Brunswick Heads

Council response to plans to dredge parts of the Brunswick River

BYRON SHIRE COUNCIL ORDINARY MEETING  16 July 2015

No. 1 Matter of Urgency – Dredging works in the Brunswick River Resolved that Council writes to the Minister of Lands and Water, the Hon Niall Blair, seeking a deferment of any dredging works in the Brunswick river until the following questions have been considered and answers provided and that permission to use Council’s boat ramp to launch the dredge vessel will not be granted until support has been gained through Council resolution.

  1. Purpose of Works:
    1. As works haven’t occurred for over 20 years, is work proposed ‘maintenance’ or new?
    2. If considered maintenance, what ongoing maintenance is proposed?
    3. What are estimated ongoing costs to maintain the assumed benefits?
    4. Has the stated purpose to “enable safe boat passage” and “address public safety and environmental risks associated with shallow depths causing vessels to run aground” been assessed and supported by evidence? What are the specific measurable triggers that are being applied? Are there documented reports of any accidents and/or injury as a result of shallow waters? Has there been any effort to implement signage in the river indicating the deep channel areas and speed limits?
    5. Is the area concerned currently un-navigable? Is there evidence of this?
  2. Impacts of Works:
    1. Did the REF consider cumulative impacts of ongoing or recurrent dredging?
    2. What modelling has been used to consider the rate of natural sand replacement, and at what regularity is proposed for the ongoing maintenance.
    3. What documentation exists to support the selection of the three proposed dredging sites?
    4. Have immediate and ongoing impacts on sea grasses been considered?
    5. Are there any potential nearby geomorphic disturbances identified, such as heightened erosion or accretion?
    6. What are the specific measurable triggers that are being applied to effects of works, natural sand replacement processes and environmental disruptions?
    7. Has a cost-benefit analysis been completed that incorporates environmental and social considerations?
  3. Impacts of Works on Fishers and other Users:
    1. What commercial fishing benefits have been identified and what evidence has been produced for justification?
    2. What evidence exists to illustrate any current navigation impediments to commercial fishers due to the current state of the river?
    3. Have impacts of dredging for recreational fisherman been assessed?
    4. What assessment has been conducted, and evidence provided, to verify the claimed benefits for local economies and tourism industries?
    5. Does this assessment include possible negative impacts due to ecological and marine disturbance?
  4. Wider support for Works:
    1. Does OEH support the work and agree with the necessity?
    2. Does Marine Parks support the work and agree with the necessity? Does Marine Parks have concerns and have these concerns been investigated? What are the strategies being put in place to overcome articulated areas of concerns?
    3. Has the local Tourism organisation been consulted? Do they agree with the stated need for the dredging?
    4. Has the REF been exhibited for public comment?
    5. Has community sentiment been assessed and considered supportive of the proposed works and the needs as stated of them?
    6. Is the Minister satisfied with the level of community consultation and community support?(Richardson/Spooner)

The motion was put to the vote and declared carried.

Crs Cubis and Woods voted against the motion.

June 30 Echo Net daily

Page mute over govt’s plans for Bruns parks

North Coast Holiday Parks GM Jim Bolger faced a hostile reception during community consultations on its new plan of management earlier this year. Photo Sharon Shostak

Hans Lovejoy

‘A town square beheading without even letting the public bear witness,’ was how Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson described the quiet adoption of large-scale development plans for Brunswick Heads holiday parks and reserves last week.

And while fellow councillor Di Woods also condemned the contentious plans by the government-run NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust corporation, our locally elected state representative, Don Page (Nationals), is remaining mute.

When asked by The Echo for comment on the independent audit’s questionable findings about the public submission report, the retiring MP instead suggested that questions be passed back to the organisation that compiled the report.

It’s unclear if Mr Page even read the submission report and subsequent audit; his reply was, ‘[The Crown Holiday Parks Trust’s media officer] is in a much better position than I regarding any details.’

The mayor slammed the long-serving MP with, ‘I presume Don Page’s silence over the matter is due to utter embarrassment.’

Broken election promise

Notwithstanding the 2006 holiday parks takeover by disgraced NSW minister Tony Kelly from Council and loss of revenue, the mayor also took aim at the government’s claims when elected that it would ‘put locals back in control of planning matters that affect them’.

