June 20, 2018

JRPP hears strong community opposition to West Byron

Tamara Smith Member for Ballina at the Main Beach rally against the West Byron mega developments

There was a strong community turn out at the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel public meeting in Mullumbimby, with a full hall and a vocal crowd who were overwhelmingly against the mega developments planned for West Byron.

If you would like to take further action, sign my Say NO to West Byron petition.

Here is my statement to the Panel:

 “With over 2 million visitors frequenting Byron Bay each year; a town with 10,000 permanent residents and a land footprint of only a few square kilometres, to say that we are being “loved to death” is an understatement.

In the last 20 years we have seen a phenomenal increase in both the number of tourists visiting Byron and the value of land located within the 2481 postcode. Certainly the sleepy little town of my childhood, where businesses shut down for the winter and living was cheap, is long gone.

Yet it is important to reflect that whilst we are a top tourism destination and that tourism is the major economic driver of the town and the shire, we are not a commodity – we are a community!

Residents of Byron and the surrounding Shire put up with ever increasing traffic issues along Ewingsdale road, ever increasing numbers of people enjoying our beaches, ever increasing pressures on the infrastructure of the town – all of this without commensurate support from the State government.

The two proposed developments for West Byron I firmly believe will tip us towards a state of no return. It will be the largest new urban area for Byron Bay for 40 years and we do not simply need new homes in Byron Bay – we need affordable homes to buy and homes with affordable rent with secure long term leases.

However we all know that the land values in the 2481 postcode will preclude this.

These West Byron developments, if approved in their current form, will increase the population of residents in Byron from 10,000 to 12,500 with no commensurate improvements to our infrastructure or capacity to absorb an extra 2,500 residents physically, ecologically or emotionally. 

For residents and tourists the West Byron development will generate at least an extra 16,000 vehicle trips a day along Ewingsdale Road post construction. It’s hard to imagine Ewingsdale road becoming more congested at peak times than it currently is -  but imagine it you must.

While you are at it imagine 1 million tonnes of land fill imposed on the Cumbebin swamp in order to build the proposed new residential dwellings.

There is a risk of destruction of habitat for native wildlife and extinction of threatened animal species if this development application goes ahead as is.

There is a real danger of further pollution of the Belongil Creek from acid sulphate soils as the result of the sheer mass of infill and flood events.

These developments have nothing to do with supporting people to afford to live close to Byron Bay. At current Byron Bay land values even the smallest house built on the site will cost close to $1 Million dollars. It is investors who will buy into West Byron and it is investors and the State government, through land tax and stamp duty, who will profit the most.

With the current lack of regulation of short term holiday letting it is very likely that the majority of residential properties built on this development will be used as short term holiday rentals, with very little benefit to locals who are searching for affordable long term rental accommodation.

There is a very real risk that these developments will severely impact upon the desirability of Byron Bay as a tourism destination. There is an estimated value of tourism to the Byron Shire of $328m according to the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research 2016. This represents the largest economic contributor to the shire and provides significant employment. 

The fragility of destination- based tourism must be recognised and supported, not destroyed by inappropriate development such as the one at West Byron under discussion here today.

There is a long history of protecting the environment and preserving a laid back way of life in Byron Shire that has been recognised as one of the key factors that influence the desirability of Byron Bay as a  tourism and lifestyle destination.

Approving an inappropriate West Byron development at the entrance to Byron Bay would undermine the very way of life that tourists want to come to experience.

We should not underestimate the impact that this mega development would have on tourism as well as on the environment  and on the residents.

As the State Member for Ballina I urge you to reject this development application."


Take action sign the Say NO to West Byron petition

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