DAs.’
No faith in DCP
During the meeting, Cr Richardson spoke against Cr Ibrahim’s amendment.
‘My motion gives more details: this has no consideration of planning or local growth management; this doesn’t mention a koala plan of management but instead is vague and broad.’ And in Cr Richardson’s right of reply, he acknowledged the need for housing and jobs, but said that the, ‘DCP is useless as the state government has gutted it; it only has to be considered.’
‘To put faith in that is staggering.’
Prominent Sydney CBD property developer Terry Agnew has bought a sizeable portion of the West Byron project, prompting claims by the Byron Residents Group that the ‘locally-owned’ aspect of the development now has little relevance.
Approval for the West Byron project, a 108- hectare housing/commercial estate situated opposite the industrial estate on Ewingsdale Road, is expected shortly from the state government.
Agnew, who heads Tower Holdings with a swag of properties, also owns a Great Keppel Island resort, where a $2.5 billion redevelopment is planned. Tower Holdings bought the resort for $16.5 million in 2008 before shutting it down and unveiling ambitious plans for a luxury resort.
And while his plans were thwarted by environmental concerns such as illegal tree clearing, last year he finally gained approval for a reduced 250-berth marina precinct, 750 resort villas and 300 apartments, a hotel and an 18- hole golf course.
The Echo sought comment from Mr Agnew’s office, but as yet there has been none.
But through communications consultancy company Charliesierra, the West Byron landowners confirmed the purchase with The Echo but played down any negative influence the new co-owner may have. ‘Tower Holdings has joined the landowner group after purchasing Crighton’s holdings earlier this year,’ they said.
‘The entire landowner group, including Tower Holdings, is committed to making West Byron a vibrant community that integrates with the social fabric of the Byron area.’
And while the West Byron group won’t comment on the price paid or the size of land Mr Agnew’s company now owns, title searches by a solicitor on behalf of environmental activist Dailan Pugh put the figure at $7 million and around half the entire property.
Mr Pugh told The Echo that Crighton Properties’ liquidators sold the half-share of West Byron to North Sydney Property Trust (NSPT Pty Ltd) after Crighton went bust in April last year.
He told The Echo that Agnew’s subsidiary NSPT, ‘paid $7,000,000 for the [West Byron] land, as per the land titles office registered transfer. The directors of NSPT are a Terrance John Agnew of Bellevue Hill NSW and Timothy Stringer of Drummoyne NSW.’
Pugh believes that Agnew is now the single biggest owner in the property. Whether that potentially provides a controlling interest in the proposed development is unclear.
Byron Residents Group’s Cate Coorey said, ‘For a long time we have been told that it is local people involved in this development and they have the community’s best interests at heart. Now that a major developer has bought this parcel, it changes the landscape quite a bit.
‘We have always been concerned that the West Byron landowners were simply trying to get the development approved before selling out to a developer who could afford to undertake a project of this size.
‘With Agnew’s purchase of half the site, how long will it be before he expands his holdings?’
Meanwhile, pressure is on NSW planning minister, Pru Goward, and minister for the environment, Rob Stokes, to defer West Byron rezoning after a motion by NSW MLC (upper house) Jan Barham.
Her motion was tabled last week, and says the deferral would, ‘allow for more detailed studies to assess the impact of the development and ensure that the relevant considerations are revealed prior to the rezoning.’
‘[It notes] that the current application does not contain sufficient independent scientific studies and analysis to allow a determination and that the Byron Shire Council is in the process of developing essential strategic studies that consider the future impacts of development on that site.’
The motion asks the House to note that the application for the West Byron Urban Release proposal ‘contains omissions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies.’
But the West Byron developers say they ‘stand behind our application entirely’.
On behalf of the West Byron developers, the Charliesierra spokesperson told The Echo, ‘The proposal that currently sits with the department for assessment has been refined based on feed- back received in two public exhibition periods and been reviewed by all relevant government agencies.’
Followed process to the letter
‘We have followed the process laid down by the department of planning and infra- structure to the letter.