‘Not only have the Brunswick Heads Plans of Management (POM) kept control over the holiday parks in the hands of the state government appointed “Trust” seeking the highest return; they have put the same operators in charge of ensuring compliance, the setting of public access widths and overall reporting. For example, what was once public access that allowed fishing and picnicking, could, if the manager sees fit, be as narrow as 1.8 metres wide.’

Meanwhile Cr Woods told The Echo, ‘While some concessions have been made over all the parks, there is still no access being granted along the foreshore at The Terrace Reserve Caravan Park, but rather an adjusted plan for the public to walk through the park.’

According to the public submission report – which is of questionable validity according to the audit review – there were 80 supporting submissions to, ‘Provide public access to and along the foreshore at Terrace Reserve’.

Cr Woods said river access and access outside the park boundary was a ‘major point’ from all the public submissions.

She says another issue along the riverbank is the ‘continued erosion along the edge, which is compounded by the permanent residents’ structures that almost hang over the edge.’

‘The Trust representative said that the permanent residents along the edge of the river will be moved by natural attrition.

‘However, there has been a sale to a resident during the last couple of years, with no indication to the purchaser that their structure was in fact in a position which the Crown had informed Council during its control [of the park] was “inappropriate”.

‘Council had been informed that the structure had to be moved and in fact [the Crown] had asked that Council relocate all the residents living in structures that were hanging over the edge of the river bank.

‘Council had begun the process, prior to the Crown assuming control of the parks.

‘Under the Trust’s management, it appears that they do not believe that this problem needs urgent attention, and I find that quite at odds with the instructions given to Council, and wonder what is really in store for those residents.’

‘Get-out’ clause

‘There are a number of concessions that contain a get-out clause, which basically says they could change their mind. For example, a fence being erected along The Terrace Road, while not in the immediate plans, could be seen to be necessary at a later date, while access through the park could be stopped if deemed unsafe.

‘I am of the opinion that once the plans of management have been implemented, and the parks have been given the majority of their upgrades, then the state will see them as a very attractive piece of real estate to be offered up for sale to private enterprise.

‘Not just in Bruns, but places like Evans Head, Ballina, and many other parcels of land, particularly along the coast, will be seen as a way for the state government to get some fast money. Just like the sale of the NSW Lotteries, the electricity infrastructure, the Newcastle port etc.’

NSWCHPT reply

NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust CEO Steve Edmonds has defended his development plans for Bruns, despite similar plans sparking public outrage at the Silver Sands caravan park in Evans Head.

He echoed NSW minister Kevin Humphries reply last week that ‘41 amendments were made to the plans of management as a result of public input,’ and repeated that subject to ‘reasonable conditions’, public access through The Terrace Holiday Park and to Simpsons Creek will continue.

He told The Echo, ‘The public car park and kayak launching facilities will be upgraded as part of this plan.

‘The Trust will progressively relocate existing structures away from foreshore sites to enable the re-establishment of a natural bank profile and the protection and restoration of the vegetation communities as part of its foreshore environmental restoration project.’

While ignoring public concerns over access, Mr Edmonds spruiked the development, saying, ‘Additionally, the Torakina and Banner Park Reserves will benefit from $1m worth of improvements such as playground facilities, boardwalk platform and upgraded amenities which will benefit the local communities, businesses in the area, tourists and other visitors to Brunswick Heads.’

Asked why there was no public announcement over these major developments, Mr Edmonds replied, ‘In accord with due process, it is appropriate to firstly brief local councils in relation to the adoption of plans of management before public announcement. The meeting with Council was arranged to fit with Council availability.’

Good faith?

The mayor meanwhile said that during the last year or so of negotiations with the Holiday Parks managers, ‘it was clear we would struggle to achieve anything like the outcomes the community deserved.

‘But with the state government requiring Council to negotiate, we did so in good faith. I thought if we could maintain public access, we had secured at least something for the community, knowing that ultimately we were being forced to play the tune created for us by the state government.

‘Though tenuous, the community have managed to keep public access along the Brunswick River in front of two parks, with a touch more public access gained on the eastern side of Massey Greene, but access through The Terrace Reserve will be at the discretion of the managers.

