PETER WESTHEIMER Candidate for Byron Shire Council

27 March 04
*Byron Shire Council



Fast Bucks increasingly out of touch. 11/2/04
Council needs to better manage Tourism
Letter to Mr.Costa
Sanvega - Political and spiritual urgency.

BEND IT LIKE BECTON / Peace Education / NOROC address / Biodiversity / PUBLIC TRANSPORT / Transport solutions / Population capacity article / Arakwal,council land swap / Mevlana councillors oct. 02 Keyes garden letter to echo / Rates not the only way /



Fast Bucks increasingly out of touch. 11/2/04


Over the last two years I have spoken out in the council chamber during public access on a whole range of issues. These include a cultural plan, biodiversity, paid parking, the need to improve the Shire's infrastructure, the rural settlement strategy, population capacity and the need for park and ride with shuttle transport in conjunction with a full bypass for Byron Bay. These are all issues I will campaign on and continue to focus on.

Fast bucks continued his negative, false and inaccurate letters in last week's paper saying that I address council only on rail issues.

I have mentioned the need for a new functional regional rail network 2 or 3 times because I know that affordable & flexible rail services and other forms of public transport are an essential way of providing the youth of this shire, (and elderly too) access to employment, educational, medical and recreational situations. There is overwhelming public support for this issue.

Bucks becomes increasingly out of touch.

Council needs to better manage Tourism
Published in Here and Now

As Byron Bay clogs up yet again it's worth looking ahead at the big picture of solving some of the towns problems.  As far as I can see there are a number of solutions which if they happen in parallel will solve the towns' current crisis.

A regular commuter train service between Mullum, Byron, Bangalow and Lismore will get lots of cars off the roads.  Park and Ride stations in conjunction with shuttle transport will ease the congestion in the town area. Parking fees in these out of town  parking areas will of course have to be cheaper than  the town centre. Revenue from these initiatives will help fund the shuttle transport.  At some point tourists especially will prefer to avoid the congestion of town and the long queues of Ewingsdale road and leave their cars out of town.

The coupon parking fees may, if hard to manage, eventually be replaced with discrete ticketing machines like the ones already installed in some of the towns car parks. This may help to satisfy the Byron Chamber of Commerce who seem to be going through a fairly parochial phase at the moment .

It is disappointing that what purports to be a community business organization can't see that revenue from parking fees is one of the only methods council can use to get  day tourists to directly contribute to infrastructure maintenance and repair. If the State government would allow  a bed tax ( they had one in Sydney to suit themselves for the Olympics) then this would be  a good way to receive a contribution from all those who stay overnight in the town but still wouldn't get  infrastructure revenue from  day trippers.

Parking consideration needs to be given to the bona fide business employees from out of the shire and also  a coupon which can be purchased by surrounding shires... somewhat similar to the annual stickers one must purchase for regular entry to national parks, not a free one like it is for locals but at least one that doesn't unduly discourage people from eg.  Lennox Heads, Ballina and Lismore from coming to the Bay.

Overall Council and the community including the Chamber of Commerce need to better manage tourism. Planning and funding are  urgently needed for traffic and parking arrangements , road repairs ,waste disposal, parks, community facilities and strategic planning itself. The current trend of infrastructure deterioration and inability to maintain capital replacement programs needs to be reversed so that Byron bay becomes more functional, harmonious and people friendly again.

Letter to Mr.Costa

Sydney 8/1/04

Dear Mr. Costa, thanks for your letter dated 12/12/03 regarding CountryLink train services.

Although I was pleased that CountryLink services will continue for another 12 months I was very disappointed that there is as yet no commitment to a new Northern Rivers regional train service.

You and your labour colleagues just don't seem to get it.

We have a distinct populated region up here. We are less than 200 kms. from Brisbane.

I would like to see the NSW government. working actively with the Qld and Federal governments to build a rail line between Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads/Coolangatta linking up with the proposed Qld. rail extension to Coolangatta Airport.

The one XPT service a day that services a very Sydney centric government is like an 800 km. umbilical Chord that your government controls . Let go of this outmoded thinking and take this region into the future or at least give us some parity to the Illawarra/Hunter regions with their own regional transport systems. Augment the XPT's with a new and distinct regional train service. The rail lines are already there remember. You might even find that it is politically worthwhile because the only really active campaigners in this area are the community, local councils and some of the  national and liberal party representatives. Neville Newell appears to only have a lukewarm kneejerk commitment to effectively dealing with transport problems in this region.

