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Brunswick Heads News

Save Wallum campaigners ready to fight off bulldozers

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Save Mallum

Save Wallum campaigners ready to fight off bulldozers

 

By Sarah Waters

Supporters of the Save Wallum campaign ensure there will be ‘a big community presence’ if developers try to proceed with earthworks on the unspoiled coastal heathland in Brunswick Heads.

Byron Shire Council staff will issue the subdivision works certificate for early stage one works to begin on the major and highly controversial housing estate, the developer has named as ‘Wallum.’

Wallum, or wallum country, is actually, a coastal ecosystem along south-east Queensland, and northern NSW, characterised by flora-rich shrubland and heathland.

Developer Clarence Property Pty Ltd plan to build 124 residential lots, three medium density lots and supporting infrastructure on the culturally sacred and ecologically significant land at 15 Torakina Road, Brunswick Heads.

It is home to numerous threatened species, including nine federally listed Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) such as the critically endangered Swift Parrot and Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail.

More than 5000 people have thrown their support behind the Save Wallum campaign since it started more than six months ago.

Campaigners have spent countless hours combing through environment and planning laws to try and stop what they call a ‘zombie development’ which was approved due to a loophole in NSW planning legislation.

The proposal for the Wallum housing development was approved by the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) in May 2023.

Save Wallum spokesperson and local ecologist James Barrie said the development did not reflect current environmental or cultural concerns and requirements.

At last week’s Byron Shire Council meeting he told councillors if they approved the subdivision works certificate, they were perpetuating known, incorrect information and allowing destruction of a precious environment.

“Corrections by expert (independent) ecologist David Milledge need to be heeded in detail and the plans updated to include the statutory requirements for the threatened species concerned,” he said.

Images show koala scratching on large scribbly gums taken at the Wallum site marked for development.

Images show koala scratching on large scribbly gums taken at the Wallum site marked for development.

Mr Barrie said Eucalyptus Signata at the site had been previously misidentified as Eucalyptus Racemosa.

“Significant koala feed trees have not been identified in the plans.

“We still don’t know the actual number of koala feed trees to be removed.

“This demonstrates the basic information that was requested, can’t be answered from the expert reports.

“So how can a VMP (vegetation management plan) address impacts on threatened species such as the koala when we don’t even know the number of koala feed trees to be removed,” he said.

Mr Barrie also slammed the developer’s ‘revised froglet management plan’ and stated there was no scientific evidence that artificially constructed frog ponds have ever worked.

Hundreds of community members were present at the meeting, voicing their disapproval – as they have done for months – about the development.

Councillors went into deadlock with four voting in favour to approve the subdivision certificate and four against.

After hours of debate, Mayor Michael Lyon used his casting vote to determine the matter, voting in favour of approving the application.

Mr Lyon said he had made it ‘crystal clear’ from the beginning that council were limited in their power as the Northern Rivers Planning Pannel (NRPP) had already approved the development.

He said it would be better to have discussions with the developers about preserving parts of the site rather than ending up in court and potentially coming out with nothing.

The early stage one ‘ecological rehabilitation works’ certificate for the subdivision to start was subject to discussions to clarify some potential errors including, the VMP being updated.

Councillor Peter Westheimer, who was against the subdivision certificate being issued, asked ‘how much are the community willing to risk for Wallum.’

Save Mallum

The ecologically and culturally significant Wallum heathland

“I’d say a considerable amount,” Mr Westheimer said.

“Risking that the council has to go to court and the council will have costs, that’s just the way it is.

“I’ve been involved in lots of these issues since the early nineties, and it takes guts for the community, and it takes energy … but the community can win.

“Let’s look at some of the terms being thrown around in the environmental management plan, we have a ‘habitat translocation plan’ a ‘revised froglet management plan’ these terms are increasingly dystopian.

“They are all about humans trying to manage an environment which they want to destroy but trying to make themselves feel better along the way,” he said.

Supporter of the Save Wallum campaign Maria Lloyd said she and many others were left ‘really disappointed’ by the decision.