‘There is absolutely no compulsion whatever for the permanent dwellings to move away from Simpsons Creek and allow for public access as appropriate. To rub salt in the wounds, this disgraceful management model has been promoted within the wider review of the Crown Lands Act as a model example of efficient and successful management.’

Brunswick Heads chamber of commerce president Peter Wotton told The Echo their reply was still in progress, as ‘one person on this committee is ill at the moment, we have not been able to consider all the issues as yet.’

‘We will have a statement for you on this very important and complex matter soon.’

June 25, 2014 Echonet Daily

Holiday parks decision an insult to community: mayor

SimonRichardson

Simon Richardson

The last few weeks has ensured all and sundry have seen the emperor not just wearing few clothes, but as brazenly nude as a toddler.

The NSW Government came to power trumpeting that locals would be put back in control of planning matters that affect them.

The Brunswick Heads Holiday Parks and Crown Lands foreshore areas recently adopted Plans of Management and the West Byron rezoning process have shown even the truest of believers a truth that cannot be explained away.

Not only have the Brunswick Heads Plans of Management kept control over the holiday parks in the hands of the state government-appointed ‘Trust’ seeking the highest return, they have put the same operators in charge of ensuring compliance, the setting of public access widths and overall reporting.

For example, what was once public access that allowed fishing and picnicking, could, if the manager sees fit, be as narrow as 1.8 metres wide.

During the last year or so of negotiations with the Holiday Parks managers, it was clear we would struggle to achieve anything like the outcomes the community deserved, but with the State government requiring Council to negotiate, we did so in good faith.

I thought if we could maintain public access, we had secured at least something for the community, knowing that ultimately we were being forced to play the tune created for us by the state government.

Though tenuous, the community have managed to keep public access along the Brunswick River in front of two parks, with a touch more public access gained on the eastern side of Massey Greene, but access through the Terrace Reserve will be at the discretion of the managers. There is absolutely no compulsion whatever for the permanent dwellings to move away from Simpson Creek and allow for public access as appropriate.

To rub salt in the wounds, this disgraceful management model has been promoted within the wider review of the Crown Lands Act as a model example of efficient and successful management.

Finally, the state government was aware the outcome was so woefully unpalatable for the community, they announced the approval of the Plans of Management without having the decency of notifying council or the community of Brunswick Heads. It was like a town square beheading without even letting the public bear witness. I presume Don Page’s silence over the matter is due to utter embarrassment.

June 23, 2014, ABC News

Trust chief says iconic north coast caravan parks are under utilised

The chairman of the state’s Crown Holiday Parks Trust says the Silver Sands and Shaws Bay caravan parks are under utilised.

Plans to spend millions of dollars at Ballina and Evans Head have sparked fears of higher prices and fewer camping sites being available.

The Richmond Valley Mayor Ernie Bennett has been a vocal critic, saying locals will be priced out of the market.

But the trusts Alan Revell says better facilities will attract more visitors.

At the moment were getting occupancies at those two parks of probably in the order of 40-45 per cent, he said.

You’d probably normally expect parks of that type, particularly Silver Sands, you’d probably expect occupancies in the order of 65-70 per cent.

So they’re being under utilised at the moment and what we’ve found in the past, once you sort of do something with the parks and dolly them up, then the occupancies do improve.

The deadline for submissions on the management plans lapses at the close of business today.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales Crown Lands website shows new plans of management for the Ferry Reserve, Massey Green and Terrace Reserve holiday parks at Brunswick Heads have now been been approved.

The decision was made three weeks ago, but Byron Mayor Simon Richardson says no-one at the council was told.

“Its quite a shock to think that something that is so contentious amongst the community and so important for the community is released without any fanfare,” he sdaid.

“I think perhaps we could read no fanfare another way and that is slipping it through.

“Hopefully its not an indication of the type of community consultation and concern that the trust have.”

Michelle Grant, from the Brunswick Heads Foreshore Protection Committee, says she is extremely disappointed by the decision.

She says none of the concessions sought by the community have been granted.

“They have refused to reinstate access along Simpsons Creek in the Terrace,” Ms Grant said.