We have the most densely populated rural area in the country, an overloaded road system and too many cars devouring Byron Shire.

We need and deserve a new regional rail commuter service.

It should be introduced carefully and slowly such that only relatively profitable routes and timetabling occurs. This should be easy as there are no other trains on the track during daylight hours so the timetabling can be gradually worked out to respond to community needs. Providing regular trains is absolutely essential for the youth, and elderly of this area. A tourist train running between Byron Bay and Bangalow would be a huge success especially on Market days when thousands descend on this little heritage town. The  20 minute train route has spectacular ocean views and is similar to the Cairns /Kuranda railway in its beauty.

The residents of Lismore and Casino would heavily patronise a beach train to Byron Bay on the weekends and students of Southern Cross university  students would patronise regular services between Lismore and the coastal towns where many of them live.

Byron Bay has enormous traffic issues and is heavily promoted by your government as a tourist destination. In view of this, assistance from your government in the  effective resolution of these issues should be forthcoming. We are only a half hour by road now from the south end of the Gold Coast. If the government subsidises suburban transport in Sydney then there is no reason why it can't do the same here.

Please keep in mind that Byron Bay has 1.75 million visitations a year alone.

I will be running for Byron Shire Council as an independent and hopefully through my position as a councillor and also as a continuing member of NRTF, Northern Rivers Trains for the Future, I intend to keep this issue high on the agenda until this community gets a meaningful and functional regional train service.

Yours sincerely,  Peter Westheimer


Sanvega - Political and spiritual urgency.

About a year ago I read Alan Clements' book called 'Instinct for Freedom.' There was an excerpt which I found particularly relevant .

 He says in his book, "Sanvega is a Buddhist Pali word that means spiritual  urgency".

 With Sanvega one is passionate about freedom and into the present.

 "By mixing compassion, urgency, immediacy and purpose together you bring this intensity to the present moment".

Wow that' sounds good but...........

 He goes on to say, ......  "Exaggerated Sanvega creates anxiety and this is an obstacle. It's awareness that liberates, not your desire for freedom".

 Definite food for thought. 

 It's also politically instructive. If we become too fixated on our opinions we become narrow minded and extreme.

We need to allow time to look into ourselves, be where we experience a sense of place and of course spend time with family, friends and community.

We need to get more smart and more comfortable with the uncertainty of ongoing change and open political dialogue.

We need to always stay open  to respecting and understanding  other people's truths......

Talking about change and  truths and politics the  Byron Shire Council elections are coming up on March 27th 2004.  I  intend to stand together with forward thinking candidates who value ecological integrity, cultural diversity, financial viability and social equity to form an independent above the line group of five people.


The Shire is at a critical point where we need new councillors who are committed to genuine co-operation , constructive compromise and voting for issues on their merit rather than along party lines. If the new Council isn't more functional, open minded, positive, and financially resilient, the risk of amalgamation and succumbing to development pressures will increase.

We need to move beyond just minimising development impacts, towards forward thinking planning and design, improved infrastructure and a strong local creative economy. Consideration could be given to joint venture partnerships between council, businesses and the community  including more promotion of the shire's creative industries.

Biodiversity  and sustainable agriculture are essential to conserving and enhancing  our natural resources.

 I  see Byron shire as an innovative community embracing film, music, visual arts, writing, spirituality, health, fitness, aboriginal heritage, farming, original & alternative ideas etc.

 I strongly support creative planning & design for public places, buildings and land use.

 I also see an urgent need to link planning and development with transport solutions. We need to create park and ride areas at both entries into Byron Bay with shuttle transport and a town centre bypass and  new regional train services for locals & tourists with connecting links.

I see the great importance of relying on a wide variety of local media and sources for the information and opinions that shape our ideas. In a small community like ours, rumour and innuendo need to be questioned.

Vilification and conspiracy theory stuff doesn't serve us well.

Mike Berwick long serving and inspirational Mayor of Port Douglas Shire in Qld. states and I concur....." I am interested in how we can improve our performance by learning from others, offering our experience to others, how together we can change the world to co-exist peacefully with other organisms and societies.

I believe in local government being proactive in natural resource management . I believe in building capacity in the community - getting a complex message across , generating commitment , convincing government, activism. Sustainability means tackling all the issues at once  to create fundamental change and one therefore has to pay attention to all components at once".