“We really hoped council would step up and support the community,” Ms Lloyd said.

“We’ve had incredible community support for this issue for months, council have received thousands of emails from members of the public.

“The issues of the environmental significance of the site and cultural values of the area have been brushed aside in favour of negotiations with a developer who has shown no respect for the area,” she said.

The Northern Rivers Times was unable to contact the developer before this story went to print.

But they told ABC they rejected claims from Save Wallum that environmental and cultural assessments carried out were inadequate.

Clarence Property’s managing director Peter Fahey has stated they have been rigorous and recent and gone through all the processes set out by the state government and the council.

A follow up on the developer’s comments will be in next week’s edition.

The Federal Environment Department said Clarence Property had been notified of its obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

 

For more Brunswick Heads news, click here.

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Brunswick Heads News

Marine Rescue Brunswick granted region’s first remote controlled on-water life-saving device

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Marine Rescue Brunswick USafe

Marine Rescue Brunswick granted region’s first remote controlled on-water life-saving device

 

Marine Rescue Brunswick will bolster its rescue capability with a new state-of-the-art life-saving device after being awarded an Australian Government Stronger Communities Grant.

Marine Rescue NSW Northern Rivers Zone Duty Operations Manager John Murray said the Federal Government grant has aided the unit to purchase the Marine Rescue Northern Rivers region’s first ever USafe, a motorised remote controlled lifebuoy for rescue missions on local waterways including the Brunswick River, Simpsons Creek, Marshalls Creek and offshore.

“The USafe is a versatile and reliable piece of equipment that will assist our volunteers greatly in their mission of saving lives on the water.

“It is also reassuring for boaters, paddlers and swimmers who use our local waterways that this valuable tool is at the ready should they require assistance,” he said.

The USafe cost $14,000 with the Stronger Communities Grant contributing $10,000 and community donations funding the remainder.

“The financial support provided by the Australian Government and the local community to allow the unit to add a USafe to its rescue capability is greatly appreciated,” Mr Murray said.

Marine Rescue Brunswick Unit Commander Jonathan Wilcock said the USafe is operated by remote control and is a valuable life-saving tool for the Brunswick unit’s 76 volunteer members.

“The USafe will assist rescue crews in locations where we may not be able to get a vessel, like close to rocks or in shallow waters.

“This incredible piece of equipment can assist with recovering people in the water or getting a tow line to a disabled vessel in a challenging location.

“The device is easily transferable between the Brunswick unit’s rescue vessels and will be deployed when required to assist with a tasked mission.

“The USafe has a 300 metre working range and can transport up to 160kgs of buoyancy.

“It also features a variable speed motor so our rescue crews can approach a person gently or steer around hazards in the water,” Mr Wilcock said.

Volunteers at Marine Rescue Brunswick are currently undergoing training and familiarisation with a Marine Rescue NSW State Headquarters USafe device. Marine Rescue Brunswick is expected to take delivery of its own USafe in the coming weeks.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.

 

For more Brunswick Heads news, click here.

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Brunswick Heads News

Council supports improving environmental and housing outcomes on Wallum development

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Wallum Development

Council supports improving environmental and housing outcomes on Wallum development

 

Last week Byron Shire Council passed a resolution in support of a negotiated outcome on the Wallum development at Brunswick Heads that aims to maximise environmental benefits, minimise the development footprint, and improve housing diversity and affordability.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon brought forward a Mayoral Minute to update the community, and Council, about recent negotiations with Clarence Property. He previewed a proposed site map of the Wallum development that was drafted following discussions between Clarence Property representatives, and Councillors Michael Lyon, Asren Pugh and Cate Coorey.

“These discussions explored ways to protect more of the environmental values of the site whilst improving the affordability of housing lots by shrinking the footprint of the development and reducing some of the lot sizes. The total development footprint would reduce from 12 to 11 hectares and increase the eastern buffer by 1.8 hectares,” Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon said.

“This would allow for the different types of housing that are needed in Byron Shire, including smaller dwellings for singles, couples and empty nesters.”