“They intend to continue camping on this very narrow stretch of riverbank in the southern section that really impacts severely on adjoining neighbours.

“At Ferry Reserve we were hoping to get the whole foreshore strip retained for public use, not just the little 10-metre strip that the caravan park patrons all use for their recreation.

“It doesn’t really work, and the same in Massey Green.”

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Fight to protect idyllic beachside town of Brunswick Heads

SMH-February 16, 2014

  • Tim Barlass
Development plans: Children jump off the town bridge at Brunswick Heads.Development plans: Children jump off the town bridge at Brunswick Heads. Photo: Supplied

Search for a holiday location on the Destination NSW website and you might be lured by descriptions of the idyllic estuary town of Brunswick Heads, north of Byron Bay.

”Despite the ever-increasing popularity of this stretch of coast, Brunswick Heads has remained almost unchanged, very much a traditional, relaxed and unpretentious coastal town,” it says.

But residents say the charm of the town is being threatened by plans the NSW government has for it and the other 25 holiday parks it runs on the north and south coasts along with eight inland parks.

Among the parks under the auspices of the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust are Hawks Nest, Seal Rocks, Nambucca Headland, Wategos and Lake Ainsworth.

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Websites, petitions and protest groups have sprung up to confront development proposals, including the removal of a Brunswick Heads playground and the decking of a riverfront park.

Residents say the plans amount to theft of public land and rivers from the community for commercial use. They say the public would be denied access to foreshore parklands, walkways, swimming holes and boat ramps used for generations.

The NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust was established by Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner ”to provide co-ordinated management of some of the state’s most iconic coastal and inland caravan parks and reserves”.

The trust board is chaired by property industry executive Alan Revell and includes former Bunnings property general manager Matthew Toohey and professional board director and former senior executive with Mars Food Australia Margaret Haseltine.

Sean O’Meara, convener of the Foreshore Protection Group, said Brunswick Heads was the first town to be confronted by the trust.

”It is trying to fleece communities across NSW of their best public spaces so they can be turned into private, fenced and gated tourist enclaves,” he said. ”It is clear from the composition of the board that it will be nothing more than a development company intent on commercially leasing these new developments to the highest bidder.

”What skills could these people possibly bring to abide by the conservation principles of Crown land?”

The right to manage the parks was removed from Byron Shire Council in 2006, which said it wants to regain control of the parks in the best interests of the community.

Mayor Simon Richardson said: ”When you start to commercialise the operations on those foreshore areas, the next step is to deny access to the public that have used them for more than a century.

”Brunswick Heads has very intelligently and quite strategically positioned itself and marketed itself under the banner of simple pleasures … People want to have a little bit less glitz and glamour and more simple, family friendly, low-impact holiday experiences.

”If caravan parks are controlled by the local council, which is accountable to the local community, it will ideally reflect the local community. Once you get away from that model, and start to have a commercial enterprise involved, they will simply see that real estate as something that requires profitability.”

A spokesman for the Deputy Premier said creation of the trust had provided operational efficiencies for the administration of 34 holiday parks with combined assets of $82 million.

”A number of false claims continue to be circulated within the community despite repeated attempts by the trust to correct them,” he said. ”The truth is the draft plans do not remove any foreshore land from public use and the parks are not being privatised.

”The draft plans of management are on extended public exhibition until February 21, 2014. All responses received will be evaluated before any decision is made. Local residents are encouraged to have their say on the draft plans.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/fight-to-protect-idyllic-beachside-town-of-brunswick-heads-20140215-32snm.html#ixzz2tWqVEZbA

Bruns parks campaigner wins appeal

Residents of Riverside Crescent in Brunswick Heads were outraged when their public road was suddenly barricaded and closed off by NCHP, also blocking access to a public boat ramp. Photo Luis Feliu

Residents of Riverside Crescent in Brunswick Heads were outraged when their public road was suddenly barricaded and closed off by NCHP, at the same time blocking access to a public boat ramp. It lead to a group protest action in which a high-profile campaigner was the only person charged.

Luis Feliu

Campaigners fighting the proposed redevelopment of Brunswick Heads public caravan parks and foreshore reserves have been buoyed by the overturning of a conviction against an organiser of a protest group which removed barricades controversially erected on a public road at Brunswick Heads last year.