‘We have engaged comprehensively with key stakeholders including Council, and ask that the proposal be assessed on its merits.
‘We are pleased that the Byron Residents Group is not opposing the proposal on its merits.’
A full reply to the issues raised by the Byron Residents Group – including acid sulfate soils, the koala report and the traffic surveys is available at echo.net.au.
The newly formed state government department tasked to advise and manage rural lands on behalf of landowners has been forced to apologise to members after letters were sent with wrong and missing information.
Local Land Services (LLS) blamed administration errors for the mistakes, which saw the election postal ballot package to members containing the wrong information for three candidates and the omission of a ‘holding number’, which assists in identifying and registering members hoping to enrol.
And the missing holding number appears to be a statewide flub, after the media spokesperson at head office in Tamworth confirmed it with The Echo.
But it remains unclear what, if any statewide response was made to the mistake.
Byron Shire rural landowner Alan Goldstein told The Echo that when he received the LLS election pack, it was ‘structured in a way to maximise the ways you could turn your vote into an informal one’, and that without careful examination, there are ‘numerous ways you could make a small mistake or omission.’
Goldstein says that more people will be disenfranchised with LSS, ‘because they will not bother to telephone to get their number.’
‘The office person said their office thought this process was being severely mishandled.’
Local Land Services (LLS) replaced the Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) and Catchment Management Authority (CMA) from the start of the year and was calling on landowners to enrol to vote on a new board.
MP controls board
And, like previous incarnations, Goldstein says, ‘LSS beginning to look as if it will continue in the tradition of not actually producing any real outcomes for the money it collects while performing its functions in an entirely unprofessional way.’
‘The problem with making such criticisms is that it only seems to lead to another review and name change with no real difference occurring.’
Further criticism of the LSS is that the NSW minister for primary industries controls 58 per cent of the vote, effectively negating any democratic accountability.
But a spokesperson for NSW minister for primary industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, told The Echo that, ‘it was appropriate’ that the minister controls the board.
‘The funding base is one-third from the ratepayer, while two-thirds of the funding comes from federal and state government.
‘It’s important the minister has a say on how the board runs.’
When asked if he was aware of the statewide mailout blunder, the spokesperson said he wasn’t.
So what will the Local Land Services do for rural landowners?
While specifics are vague, the new government body claims it will bring together ‘agricultural production advice, biosecurity, natural resource management and emergency management.’ As for accountability, LSS uses language on its website such as ‘administering, developing, implementing, delivery, communicating, consulting and engaging,’ while they are also ‘preparing State Strategic Plans and Local Strategic Plans.’
Education and training will also be part of their services, but comes without further explanation. For more visit www.lls.nsw.gov.au or the class action against it: llsclassaction.com.
The operator of Byron Bay’s La Playa restaurant/lounge bar (now called Soho) is refusing to leave the premises after he was given an eviction notice for unpaid rent.
In a bizarre twist of events, the bar’s owner John Cooper was in the building when locksmiths arrived to change the locks, and now he won’t leave.
He told The Echo that he has no intention of closing the door to lock himself out. ‘My rent is now paid up and was only 16 days late’, he says. ‘Due to the fact that I have invested $350,000 [in renovations] and have ongoing business and bookings there, I have remained in the building to continue to trade.’
The venue at 9 Fletcher St made news late last year when it was sold to strip club operators who opened there briefly but were denied a liquor licence.
Plans were subsequently scuttled by the Office of Gaming and Liquor (OGLR) after the mayor and community expressed outrage.
Meanwhile, a court case between Cooper and landlord Bill Bailey will be heard in a week, according to Mr Cooper. Mr Cooper has complaints about common area improvements, the lease change-over and delays to renovations required so he could re-open and trade.
Court case looming
He claims when he took over the lease three years ago, the building, ‘had been gutted and was in a severe state of disrepair’.