The revised footprint also creates a larger buffer between the development and the most significant population of Wallum froglets, west of Simpsons Creek. This re-arrangement can save more than half of the scribbly gums, including all the oldest specimens in this eastern section.

Wallum Development Alternative Layout Proposal

Wallum Development Alternative Layout Proposal

“With an approval from the Northern Rivers Planning Panel, Clarence is not compelled to make any changes, nor is it in their interest financially. All that Cate, Asren and I could do was try to persuade them of the proposal’s overall merits,” Mayor Lyon said.

“Whilst some people are set against the developer of this site, to not talk to Clarence Property was not an option because there is no other way to get a better outcome and we have looked into all options. Most of us would rather see no development on this site, but sadly that’s not possible. I am happy that Clarence is taking us seriously and considering our proposed changes,” Cr Cate Coorey said.

“Unfortunately, our environmental laws are very weak when it comes to protecting precious endangered species. This site approval, for a much larger development footprint, was given over a decade ago and we look forward to the passing of the proposed Federal National Environment Laws currently under community consultation. We have seen examples, like at West Byron, where a negotiated outcome has meant a much better result for the environment than taking an all-ornothing approach. Let’s hope that the same can be achieved here,” Cr Asren Pugh said.

“I want to thank all of those involved in the discussions to date. The ecologists that have given their time, the staff from Clarence Property who came to our discussions in good faith and are, I believe, open to different ideas to resolve this issue and Cr Coorey and Cr Pugh who brought different perspectives to the discussion that were very important”, Mayor Lyon said.

“It needs to be recognised that Clarence have already reduced the development footprint significantly compared to the original approval in 2013 as part of the DA process. Clarence have undertaken to also consider this revised footprint in the context of the site constraints, and there are still many things to work through, however discussions have been positive so far and they have expressed openness to the concept,” Mayor Lyon said.

“I believe that with goodwill and a willingness to compromise from all stakeholders and the community, including those passionately campaigning, we can negotiate a better result for the environment and for housing diversity,” he said.

 

For more Brunswick Heads news, click here.

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Brunswick Heads News

Restoring Brunswick River Banks: Council Plants 5000 Native Species to Boost Biodiversity

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Brunswick River

Restoring Brunswick River Banks: Council Plants 5000 Native Species to Boost Biodiversity

 

A rejuvenation effort is underway along the banks of the Brunswick River in Mullumbimby, as Council embarks on a significant planting initiative. Over 5000 native plants are being carefully placed along a 2km stretch of Riverside Drive, spanning from Pine Ave to the Mullumbimby Showgrounds.

This ambitious project has been made possible through a $220,000 allocation from North Coast Local Land Services, specifically earmarked for addressing priority river erosion sites stemming from the Flood 2022 NSW Government funding. The planting endeavor aims not only to fortify the riverbanks against erosion but also to foster biodiversity and enhance the local ecosystem.

Dave Filipczyk, Council’s Team Leader in Bush Regeneration, expressed enthusiasm for the project’s potential impact. He highlighted the extensive efforts undertaken last year, which resulted in significant natural regeneration of native species following the removal of invasive weeds. Despite being situated in the heart of Mullumbimby, this stretch of the Brunswick River boasts an impressive diversity of 139 native species alongside 79 weed species.

The previous year’s activities included the removal of Camphor laurel and comprehensive bush regeneration, along with habitat enhancement measures. The current endeavour to plant 5000 new native specimens aims to further strengthen the riparian zone, providing crucial food and habitat resources for local flora and fauna. Additionally, it is anticipated that the initiative will contribute to improving water quality, benefiting aquatic life within the river ecosystem.

This initiative is part of Council’s broader “Bringing Back the Bruns” project, a comprehensive bush regeneration program encompassing the Brunswick River and its tributaries. Spearheaded by Council’s Bush Regeneration Team, this project underscores a commitment to environmental stewardship and the preservation of local ecosystems.

 

For more local Mullumbimby news, click here.

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