And the recent discovery of an Aboriginal stone artefact at the Ferry Reserve has led to calls for an archeological assessment of the town’s foreshore which campaigners say is likely to reveal that most of the Brunswick Heads foreshore area is a place of cultural significance.

Byron Shire Council last week also called on minister for the north coast Don Page to support a bid for the parks to be returned to council management. The State government took over the parks from council eight years ago while former disgraced lands minister Tony Kelly was in charge of Crown lands.

On Thursday, mayor Simon Richardson requested that North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) hold a formal public meeting on their draft plans with an independent facilitator and the involvement of the Foreshore Protection Group (FPG).

The success on Friday of an appeal in the NSW District Court in Lismore comes in the final weeks of the public display of the contentious draft plans of management for the three Crown land holiday parks and foreshore reserves in the holiday town.

FPG organiser Michele Grant was fined $750 by magistrate Michael Dakin in July last year after he found her guilty of a charge of disposing of stolen property.

Ms Grant was part of a group of more than a dozen Brunswick Heads residents who took part in the community protest action in November 2012, but she was the only one charged over the action which involved removing large barricades on Riverside Crescent at Ferry Reserve and then dropping them off in front of the council chambers in Mullumbimby.

The barricades had been erected on the public road a week before a new licence agreement for the caravan park in that location was adopted by Byron Shire Council, sparking local outrage.

NSW District Court Judge Laura Wells threw out the conviction following a submission from Ms Grant’s lawyer John Weller.

Ms Grant told Echonetdaily today that, ‘the police would have had more success charging NCHP with the illegal obstruction of Riverside Crescent, an allegation they didn’t bother to follow up.

‘Anyway it’s a great outcome, it looks like adults are allowed to be responsibly pro-active and participate in the democratic process,’ she said.

Cultural history

Meanwhile, an Ocean Shores resident last week gave an Indigenous stone tool he found on the Brunswick Heads foreshore to the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s (NPWS) Byron shire office.

Paramedic Duncan Merrell said he found the stone hand tool while fishing near the Ferry Reserve public boat ramp around six weeks ago.

Mr Merrell said he showed the hand tool to an Indigenous workmate ‘who confirmed its identity and described its uses and also the likely place it was found.

‘He described the location of the tool perfectly as probably being a place where it would be comfortable and safe to sit, a place with a good handy food source and probably a nice view. He had described my fishing spot exactly as I imagine it would have been.’

Mr Merrell said other cultural relics are bound to be found in the area and he fears ‘they may be threatened by the proposed expansion and development of the caravan parks in Brunswick Heads.

‘It seems to me as if the Brunswick Head estuary and river banks now threatened by development and denial of public access, have always been a place of beauty, communal gathering and cultural significance.

‘I hope it remains that way for always into the future as well.’

Mr Merrell said the NPWS office was ‘very happy’ to receive the artefact, telling him it was ‘a great specimen and would probably end up being displayed in a local exhibit at some stage’.

Ms Grant, who for years has campaigned with other locals against the encroachment of public lands by the NCHP, says Brunswick Heads has a rich history of Aboriginal culture.

‘Midden sites were damaged near the bowling club when the concrete bike track was constructed a few years ago, and I remember the Arakwal were insisting the concrete be removed (the bike path from roundabout to riverside walking track),’ she said.

‘(Lifelong resident) Darcy O’Meara also talks about large middens that existed in the southern section of Terrace Park and claims the mounds have been destroyed with the shells spread around the park.’

Midden Beach

Mr O’Meara’s son, Sean, told Echonetdaily that he had, ‘often heard the little beach in the Terrace Reserve referred to as Midden Beach and if you look around the entrance on top of the bank there is still plenty of midden shells scattered around.

‘Over 50 power poles, taps and fire hoses were installed in the southern section of the Terrace in around 2008,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘These structures that basically appeared overnight were never approved, did not meet “primitive camping” and turned what was once just open parkland where people were allowed to pitch a tent for a few weeks of the year into a designated camping/caravan park as there was then infrastructure every 10 metres.

