Land swap deal rejected

Byron Council has delivered a ‘clear signal’ to the State Government that it won’t be going ahead with a controversial Brunswick Heads land swap deal.

In a decision that has delighted residents, the council’s strategic planning committee last week backed a motion by Cr Tom Tabart that land being encroached upon by caravans at The Terrace caravan park be resumed by the council and be used to improve safety, parking, access and amenity for residents.

The committee also backed Cr Tabart’s motion for similar action at the Massey Greene caravan park.

The land swap deal involved the acquisition by the Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) of five sites at Brunswick Heads in exchange for the Byron Bay swimming pool site and land at the Suffolk Park caravan park.

Cr Tabart said Brunswick Heads residents had made it clear what they wanted to happen to the sites at the centre of the land swap deal and the council had to ‘bite the bullet’ and do something about the sites which it had previously ‘turned a blind eye to’.

He said LPMA development plans for the Brunswick Heads caravan parks would have a ‘detrimental’ impact on the town.

“I think we should give a very clear message to the LPMA that we are not going to play their game,” he said.

“We are not going to do what they want, but what we want.”

Cr Tabart said the council had been talking to the LPMA ad nauseam  on the issue and ‘all we are getting is blocking tactics’.

Mayor Cr Jan Barham said the council wanted it recognised that the encroachments at the caravan parks affected the local community’s amenity.

Local resident and a member of the Terrace Residents Action Group, Sean O’Meara, said LPMA plans for the Terrace Reserve had the potential to change the ‘entire fabric’ of the town and make it ‘unliveable’ for many residents.

Mr O’Meara said management of the caravan park had been illegally using and making money from public foreshore and council road reserve to accommodate hundreds of weekend revellers who were camping year-round only metres from homes.

He said encroachment issues were the key argument for residents to keep the proposed developments off environmentally sensitive foreshore areas.

Mr O’Meara said it was ‘fantastic’ to see council standing up for local residents against the LPMA in its bid to turn an environmentally sensitive parkland and foreshore – land that had been used for generations by Brunswick families – into a money-spinning private tourist resort.

He said the LPMA have been taking public land from communities up and down the east coast and The Terrace Reserve was a fight the community was really getting behind and must win.

“If the LPMA gets away with taking a town’s most valuable parkland to develop a private tourist resort and manage to do it in the Byron Shire, then they will think they are invincible,” he said.

“The LPMA – the old Lands Department – was once a credible government department but they are now the state’s most ruthless and feared developers.

“A private developer wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting a development like this up, so neither should a government department.”

The strategic planning committee’s vote follows a decision by the full council in October that land swap negotiations be put on hold to consider the impacts on the local community.

It also follows inspections of the sites by councillors and a recent community meeting on the issue.

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