With a progressive and efficient council, supported not undermined by the community, our Shire could have more control of its destiny and make better use of our expertise, natural assets, social and creative capital.

Past preconceptions and judgements need to be put aside if they are preventing cooperation and collaboration.

Let's avoid exaggerated Sanvega!

We all need to pull together to heal rifts, support diversity, tolerance, reason, and flexibility in political and community decision making.

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The more the Becton plans are explored the worse they seem. Glossy master plans don't  make up for a proper Development application . There is a feeling that via the NSW state government the developers have already had tacit approval. SEPP 71 appears disempowering for Byron Council but with sustained people pressure and exposure of the plans defects we can hopefully overturn the present proposal.

 I have always felt as I still do that the development is a residential subdivision in a tourist zone by default . A residential development would have to pay out significantly more S.94 fees to council for community infrastructure.

 Enforcing compliance of tourist only occupancy is also unrealistic .

 Potential Traffic movements have been underestimated.

A species impact statement has not been prepared .  Remember Club Med lost on the Fauna Impact issue.

This area of coastline is the most fragile in the State and it is probably only a matter of time before Becton applies for permission to put up a rock wall to protect their investment. Current council coastline management policy is planned retreat not planned development in erosion prone areas.   Becton are smooth, Becton are big but they have like other developers before them underestimated the resolve ,the intelligence and commitment of the Byron Shire community.

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TO: School

Re:   PEACE EDUCATION         13/5/2003

As a member of the Byron Shire Peace Council I am contacting local schools to encourage peace education, human rights and non-violent conflict resolution studies in the Northern Rivers.

The period 2001-2010 is the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. Underlying the work of the United Nations in the field of peace education are the efforts of committed educators, researchers, activists, and members of global civil society linking ideals with extensive research and practice.

There are extensive references to peace education on the web. There is a University for Peace in Costa Rica, there are UN initiatives and many others which is cause for  celebration and optimism .There are courses in non violent communication in Byron Shire. A friend whose son goes  to a school near Mullumbimby rang to tell me that some assistance was needed for conflict resolution in the playground. A peaceful playground policy is now being worked on. There are many people looking for a new ways in personal and international politics.

Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) is a national US  non-profit organization that was founded in 1982 with the mission to make teaching social responsibility a core practice in education so that young people develop the convictions and skills to shape a safe, sustainable, democratic, and just world. One of its programs is Creating Peace Places in the Classroom, initiated by Peter Yarrow from Peter Paul and Mary. An area of the room where school students can calm down and constructively work at disputes with other students is created. It is also an activity that students can do together to work against violence. It's web site gives an outline of programs , initiatives and information well worth looking at.

Locally, as well as courses which can take time and extensive resources to develop, guest speakers/lecturers could be introduced to classrooms. They could come in to social studies classes, psychology classes, geography classes, foreign affairs classes, etc. to give one off talks on the state of the world, the danger of politics which foster hate and racism, and provide working frameworks for increasing cooperation amongst people.

We all need to resolve to work towards the development of learning that will enable humans to renounce the institution of war and move toward non violence and co-operation  in institutions and personal communication.

 I hope that the importance of  peace and respect in personal values and in  politics will become mainstream thinking in the 21st century just like awareness of the environment has permeated through in the last 20 to 30 years.

This is a time to support a global movement to educate for a sustainable culture of peace.  Sincerely,   Dr. Peter Westheimer MBBS

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Grafton 23/9/03 

As a representative of NRTF, Northern Rivers Trains for the Future
Address to Noroc[Northern Region Organisation of Councils]


Northern Rivers Trains for the Future  group in addressing NOROC, today, want to encourage strong support for a regular commuter and tourist rail service on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line. It also wants to ensure the existing line is not closed down.


Northern Rivers Trains for the Future is an evolving network  involving the community from a no. of local shires. It isn't just a group of train buffs but a group of people committed to their community and it's future. We care about our young people and prefer not to see our children hitch-hiking. They deserve equity with adults. We care about disabled people and those who don't drive or own a car. Probably most adults can get around by car.  But how do the children get from town to town to sporting events , cultural events and classes and from home to sometimes distant schools?


I intend to run for Byron Shire Council in the March 2004 council elections with an independent group supporting  amongst other things public transport , environmental sustainability  and social equity.

 As a boy my family in Melbourne had no car . We  enjoyed travelling regularly on trains ,trams and buses .