‘This was the real takeover point of this land, as then campers were there every week, enforcing occupation with locals forced off.

‘All complaints were met with the reply that a plan of management was underway and all would be then rectified.

‘NCHP is using the gradualism approach to fleece us of our land; they had no permission under their licence to do this and should be made to rectify this as their licences still state primitive camping only.’

Ms Grant said the draft plans of management also make no reference to ‘encroachments’ or acquisition of additional lands – and park boundaries (existing or preferred) are not clearly labeled in ‘concept drawings’.

‘Despite a council resolution to review “maps” we again have only inaccurate, misleading “drawings/cartoons” to work with, instead of properly labeled, surveyed plans, which are required of all developers, especially when making boundary adjustments,’ she said.

The proposed boundaries, especially at the Terrace where cabins for permanent residents were erected years ago right on the foreshore that block public access along it, are a very contentious issue.

So is the plan by NCHP, which has outraged locals, to erect a 1.8-metre-high fence around the caravan parks, shutting out residents and their children who ususally walk through the Terrace Reserve park to get to town, school, the beach or estuary.

But Deputy premier Andrew Stoner told media during a visit to the north coast last Thursday the state government was ‘keen’ to maintain access along the foreshore, which suggests the fence plan and foreshore cabins would have to go.

Mr Stoner also suggested the state government was looking at reducing its management of Crown land which he said covered 40 per cent of the state’s land mass, making Byron Council’s bid to have management of the Brunswick Heads parks returned to it not only timely but reasonable.

The deputy premier also said the plans on display (till 21 February) were only drafts and nothing was yet set in concrete.

He also said the Byron council’s bid to have the parks returned to their management would be considered.

In his call for a public meeting on the plans, Cr Richardson said the meeting should allow questions to be asked and ‘myths crushed on all sides of the debate’.

He said the recommendation for the public meeting would also be sent to Mr Stoner.

Cr Richardson said Byron Shire Council was also currently seeking legal advice on a number of issues related to the caravan park licences.

* See editorial ‘Stealing public land’ in Articles

* Also, the documentary video on the issue by Sharon Shostak at:

http://www.echo.net.au/2014/02/brunswick-heads-foreshore-parks-one-mans-plan-community-vision/

NCHP boss Jim Bolger fends off curly questions during a public information session recently. Photo Luis Feliu

NCHP boss Jim Bolger fends off curly questions during a public information session recently. Photo Luis Feliu

Cabins right on the foreshore at the Terrace caravan park block access along the Simpsons Creek foreshore.

Cabins right on the foreshore at the Terrace caravan park block access along the Simpsons Creek foreshore.

Byron council urges state to return Bruns parks

Andrew Stoner holding a media conference at the NSW-Qld border opposite Twin Towns club yesterday morning. Photo Jeff Dawson

Luis Feliu

NSW deputy premier Andrew Stoner has not ruled out a Byron Shire Council bid for the government to hand back management of Brunswick Heads’ public caravan parks and Crown reserves.

Byron shire mayor Simon Richardson this week wrote to local government minister and Ballina MP Don Page urging him to support the council’s offer to once again manage the parks.

Cr Richardson said this follows widespread community concern over future development of the parks and reserves by state agency North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP), with draft plans of management now on display.

In 2006 the parks, then run by council, were controversially taken over by the state and handed to NCHP under then lands minister Tony Kelly, with a claim they had been mismanaged, run down and unsafe.

Mr Kelly five years later was found to have acted corruptly (but not prosecuted) by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over the sale of a coastal property by the government.

In 2012, former Byron general manager Graeme Faulkner, in one of his last moves on council, lifted the veil of confidentially 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.

Cr Richardson told media yesterday the parks should all be returned to council management as it could offer the state the same return as NCHP does.

‘It is clearly in the community’s interest because we, first and foremost, have the community’s interest at heart,’ he told APN Media.

Income plummets

And Cr Richardson has a strong case on the money side of things, as returns to council from park income has plummeted since the takeover.

A recent Echonetdaily report revealed that in 2011-12, NCHP paid $196,818 from park income to Byron Council, yet in 2003-04 when council ran the parks, it made almost $1 million ($860,553).