‘[After renovations] We began to wonder why we were been treated this way, especially after we had spent well in excess of $250,000 on renovating to a high standard. Mr Bailey was so pleased with the [renovation] work, that on several occasions he asked to parade members of his family and others through our premises commenting on what a fantastic job we had done.’
Mr Cooper also claims he only discovered much later after negotiations that the new tenants were planning to open a lap-dancing bar.
‘Even though this was not illegal, the town went crazy.’
He says it brought OLGR up from Sydney, who refused to transfer the liquor licence to the prospective couple, ‘as the town didn’t want it’.
‘OLGR insisted that we reopen as La Playa, and in return – providing I did a few alterations, ie extra soundproofing, and installed a noise limiter installation – we would be given a 3am music licence.’
Mr Bailey was asked for comment but was unavailable as he is currently overseas.
It is understood he wanted to evict Mr Cooper after three months of unpaid rent had accumulated, something which Mr Cooper denies. ‘I have improved the building and increased its internal floor area by 30 square metres, and the premises are now worth double the rent,’ said Mr Cooper.
Eviction notice ‘for $3,265’
He added that he invested such a large amount because he had signed a five by five by five (15) year lease. ‘I was served an eviction notice for the amount of $3,265.
‘It’s outrageous this landlord, who has watched his tenant put vast sums of money into his property, can get rid of them for such a small amount.’
Will Byron Bay’s traffic gridlock be addressed before the first sod is turned on the yet-to-be-determined West Byron Project?
Yes, according to NSW minister for the north coast and Byron resident Don Page MP (Nationals).
It comes as public submissions close this Friday for the proposed estate, located 2.5 kilometres west of the CBD. If approved, it would be the town’s largest suburb in decades.
Mr Page told The Echo, ‘I have told the consultant for the West Byron landowners that I will not support the project unless the Byron bypass has been constructed.
‘We have serious traffic congestion in Byron already and it should not be exacerbated. There are other issues which also need to be considered with their proposal and this is currently happening through the public exhibition and consultation process. I will treat those issues on their merits.’
But are the issues being addressed?
Not according to Council’s planning staff, who say issues remain, which they raised with NSW Planning and Infrastructure in 2011.
Director of Council’s environment and planning, Ray Darney, told The Echo that, ‘staff have recommended within the draft submission that the bypass needs to be completed prior to any residential subdivision proceeding at the site.’ As for residential density, he says, ‘The current proposed allotment size is too small and the overall density of development is not compatible with the general urban form and character of Byron Bay.’
And similarly, the concerns of flood mitigation raised in 2011 also remain. Mr Darney said staff have recommended within the submission that they are not satisfied with the flood planning levels as proposed by the developer.
‘The flood levels and flood planning levels for the development must be consistent with Council’s adopted flood study and flood management plan, which follows the process in the NSW flood plain development manual.’
However on its website’s FAQ, the West Byron Project claims, ‘The department commissioned WMA Water to undertake an independent review, which supported the modelling and flood planning levels.
‘There are no developable lots in high flood hazard risk areas. There will be a negligible impact on offsite peak flood levels.’
But it’s just not roads, density or flooding issues; Mr Darney says there would be a significant amount of infrastructure required to service up to 1,000 allotments.
‘Staff will be recommending to Council that the development should be provided with dual reticulation to recycle water and that the bypass and roundabouts on Ewingsdale road need to be provided by the developer.
‘In addition the trunk drainage system needs to be comprehensively designed and provided by the developer to ensure the quality of stormwater runoff does not impact negatively on the sensitive Belongil Creek.’
Bypass voluntary contribution: developers
The Echo understands that one of the priorities for the current councillors in their first term is to complete a Byron bypass. Given the issue has plagued successive councils for 25 years, it would be quite an achievement.
And with a total cost for the Byron bypass being estimated at around $8.2 million, the developers have said they will make voluntary contributions, ‘specifically earmarked for the bypass.’
They say it’s in addition to regular contributions to infrastructure that developers pay Council for projects.
If the rezoning is approved, they say, $7,000 per residential lot will be contributed under a planning agreement between them and the NSW planning minister.
