Why do I get nervous when NSW lands minister Tony Kelly announces plans to ‘manage’ coastal crown reserves?

Maybe it’s because during his flying visit to the north coast the other week Kelly announced concept plan approval for 1,600 new homes at Bilambil Heights and the go-ahead for a 52-lot subdivision at Bilambil village which will more than double its population.

As Ken Sapwell reported in The Tweed Shire Echo, ‘[Kelly] skirted contact with councillors and residents wanting to discuss concerns with the projects and met instead with developer Godfrey Mantle’s team on a hilltop to announce concept plan approval for the Brisbane millionaire’s $140 million Bilambil Heights project.’
Maybe it’s because the Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) which will develop management plans for crown reserves in Byron Shire is the same mob which took over a couple of Byron Council’s prime coastal caravan parks on flimsy pretenses two years ago in order to plump up the state coffers.

According to Kelly, tenders will be called next month to develop the project which is expected to take up to 12 months to complete. ‘As the plan is progressively developed there will be ample opportunity for the community to provide input. When the draft plan is completed there will also be an additional period for full public consultation.’ Is this the Bilambil Heights model of consultation?

On the other hand, the NSW government may have bitten off more than it can chew, which increasingly seems to be the case with most of its projects. The plan is meant to look at important issues such as climate change and sea level rise. If the LPMA calls for greater protection works for coastal crown reserves at the expense of neighbouring properties, Mr Kelly could have an interesting time explaining that to coastal residents.

Perhaps the key phrase in Kelly’s media release concerns the perceived need to meet ‘increasing demand for tourism services’. It looks like ‘value-adding’ to reserves by way of coffee shops and accommodation. Strange as it may seem, some tourists and locals might find the ‘empty’ space to be the real value of crown land.

The LPMA/Kelly plan for our crown reserves might be pie in the sky, anyway. There is a state election in March next year and all Labor’s grand plans are likely to get the ­heave-ho.
– Michael McDonald, editor

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