From 1984 to 1994 I  worked as a doctor in occupational and preventative health. From 1994 to 2002 I did mainly medicolegal assessments for people with long term motor vehicle and also work injuries and I dealt with the medical and economic costs to our society of motor vehicle accidents .They are enormous and need to be factored in assessing the savings to society by having safe public transport.

Arising out of my medical work and also my involvement with many community groups I have an interest in public health and I believe that the  future well being ,health and sustainability of our community will be served far better with  an inspiring and of course functional public transport system.

Public transport empowers those who can't drive a car especially young people. It also of course relieves road congestion and pollution and needs to be tied in with future development  and town planning decisions. eg. park and ride / trains ,shuttle buses , approval of developments over a particular size being specifically with transport routes. The state government should extend school bus subsidies to  school train subsidies.


NRTF also knows that there needs to be a shift from our state and federal governments  towards giving due recognition to the density and subsequently, infrastructure  needs of this area.

Byron Bay alone has 1.2 million staying visitors and 500,000 day trippers a year!

Byron needs it's tourists to be able to get around the area  by train alleviating congestion on it's overcrowded roads throughout most of the year and especially in holiday seasons .

Michael Costa, NSW Transport minister, told Neale in Murwillumbah recently that the NSW government had no interest in supporting new rail services in the Northern Rivers. Then the Parry Report comes out. It's just not good enough. The NSW government is getting lazy. They've been in power a long time and appear to be losing touch with the people certainly of regional NSW. The Qld govmt. is creating  a rail network which is under construction on the Sunshine coast. The federal government  itself also should be proactive and involve itself .It supported the Darwin to Alice  rail line. Supporting a regional Qld/NSW solution should be on the agenda as a priority.   We  are urging people  to network amongst the community, attend public meetings and to contact their local member or write to the State and Federal Government demanding support for  new rail services.

The Brisbane to Robina rail line is being duplicated  and plans discussed to extend the line in the next 5-10 years  down to Tugun and Coolangatta airport. Most people would  also like to see a line built linking  this on to Murwillumbah . Besides governments,  there are other options for getting regular trains on the tracks.

 A Mr. Warren Judd, who operated the discontinued Ritz blue train still has an existing  licence to operate a train service and could conceivably be the conduit for a business consortium to run a new commuter/tourist service with 2 or 3 carriage trains. Becton in their efforts to woo Byron residents and the state govmt. with it's oversized development proposal is bringing its Club Becton rail motor onto the line for the Bangalow market weekend Oct 25th/26th. 

 There is some initial interest from the blues festival and the NRTF will be presenting the Blues Fest. with a proposal to see trains on the tracks transporting the festival goers from out of town and that's the majority.

Benefits for  :

  Lismore The  SC. University, business and community groups would also benefit from a regular  train service between Byron Bay and Lismore. It would surely get lots of locals and tourists.

Casino  to coast ... surfing,picnicing.

Bangalow  .... tourists ,views,shopping, and of course market and festival days. days. Funds for station

Byron Bay  .. tourist and commuter destination

Mullumbimby... local and commuter traffic and some tourism.

Bilinudgel.... hub for ocean shores, brunswick Heads.. local and commuters

burringbar     locals and commuters.

Murwillumbah...   important bus rail interchange until new line is built linking up with Coolangatta. Will  probably service new coastal subdivisions. Tourism.

Lismore Mayor CR. Merv King's media release on the 11th Sept. 03 expressed Lismore Council's concern at the findings of the interim report on public transport from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (The Parry Report), which suggests that some uneconomic Country Link services should be scrapped and replaced with bus services.

Cr King suggested all Northern Rivers councils pool efforts to retain and enhance the Casino-Murwillumbah Country Link rail services. “Imagine the benefit to business, commuters and tourists if it became easier to get on a train and head to Brisbane for sporting, cultural or business activities.”


I'm disappointed that Byron council isn't represented  today although programming a NOROC meeting on the day of Byron council's ordinary meeting makes it hard for any council reps. to attend. Perhaps in future this could be a consideration . I believe that Byron council needs to be one of the key stakeholders for much improved Public transport and would like to see the council rejoin NOROC.

Other initiatives from Lismore council  via the economic development unit include bringing together the  the Tweed Economic Development Corporation and Gold Coast City Council with key regional government managers from both sides of the border to look at a new approach.  A meeting is scheduled for 21st October and will be held at Tweed Heads.