Mr Page told media it was ‘possible’ that Byron Council could become the trustee again in the future, while Mr Stoner said Byron Council, like any other member of the public or stakeholder group, was entitled to make a submission on the future of the parks and reserves.

Mr Stoner said he would be ‘guided ultimately’ by not only the submissions but ‘what is in the best interests of the public for what these reserve lands should serve’.

He said that ‘in terms of state government we have no plans to add to the Crown land estate, it’s already over 40 per cent of the land mass of NSW, we’ve probably got too much Crown land, this is why we call upon councils and reserve trusts to help us manage those lands,’ he said.

Only two weeks now remain before the close of submissions (21 February) on NCHP’s draft plans of management for the historic holiday town’s three parks and five foreshore Crown reserves.

NCHP intends spending around $10 million over the next five years on the ‘upgrade’.

Outrage

The plans have outraged residents and Foreshore Protection Group campaigners who say public access along Simpsons Creek at the Terrace caravan park which for years they have fought to reinstate, was again being denied by NCHP.

They claim NCHP is using a handful of permanent residents living in cabins which illegally encroach on the foreshore as ‘pawns’ in the secretive agency’s plans to keep these cabins and current park configuration.

They also say that for years the residents and park managers have been on notice that under state law, the long-term residents there have to be relocated elsewhere within the park and the cabins moved away from along the foreshore.

Proposed improvements under the new plans which are generally welcome include public toilet upgrades, landscaping and some new footpaths in reserves.

But unpopular proposals include limiting or closing off public access along the foreshore at the Terrace, Massey Greene and Ferry Reserve caravan parks, reduced access to the public boat ramp at Ferry Reserve, a new two-storey park manager’s residence on land used by fishers and boaties at the harbour and footpaths up to two metres wide linking two of the caravan parks.

Banner Park, opposite the local pub, will be transformed under the plans with raised timber decking, new playground and concrete footpath along its entire grassy length.

One of the most unpopular proposals is NCHP’s plan to erect what locals say will be an unsightly 1.8-metre high steel mesh fence around the parks, destroying the quaint charm of the seaside town and locals’ amenity as a result.

Encroachment

Other concerns include boundary encroachments by the caravan parks into other public areas and road reserves.

Mr Stoner was in the Tweed for a meeting of his parliamentary team yesterday.

[photo]

The NSW Nationals leader also reassured residents that public access along the foreshore would not be closed off.

‘I’m aware there’s a lot of concern in the community about a draft plan of management that’s been put forward but at this stage it’s only a draft, there’s been no decision made, what we’re keen to do is to preserve public access to the foreshore area, and that will be taken into account,’ Mr Stoner told a press conference on the NSW-Queensland border opposite Twin Towns services club yesterday.

‘The contentious issue is access along the foreshore, and in my deliberations when I consider the public submissions to the draft plan and before I make a decision, I’ll certainly be taking that into account,’ he said.

The comments appear to counter one of the most contentious proposals in the plan: NCHP’s reluctance to relocate around eight permanent residents on illegally encroached foreshore land at the Terrace in order to restore a primitive access trail along the foreshore.

Campaigners, backed by Cr Richardson, say access along the foreshore all around the town is ‘non-negotiable’ and improving that would be a tourism boon.

No vision

They say the plan lacks vision in this regard and denying access along the foreshore to locals and visitors alike was a not just illegal but immoral and anti-social.

Locals also are upset that a community plan to extend a walking and cycleway around the town is being ignored while the commercial interests of the NCHP are being pushed instead.

Hundreds of locals have attended two public information sessions on the plans in the past month.

Many told NCHP the community wants to preserve and protect the natural beauty of the quaint and historic holiday town.

Mr Page, like Mr Stoner, emphasised the plans were only ‘draft’ and encouraged council, ratepayers and stakeholders to make submissions.

Mr Page told APN Media that ‘ultimately it would be up to the Minister for Crown Lands to sign off on what goes ahead’.

‘I’m keen to keep community access to the foreshore and for development to be in keeping with the character of the area, but if there is a proposal to improve some barbecue facilities, no reasonable person can object to that,’ he said.

http://www.echo.net.au/2014/02/byron-council-urges-state-return-bruns-parks/

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