If approved, it would almost cover the bypass cost if 1,000 homes were built, and would need to be paid upfront.
As for state assistance, MP Page said, ‘Even though it’s a Council responsibility, I have arranged through the minister for roads to pay 80 per cent of the geotechnical study (an important first step in helping to get the project started), estimated at $270,000.
‘The minister has also agreed to assist Council with additional funding for the construction of the Byron bypass once we know what the full cost will be.
‘The geotechnical study will help determine this.’
Meanwhile, mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo he is unsupportive of West Byron, ‘certainly not at the scale being proposed, but that is no matter within Council’s power.’
‘The monies we have do not go remotely towards addressing the long-term traffic and road infrastructure needs in Byron Bay. One roundabout alone is around the $1 million mark. In regard to traffic, there would not be a stupider place to plonk a development five times the size of Sunrise [than the site] proposed on Ewingsdale Road. So if the proponents want it, they need to ensure the rest of the community don’t have increased gridlock because of it.’
Plans for the West Byron Project are at http://bit.ly/westbyronplans and public submissions close January 31.
‘Democracy is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing’ – H L Mencken
It’s Thursday October 31, 9am, and a gasfield free flash mob has packed Council’s chamber to support Council’s gasfield free shire submission to the state government.
A triumphant mood permeates the room while speakers call on councillors to support gasfield free inclusions into a letter to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
Taking a stand against fossil fuel corporations was looking like a unanimous message from the crowd – but then a lone objector stood before the crowds and pooped on everyone’s feel-good bubble.
Belongil resident John Vaughan asked why Council was spending a ‘large amount of money’ on the motion when there were no coal seams in the Shire.
‘There are none in Tweed Shire and none in Ballina Shire,’ he said. ‘While I admire these people for their passion, it is not relevant to this shire.’
Mr Vaughan went on to say he spoke to Lock The Gate’s Ian Gaillard at the recent Metgasco AGM in Sydney.
‘I asked him why is Lock The Gate worried [about CSG] in the Tweed, Byron and Ballina shires. He dodged the question and when I said there’s no coal seams there, he said, “I know.” He said it was a “social movement”.’
There was a short pause while that sentiment sunk in, but then, well yes, that seems an entirely logical explanation. It appeared obvious to everyone in the room except one that this is largely a symbolic and social movement which is calling for a shift towards renewable energy.
Regardless, Mr Vaughan pushed on to repeat the same point again and again that, ‘enormous and vast resources’ were being spent on ‘something that wasn’t there.’
He suggested instead that Council find out whether there were coal seams in the area and report that to the community.
When asked by Cr Cameron if he represented anyone, he admitted he was a Metgasco shareholder. Laughter and heckles ensued. And when pushed on whether he supported CSG exclusion zones around towns, he eventually said ‘no’.
Mayor Simon Richardson later responded to Mr Vaughan’s claims that the submission would cost ‘enormous amounts of money.’ Cr Richardson said it probably would take staff ‘two hours at most to cut and paste,’ the submission, and that his presumption was completely unfounded.
Additionally a gasfield-free activist publicly thanked Mr Vaughn for his keen interest in saving Council money but then pointed out his ongoing court case with Council over rock works he instigated at his beachfront property.
When the issue was debated later in the day, Crs Alan Hunter, Di Woods and Chris Cubis spoke against supporting a gasfield free Shire.
‘Conceptually it’s not a problem,’ said Cr Hunter. ‘Food production and tourism should be protected, [but] we shouldn’t follow our emotions,’ he said. ‘A policy of saying “no” is limiting. I am concerned of cutting our supply and we need to be globally competitive.’ Cr Woods agreed. ‘I have signed the anti-fracking petitions… but if we discount gas altogether, what will we use? If you follow the chain to China where they make solar panels, it’s being made from gas. After coal, the only option is nuclear. I would rather have gas.’
Cr Chris Cubis said that while he agreed with some parts of the motion, he was concerned about other elements. ‘Friends of mine with farms outside the region are asking why we are spending money on this,’ he said.