As we know the Northern Rivers is experiencing extremely rapid population growth and the NSW Government’s own forecasts predict that by the year 2020, 25% of the nation’s population will be living along the coastal strip between Coffs Harbour and Hervey Bay (Queensland) in the north.

  It is critical that both State and Commonwealth Governments, in partnership with local Councils and regional organizations, invest strongly in the provision of infrastructure.  It is not the time to withdraw transport infrastructure from the region, rather to substantially increase sustainable transport capacity.  A study should be funded from a range of agencies including  the NSW Ministry of Transport, Queensland Transport and Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services. As this is a very significant cross-border issue we believe that involvement and funding from the Commonwealth Government is mandatory. I urge NOROC to lend their support and encouragement by acting as a group to pressure the NSW Federal Govmt.  A strong submission should be made to the NSW Govmt. re the interim public transport review i.e.  the Parry report.

 I believe that the relevance of NOROC is  on the line here. Does NOROC have teeth? A strong NOROC will also serve to facilitate regional resource sharing and cooperation diminishing the prospects of forced council amalgamations. How about NOROC getting politicians together irrespective of party affiliations to genuinely help their electorates to get vastly improved transport alternatives. I believe we need to expose the current lack of insight of the NSW Labour party and also persuade  the opposition to develop good policy.


Finally I want to say that it is short sighted in the extreme to ignore the public transport needs of this rapidly growing area. I  really want to encourage NOROC to take immediate action to respond to the situation.


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 Draft Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 4/11/2003

I'm  urging strong  community support for Byron Shire's forward thinking draft Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.

 It's pretty basic really. Healthy ecosystems are essential to human survival.

Through a Biodiversity plan, council and the community will be setting up a planning framework ensuring protection and enhancement of our natural environment into the future.

 I support the creation of environmental protection zones and wildlife corridors. The strategy could link the approval of all developments with a revegetation or ecological enhancement plan. A  biodiversity rate levy of $50 a year would also go a long way  to giving support and assistance  to landholders. Council field officers could advise on weed control, native plant identification, bush regeneration and revegetation techniques, and fencing off creeks and remnant  habitats. Most importantly  the fears of more traditional farmers need to be  allayed and each landholder helped if necessary in preparing  a native vegetation management plan. I had this type of assistance from the Subtropical Farm Forestry Association in 1998. It was invaluable and gave me greater confidence and understanding in land management.

 Supporting mechanisms should also include rate rebates, grants and other financial incentives linked to conservation agreements. Revolving fund mechanisms where land is bought and then resold with added environmental protection could be considered by council. Some forest remnant areas  are still under general  agricultural zoning eg 1(a) rural with no recognition of their ecological value. These areas deserve protection.

There is a lot of grant funding available that council should be tapping into and isn't. We need to invite skilled people to identify opportunities and do the applications on the basis that they get paid only if the grant is successful. This can also apply to arts  and community project grants as well .

We have a great biodiversity base to build on, many pressures but a small rate base. We have lots of visitors who love the place but don't contribute to our infrastructure and need to more. We have a community with a passionate commitment to its natural resources who are overwhelmingly supportive of the thrust of the strategy.

                                                                        Peter Westheimer    

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I urge Byron, Tweed, Lismore  and Richmond Valley Shires to cooperate with regional  and local groups committed to bringing in public transport solutions and to insist that Bob Carr and his ministers recognize and support this area's overwhelming need for a significant public transport upgrade.

 This is area is one of the most densely populated rural regions in Australia.

Affordable and efficient Public transport shifts people's dependency away from the private motor vehicle and empowers all those who cannot drive a car. Driving is one of those things we tend to take for granted but anyone under 17 can't. How are they supposed to get around?


Public Transport needs to be supported by planning instruments which recognise transport as being integrally tied up with development  and town planning decisions .

At present local bus  services are too expensive ,too infrequent with inadequate coverage and very reliant on school subsidies. Train services are basically non existent.

Possibilities include new shuttle and commuter bus or train services providing frequent travel to town centres, other destinations where feasible and  linking up with Park and Ride/Walk schemes.

The RTA has money available to support public transport/bus facilities, related road works and infrastructure. Northern Rivers Trains for the future is an evolving group of local representatives from the four  shires endeavouring to get  the State Government  to support new rail services for locals and tourists.

The Byron Shire public transport working group was dissolved in the last few years  and needs reactivation.

It's a social equity issue which means it's fair.

It's a tourist issue and  it's a resource sustainability issue.

