UPDATE: BALLINA Nationals candidate, Kris Beavis, has called Ballina Labor candidate, Paul Spooner's announcement about his plans to scrap the controversial West Byron Development a " disingenuous vote grab by Labor to take the focus off their plan to scrap the Byron by-pass."

"Paul Spooner is making promises he can't keep because he doesn't know the issues," Mr Beavis said.

"Final approval (for the West Byron Development) now lies with the Byron Council, not the State Government."

"Mr. Spooner should be lobbying his council colleagues rather than using this issue as political fodder in his campaign for State Parliament."

INITIAL REPORT: A LABOR government would scrap the controversial West Byron development and return planning controls for the site back to Byron Shire Council.

Speaking at the site this morning, Ballina Labor candidate Paul Spooner said the Byron community was "overwhelmingly against" the West Byron development but appeared to suggest the promise would require Labor to win both locally and at a state level.

"If I am elected to Parliament and Labor forms Government in March, West Byron will not go ahead," Mr Spooner said.

"I believe in a planning regime that properly balances economic activity, environmental protections and community participation," he said.

"I want to see Byron Bay preserved, not wrecked. If this development proposal goes ahead in it's current form, it would change life in our community forever."

The development has been heavily debated in the Byron community since it won approval from the State Government last year, with concerns based around infrastructure, the environment and Aboriginal cultural heritage.

However, the issue has been an issue for many years.

As early as 2009, with then Labor Planning Minister Kristina Keneally pressuring the council to rezone the site for development, prominent local environmentalist Dailan Pugh was warning it would be disastrous for the town.

"This will change the nature and perception of Byron Bay and turn us into just another over-developed sprawling coastal metropolis," Mr Pugh said at the time.

A few months later Greens MP David Shoebridge was up in arms over new legislation that would give the State Government final say over the development.

Mr Spooner's statement said Labor now had concerns about the development, including:

  • The lack of social and community infrastructure accompanying the new housing, such as schools;
  • The serious and unresolved traffic congestion along Ewingsdale Road;
  • The serious impact on koala populations;
  • The potential damage to the fragile wetland environment and the Belongil estuary; and
  • Protection of Aboriginal heritage and sensitive areas (e.g. shell midden scatters).

"Our community is overwhelmingly against the current development proposal," Mr Spooner said.

"I am proud that Labor has listened to our community. We will reverse planning approval for the West Byron development if we are elected to Government and return the approval process back to the local community and Byron Shire Council.

"I will always fight for what my community wants if elected our local MP on March 28."


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