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The West Byron Controversy

The West Byron Development is rapidly emerging as a local controversy whose outcome will effect the lifestyle of many Byron Shire residents and have a huge impact on the future of Byron Bay. What has not been trumpeted loud and clear is how important this area of wetland is to the the local ecology.

Yes, people must have homes and therefore there must be ongoing development - BUT we don’t have to destroy a priceless natural asset to build houses that can be located on less sensitive sites, and should be designed as self contained neighbourhoods with local services and facilities. 

The concept for West Byron discussed in this section of the Byron Bay Vision website shows there IS another way. We hope our ideas presented here generate positive input and consideration from concerned locals and stakeholders while there is still an opportunity to influence the important decisions around this highly significant site.

We ask you to consider: What is your vision for West Byron?



There is an amazing wetland that stretches from Tallows Beach to Tyagarah and from the sea to Saint Helena hill that contains a threatened ecological community - 48 threatened species, and 39 migratory species, as well as giving us clean air, pure water, health, food and the simple enjoyment of being part of nature. There are negatives about the DA discussed here, but our overall thrust is to present an alternative positive vision that protects these environmental values.


Legal Requirements

Why Byron Council Rejected the Development Proposal

The site rezoned under part 3A by the NSW government is part of a SEPP 71 coastal protection zone, contains SEPP 14 wetlands and SEPP 44 koala habitat, is subject to the EP and A Act 1979, the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the Native Vegetation Act 2003, the Water Management Act 2000, the Environment Protection and BiodiversityConservation Act 1999 as well as local LEP’s, DCP’s, and specific SEPP’s.

These are clearly defined guidelines that have been adopted specifically to protect senstive environmental areas and wildlife habitats from unwise exploitation. The Byron Shire Council did a thorough and professional job of considering the development proposal against these important guidlelines and foiund that the development  was not in harmony with the spirit of the legislation - it failed these tests. However this time honoured decision making process based on local knowledge was later overturned in a higher ruling based on State Development considerations. There is a clear conflict of interest between these two separate arms of government and the loser  (if this decison making anomoly is allowed to proceed) is the local envrionment and ultimately the local community .

The Issue

Viewed from a local's persective

Some government and corporate interests want to exploit our community for self interest by using our energy, our water supply and drainage, our waste collection, our food, our retail, educational and community facilities so they can fill part of this wetland to build houses to increase their own wealth. The need for housing is weighed up against the potential destruction of a unique and precious natural ste that is fundamental to the health of the local ecology. This "behind closed doors" decision overturns important environmental protections that are specifically designed to safeguard local communities. 

Local Concerns

Once taken, no turning back 

The local council considered the development and rejected it on legislated environmental considerations as was their duty. However the planning process allowed for the developers to leapfrog the local planning process and have this ruling overturned on the basis of it being a state development issue, related to housing targets and urban infrastructure planning. While these are important Byron Shire has already addressed these targets forward until 2031, and there are alternative sites that can satisfy these priorities without having such a direct compromising effect on the natural enviroment of a crucial wetland area and sensitive habitat. 

Concerned local residents, already frustrated by the impossible traffic conditions that arise on the entrance to Byron township, fear that short-sighted self interest and the push for corporate profits are being put before the critical environmental considerations that have huge implications for the future of Byron Bay.


A Holistic Vison is needed

A Critical Envionmental Concern

You cannot draw a line on paper and say it is a sensitive wetland on one side, with roads, earthworks and buildings on the other—it is all interconnected and in many cases mutually exclusive.

The proposed fill will destroy more than 10Ha of native vegetation, change the biodiversity and reduce our flood storage capacity, causing increased flood levels in the town centre and low lying residential areas.


The Implications

There are grave implications from unwise development of this environmentally sensitive site

Many of the legal requirements listed in the left-hand column are compromised by a typical suburban subdivision and a planning process that does not recognise the ecological significance of this site. The loss of opportunity resulting from this flawed process is, in local terms, a potential environmental disaster.


There is an Alternative

These decisions are made once and for all.