There needs to be a shift from our state government. At present they're reaping the financial rewards of tourism and not giving due recognition to the density and subsequently, infrastructure  needs of our rural and regional areas .

One Big highway down the middle ain't recognition.

Costs of running buses and trains it seems can be hard to recoup solely from passenger fares. Subsidies are usually needed. Public transport benefits the aged ,the young,  students, people with disabilities, the tourists and  the unemployed. There are ongoing inequities in transport concessions. Those living around Sydney and Newcastle are eligible for significant concessions on government owned public transport however most rural and regional people receive insignificant concessions from local private bus companies.

A feasibility study would help at this time to look at commuter use and tourist possibilities. Imagine indeed the popularity  especially for tourists of a train between Byron Bay and Bangalow winding around the  green hills  for 20 minutes with spectacular ocean views. Cairns to Kuranda comes to mind. With cooperation from Lismore Shire ,Southern Cross University and Lismore business and community groups a regular  train service between Byron Bay and Lismore will  become a reality. There is a pent up demand in Lismore and Casino for weekend Beach Train services bringing people to the beach for the day. This was a very popular service  many years ago.

Byron Council urgently needs a grants officer to bring funding in to many areas --  eg. youth support, for which better transport is one of the most important needs . Grants for cultural and environmental initiatives could also be applied for . This would be a worthwhile investment and would bring in more dollars. There are a number of skilled people in the community who would be willing to apply for grants on council's behalf on the basis that they receive an agreed percentage eg.10%  from council only if the application is successful.

We keep on hearing that Byron Council has no money. Very often it is not necessarily a lack of money but a lack of initiative ,foresight and business sense.

At Ballina Council there is a public transport working group which meets monthly to advise on large developments. Thus any new development has transport considerations addressed before approval. There is a State government [PAM]  pedestrian and mobility plan which receives a dollar for dollar funding to further develop  pedestrian access and cycleways . 

There are many new residents and visitors who have come from urban areas and experienced the benefits of a good public transport system. Australia is the only country in the Western world that doesn't have a co-ordinated national public transport strategy. We only have a National Freight strategy  i.e. a strategy for moving goods and freight but not people!

     Mmmmm  something to ponder about....      !


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Transport Solutions for Byron Shire 6/11/03

Affordable and accessible transport is a key issue for  the youth, families & older residents of Byron Shire.
Regionally coordinated transport solutions will result in vastly improved access to health services, educational facilities, employment and training opportunities, government services and recreational, social, and cultural needs.
The recent train trial showed how well patronized a train service could be and that retention of rail services, infrastructure and rail corridor ownership is essential.
Having a train line being able to drop passengers in the middle of towns is perfect and the calls from a few, often with vested interests,  to scrap the rail line through Byron Bay verges on stupidity.

The NSW government needs to call the SRA into line and force it to cooperate with Byron Council.
The Queensland government is building  new rail networks in  the SE of the state including  early planning  for a passenger (not freight) rail line to Coolangatta Airport.
On Oct 21st NRTF, Northern Rivers Trains for the Future, addressed the first interregional rail forum instigated by Lismore and Tweed Councils.  It successfully brought together NSW and Queensland government representatives, Gold Coast Airport, business groups and many councils wanting  better rail services and construction of the 20 km ‘missing link’ between Murwillumbah and Coolangatta. Calls were made for the federal Government  to fund a cross-border public transport study.
This region now has the population to demand and deserve innovative, flexible  and affordable transport including trains, buses, cycleways, walking paths or park and ride areas with shuttle transport links.
Should I be elected to Byron Shire Council I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for all planning and development to be linked with transport solutions.

Peter Westheimer

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Byron Shire has an unofficial population capacity of 42,000. With current growth rates this capacity could well be reached within 10 years.

This figure  is based on the various current settlement strategies being the basis for new  Local Environment Plans.

The information was provided to council by Robyn Read, ex- general manager in September of this year in response to my enquiry to council during public access time.


The population of Byron Shire at the 2001 census was 30,245 (including 1329 overseas visitors in off season) and represents an increase of 10 per cent since 1996 and 33 per cent since 1991 .

Byron Bay's population is approximately 7000, Ocean Shores / New Brighton/South Golden Beach area with nearly 5000, Suffolk Park with 3300, Mullumbimby 3000, Brunswick Heads 1900,Bangalow 1200. About 2/3 of the shire are  urban and 1/3 rural dwellers.

