Former Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham, who is now a state Greens MLC, has taken the extraordinary step of calling on planning minister Rob Stokes to intervene in two matters due to face council today.
Ms Barham blames ‘turncoat’ former Greens councillor Rose Wanchap for engaging with a ‘rogue’ faction which she says is ‘riding roughshod’ over proper planning processes.
In particular she is horrified by the ‘slipshod’ preparation of a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) for Byron Bay Embayment and the proposed rezoning of Ewingsdale farmland for a ‘seniors’ development and shopping centre, which was never envisaged in any planning instrument.
Ram through before elections
Ms Barham says the council’s CZMP preparation shows, ‘lack of genuine community involvement and engagement’ and ‘disregard for [the] broader issues contained in the CZMP guidelines.’
She has also condemned the short 28-day exhibition period for the plan, which due to be discussed at council today and go on exhibition following its May 12 meeting.
Ms Barham commented, ‘the majority council faction is attempting to ram through the hastily prepared plan before council elections on September 10’.
‘I am concerned that the council is proceeding with the development of the draft CZMP while the development of a new Coastal Act is in process,’ she added.
‘The public report does not include advice from government agencies and there is no reference to input from the Coastal Panel or legal advice to assure the residents that [it] does not impact on council and the state’s liability in relation to coastal management.’
Ms Barham said her call had been made, ‘with a heavy heart’.
She agreed that the action was ‘unusual’ and it was ‘more often undertaken by developers frustrated with council’s refusal to rezone their land.’
‘I’ve done it because council out of control and not acting in interests of the community,’ Ms Barham said.
‘To my great regret, someone who ran as a Green becoming a turncoat has put the shire at risk.
‘The plan for a new rock wall is a monstrous proposal that undoes decades of work in terms of the legal position of coastal lands,’ she said.
‘I don’t think [council] have met the guidelines; I don’ think they’ve fulfilled consultation requirements; the cost benefit analysis is not done – therefore the minister should disallow it because basic requirements have not been met.’
Ms Barham said she would meet with the minister next week.
She said she would point out that the rock wall would not conform with the state government’s own new planning direction, which was ‘another reason the minister should put a stop to it before more time and money is wasted.’
If [a rock wall] is done at Belongil what about South Golden Beach, Suffolk Park – why wouldn’t they call for it? Then the shire would be rock-walled from end to end.
She also raised the concern that the owners of Elements resort could sue council if the planned wall adversely impacted their property.
‘Club Med previously wrote to council to sue for damages if works could be proven to adversely impact,’ she said.
Ewingsdale unplanned development
Ms Barham also took aim at the so-called seniors development that proponents plan to bookend the Byron Central Hospital, saying that, ‘in 30 years it’s never put been forward and doesn’t conform to local development strategy.’
‘This rezoning is being considered despite no Local Growth Management Strategy being developed and the fact that this land has never been considered for development.
‘It is rural land that provides an important buffer to the town of Byron Bay.
‘There are also major concerns regarding the infrastructure impacts of the proposed development. The land and the potential development was not incorporated in the development of the West Byron Sewerage Treatment Plant as no strategic planning had ever considered this land for future development.
‘There are also impacts relating to traffic that have the potential to further exacerbate the traffic congestion on Ewingsdale Road, the entry to Byron Bay township,’ she said.