The pressure is on to explain why the NSW deputy premier would come all the way up from Sydney to spruik ‘putting regional NSW back at the heart of government’ yet at the same time syphon money away from it.
Andrew Stoner (also NSW Nationals leader) was in Tweed last Thursday, and travelled up with five other senior NSW MPs for ‘party business’ and to meet Tweed Council, ‘local business owners and groups’.
But the specifics were vague – when asked, no names of the business owners or groups were supplied by Mr Stoner’s media spokesperson.
But it was an opportunity for The Echo to ask Mr Stoner directly whether he would return management of Brunswick Heads’ public caravan parks and Crown reserves back to the Byron Shire Council.
Mr Stoner, who has the power to do so, said simply he ‘hadn’t ruled it out’.
In 2006 the parks were controversially taken over by the state and handed to the North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) by former disgraced Labor MP Tony Kelly, with a claim they had been mismanaged.
And ever since, major cost-shifting has occurred: The Echo previously reported that when council ran the parks in 2003–04, it made almost $1 million ($860,553) but under state control in 2011-12, NCHP paid $196,818 from park income to Byron Council.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson is calling for the return of management to Council, and it follows widespread community concern over future development of the parks and reserves by NCHP.
In 2012, former Byron general manager Graeme Faulkner lifted the veil of confidentiality over the report used by the state government to justify the Brunswick Heads parks takeover, and was damning of its claims.
The report was also discredited by most councillors at the time as deceptive and full of misinformation in order to justify stripping Council of its trusteeship of the parks.