Major assets  of Byron Shire are an incredibly beautiful coastline and hinterland in close proximity, cultural diversity , creative people and genuine spiritual seekers.

Major issues/constraints facing the shire are the impacts of 1.75 million tourists a year with deteriorating and underfunded infrastructure.

 The tourism industry is at present in some ways an asset and a liability to Byron Bay. Tourist dollars aren't often reaching shire amenities and public space improvement . This is the biggest  solvable issue facing not just council but the community .What a great challenge for  the creative and  lateral thinkers  of our community.  Please speak .Please involve .Please solve.

Other  key issues are coastline erosion ,polluted waterways, diminishing affordable housing , water supply and acid sulphate soil constraints. If we look north we see Tweed shire in the middle of a development frenzy.

For comparison two other areas with similar increasing population and tourism pressures to Byron Shire are  Noosa and Port Douglas.

Noosa shire has a current population of 44,000 and an official population capacity of 56,000.

The Douglas Shire council is instructional and quite inspiring. It doesn't have an official population capacity. It has an ongoing commitment to an upper limit of growth capacity as a fundamental tool to underpin sustainable development.

Many of it's initiatives are partly associated with Mayor Mike Berwick and worth noting are the following:

It aims to deliver a planning scheme  founded on a sustainable environment but also social equity and a healthy economy.

 It aims, as I feel could Byron Shire, to achieving a net gain in biodiversity and vegetation cover. eg. Significant revegetation could become a key part of an evolving Byron Shire rural residential strategy.

Actions taken by the Douglas Council/community include:

* introduction of an ecologically based growth capacity,

* a conservation management levy ,

* offered rate incentives for conservation ,

* an integrated riparian and wetland restoration programme,

*  a community sustainability strategy,

* working with the commonwealth government examining the possibility of the entire shire becoming an organic food producer,

* a contracted commitment to the Commonwealth government to plant 3000  hectares of trees sequestering 230,000 tonnes of carbon per year.

What a great list!


 Our shires are microcosms and guardians of the planet, small enough  still for the community to feel and be empowered to guide the inevitable changes that are happening in our world both locally and globally.

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Media Release 4 July 2003

Land Transfer Agreement - Arakwal Aboriginal People

Byron Shire Council is pleased to announce the historic signing of the Land Transfer Agreement with the local Arakwal Aboriginal people on Tuesday 1 July 2003. The Agreement was signed by the Arakwal Elders, Lorna Kelly and Linda Vidler with Mayor Tom Wilson and Council General Manager Pamela Westing.

“The Agreement provides for the transfer of specific land parcels within Byron Shire which will benefit the community as a whole,” said Mayor Tom Wilson.

The local Arakwal Aboriginal people will benefit from the acquisition by the State Government of Council land at Taylors Lake and the Broken Head Caravan Park. In return Byron Shire Council will obtain a suitable site for the development of a library in Byron Bay. It is also anticipated that a strategic plan for the Sandhills Estate will result in the further transfer of community land to Council.

The Agreement signifies the strong relationship between Council, the community and the local indigenous people, and is the result of many years of hard work on the part of the Arakwal people.

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Oct 2002. Mevlana Witch Hunt

An axis of intolerance appears to have come to Byron Shire.

I'm appalled that all the Green party councillors in concert with  Crs. Tardiff,Tucker and Higgins passed a motion in council calling for many retrospective investigations into the Mevlana MO/Tourist facility in Tyagarah. Because of a  dispute over whether a baby splash pool lessons are an allowable activity, a witch hunt has been ordered to engage on a time-wasting dredging up of DA's and consents going back to 1993 not relating to the pool issue. It is quite extraordinary and has whiffs of harassment of minority groups . It shows social injustice and negativity from our  local Green Party councillors Sandra Heilpern, Richard Staples, Duncan Dey and Jan Barham .These four in particular would profess ESD principles, but when it involves their input and wisdom towards meeting challenges and moving Byron Shire  towards being an inspiring model of  Ecological and Social Sustainability these councillors are sometimes found wanting. Because these four tend at times to be negative, closed minded and suspicious it is often left in council meetings for either Crs. Tom Wilson or Hugh Ermacora [who also generally have a green agenda] to present reasoned arguments for or against an issue.

 Our current group of greens appear to have unfortunately lost the clarity of vision required to take Byron Shire into the future. I hope this situation changes.