There is an alternative—we can rehabilitate the wetlands to provide habitat for all species to survive and multiply in an economically viable development that will benefit nature and the community.

download Byron Bay Masterplan PDF Click icon to down load West Byron Bay Masterplan PDF.


The Future is in our hands

This is a critical local issue

The  concept plan at the lower centre of this page shows how we can retain the existing natural environment and extend this throughout the site. 

The central drain is widened into a series of ponds which filter the water through reed beds to increase habitat, allow canoe exploration, increase flood storage capacity and reduce flood levels in the existing town centre and residential areas.


The Opportunity

We can learn about koalas and other endangered species, regenerate, research and discover new areas along the boardwalks and nature trails. 

The eco resort and Environmental Studies Campus are made possible only by the rehabilitation and of the site areas to the greater wetland environment and the opportunities for research and learning presented by nature.


A smaller scale, site sensitive vision

The 200 residential lots are contained within a less sensitive area and are totally self-sufficient by generating their own energy, collecting and re-using their own water, treating their own sewerage, recycling their own waste and growing their own food in a natural zero carbon environment.


Community Benefits

In this alternative plan, the dis-used chicken processing buildings at the western end of the propsed development are re-cycled as a community meeting place for markets, cafes, social events and functions run by the Island Quarry group.


Enhancing Byron's natural attractions.

Tourists are not going to visit Byron to look at houses and commercial buildings, but they will come to discover, learn, research, enjoy and play in a unique wetland that is alive with biodiversity and a example of what is possible by respecting and co-creating with our natural assets.


West Byron Wetlands Concept2

Getting the Priorities Right

The intrinsic value to the local community of preserving this natural wetland is much greater than the private wealth gained from a distant ministerial edict that overturns carefully crafted environemtal safeguards and allows for the permanent destruction of this unique stretch of sensitive environment and biodiversity in the name of "progress".



Planning Decisions on Two Fronts - on which the Future of Byron Bay depends

The West Byron urban release area has the potential for a maximum of some 2,580 houses if all residential lots were developed as attached dwellings on 150m2 lots. At the other end of the spectrum, allowing for a range of lot sizes indicates that a minimum of some 1,660 residences across the development would be a reasonable estimate.

Concerned locals are faced with the glacial but inevitable process Byron Shire is going through to develop a future plan for Byron township on one hand - the so-called Byron Master Plan being developed by a Sydney based conusltancy group, - and the blatantly flawed process being used to circumvent common sense and line the pockets of vested interests at West Byron on the other.

There will be no turning back from the implications of these developments.

The Time Is NOW for stakeholders to become involved, to speak out, to agitate for informed  long term vision to guide these decisons  - and if you love Byron Bay then you are one those stakeholders.


download Byron Bay Masterplan PDF Click icon to down load West Byron Bay Masterplan PDF.

The Difference

If Byron Bay becomes just like any other overdeveloped tourist town, then people will stop coming and business will suffer. Byron has always been a town that people visited because of its laid-back, smaller town feel, it's wonderful natural landscape and beaches. We have kept out topless bars, most fast food chains and Club Med because they didn’t fit with the way we want to live and visitors don’t want that either. Our strongest marketing tool is our point of difference from many other over-cooked coastal towns.

Population density

There are just under 10,000 people living in Byron Bay. With 1500+ homes to be built at West Byron we can expect at least 3,300 more people in the town in just one development. This is an enormous increase and no proper assessment of the social impacts has been done. The homes could sell to people who let them out for holiday rentals or they could be permanent residents. Either way the impacts on the rest of the town will be significant.


Where are the new residents going to work? Latest figures show an unemployment rate in Byron of 7.7% as compared to the national rate of 5.6%. Many people are underemployed, working part-time in tourism and hospitality. There may be some jobs during the building phase and later in the development’s commercial centre but not enough for all those new residents, who will be placing pressure on a job market that is already tight.

It's redundant

The West Byron Development proposal is contrary to the 2007 Far North Coast Regional Strategy, as Byron Bay already has more than enough land zoned for development to satisfy its growth targets until after 2031. The Strategy gave us the opportunity to evolve as a community (rather than being overwhelmed), to better live in line with environmental and infrastructure constraints, and to better cope with our tourist burden.