‘There seems to be a lot of rhetoric being spread about.’
He added he would prefer resources spent elsewhere.
But as the mover of the motion, Cr cameron had the last word.
He said that petroleum exploration licences, held by Dart and the Aboriginal Land Council, still cover Byron Shire.
‘While the licences are in place, they allow a company to come in and explore. Council makes land use submissions on a regular basis and this is no different,’ he said. Crs Hunter, Woods and Cubis voted against the motion.
A decision on Bangalow’s historic weir was delayed after councillors all voted in favour of Cr Sol Ibrahim’s motion to wait for funding application results in December and the approval of a development application (DA), which is due in two weeks.
Caravan park grab
Fifth generation Brunswick heads resident Sean O’Meara questioned Council in public access about the state government’s latest attempts ‘to fleece the Brunswick Heads community of some of its best public foreshore land’. He told councillors he was hoping to ‘inspire you to keep your heads up and not be fooled, bluffed or tricked into dodgy compromises by the newly named NSW Crown Reserve Holiday Parks Trust, or as most of us remember them, Mr Jim Bolger and North Coast Holiday Parks.’
To see all of Thursday’s fun, the minutes are available at www.byron.nsw.gov.au.
The planning document that defines land usage, developments and zonings has been finalised by Byron Shire Council staff and is on its way to Sydney for state government approval.
It’s called the Local Environment Plan (LEP); councillors voted last Thursday to sign off on the 114-page policy, which is in accordance with state government requirements.
Council’s media spokesperson said it also corresponds with the shire-wide Development Control Plan (DCP), which is still being prepared.
But there are some omissions to the LEP – coastal, E2 and E3 environmental zonings were left out as the state has yet to finalise those parameters.
And it’s a policy that could see some movement in the real estate market: Council staff have included provisions enabling community title (CT) subdivision of approved multiple occupancy developments, which is again subject to state government approval.
Additionally Council will seek a future amendment to the LEP to allow two (detached) houses on rural land. While the minimum lot size is yet to be determined, it will be reported to Council prior to being sent to the NSW department of planning.
Mayor Simon Richardson said at Thursday’s Council meeting that he and general manager Ken Gainger recently met with NSW planning MP Brad Hazzard in Sydney and told him that funding advice for ground truthing, or mapping, had still not been received by Council from the planning department.
‘He was shocked to hear this,’ Cr Richardson said, and he expected Mr Hazzard to reply soon.
A working group has formed after a recent meeting between Byron Bay’s stakeholders wanting to address alcohol-related crime. Held at Council’s chambers in Mullumbimby, it was chaired by mayor Simon Richardson and included representatives from Council, Byron United, Last Drinks at 12, VIA Byron, local police and hospitals, Byron Bay Liquor Accord, Byron Youth Service and Save our Night Life.
Byron’s chamber of commerce (Byron United) president Paul Waters said the forum was a recommendation by his board to bring all stakeholders together and ‘begin a process by taking into account everyone’s position in the community.’
‘It was very clear that we all want the same result, and it’s also clear that more needs to be done on the streets where most of the trouble occurs.’ Additionally he’s calling all CBD businesses to light up the streets and back lanes around their businesses and to install their own CCTV around their businesses.
‘I also urge Council and state government to commit the resources that will make our streets safer.’
Mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo, ‘We all agreed we need to create a working group to develop a whole-of-town response, rather than fighting over individual aspects, eg opening/closing hours, lighting, CCTV, activation of laneways, diversifying the demographics etc.
‘Instead, we need to consider all of [the issues] in a strategic and considered manner.
‘Cr Paul Spooner has put a notice of motion to Council outlining this.
‘It may be slower and more “committee-ish” than many want, but it is the only way to take the discussion away from a self-interested, black- and-white view currently shaping the debate.’
When asked if Council is close to receiving state and federal funding to improve lighting and CCTV, he told The Echo Council was, ‘not really any closer at the moment, but staff and I are still working on it.’