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The Keyes Garden Rural Settlement proposal near Federal is really important as it tests and highlights many aspects of the  Byron Rural Settlement Strategy[BRSS] which sets up the picture of how our hinterland will look in the future. Rural settlement which has ecological integrity and also addresses  associated shire infrastructure costs will have greater support within the local community and can then be a positive model for further developments.


To put in practice the Byron LEP 1988 [amendment number 58, A Greenprint for a sustainable future], considerable emphasis must be placed on responsible land and resource management which includes linking future rural settlement to environmental repair and enhancement.


 Rural settlement developments based on themes are more likely to result in sustainable long-term settlement and land use. I suggest that Keyes Garden and many of the future community title developments be based on the theme of habitat protection , reafforestation, biodiversity enhancement and riparian repair. The current Keyes Garden development proposal addresses these issues in some  positive detail but needs to go further towards a more comprehensive property and vegetation management plan such that the whole property apart from the  approx.10 ha. set-aside for cluster housing and roadworks  addresses the above themes. The consultant's vegetation report is good and appears to address issues in approx. 10 ha. of the property which then leaves another 20 ha. without a designated repair status. I would like to see as much of the property as possible rehabilitated over time to native local species , to reflect the property theme.  In addition to extensive initial plantings this could be carried out as gradual regeneration work with an annual allocation from the neighbourhood lot funds to cover bush regenerator costs regularly each year to selectively eradicate weeds and encourage natural local species regrowth. I would encourage the planting of a small orchard as well to meet requirements for the residents and 5 ha. for future determined usage of the residents eg. further agriculture , horses etc. Thus I would suggest that a new vegetation management plan incorporating a further 15ha. of  a mix of more reafforestation planting and gradual regeneration be undertaken as a significant move towards meeting the BRSS guidelines and community expectation.

 I  also suggest that an area specific or possibly updated  local section 94 contribution plan be created. While developers of rural residential areas may pay for the initial upgrading of roads along their frontages [as in this DA] ,they have not historically funded the upgrading cost to the service centres and schools. The cost per allotment of providing sealed roads to residential subdivisions can be up to 600 per cent greater than for urban allotments thus imposing a higher financial burden on the wider community for road maintenance.  Thus the imposed S. 94 costs should be higher.


Grid Feed Solar  Systems should at the very least be in place in each house to create power to be fed back into the electricity grid for approx.$8000 per dwelling. Battery banks are not necessary for this arrangement but basically solar panels, an inverter and a meter which can go in either direction.

 Cats are not permitted in the proposal  which is good but dogs are. It should also be required that any dogs are kept indoors or tethered at night.

The bush fire risk from the eucalyptus tree plantation  property next door highlights the fact that plantations of eucalypt trees should not be permitted in most parts of Byron shire in the future.

 Mixed local rainforest species tree plantations as part of a fire retardant shire wide  vegetation management plan is a policy worth creating in Byron Shire's long awaited Biodiversity and vegetation management plan.

The Keyes garden DA is quite a good attempt at engaging a new paradigm for rural settlement but must go further.Peter Westheimer  2/10/02

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5/6/2003 Byron News

Rates not the only way

Geoff Gill's letter last week urging the community to lobby the state government to allow councils to raise much needed revenue by levies on the tourist industry was on the mark.

 We as a community need to begin to rely less on rates than we currently do.

 When I  look at the Byron Shire Budget 2002-2003 [$ 59.4 million] rates only make up 13 per cent of revenue. I think it's a worthwhile exercise to look at where the other revenue currently comes from..

 Water, waste and sewerage charges make up 19 per cent,

User charges eg. fees from planning ,caravan parks, swimming-pool entry, etc 22 per cent, grants and contributions 21 per cent loans, interest and fines provide at present 25%.

Where does the money go is the next question . 41 % goes to sustain capital and loans,  probably too high a percentage ,17 % to roads and parks, 12 % to administration and community,7% to planning and development, 7% to caravan parks and 2% to health and compliance.

 So coming back to rates: they make up $7.7 million out off $59.4 million. This is a  small section of the Pie. We're not going to ever achieve that much by continuously putting up rates especially when we have 1.75 million tourists a year using our infrastructure.

 We need more grants or tourist contributions to even catch up to providing an adequate infrastructure for this shire.

For grants, council either employs a grants officer or preferably engages a grant consultant on the basis of them receiving a percentage renumeration from council  only if  their applications are successful..

Let's lobby the State government and constructively plan and maintain this special place.

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