Byron Mayor's vision for the future
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
BYRON Shire's greatest assets are not its sweeping beaches, landmark lighthouse or magnificent hinterland.
That's according to Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham.
"The community is our greatest asset, I don't want to lose them to the pressure of development and tourism," Cr Barham said.
"The community has all along known what has been best for the town socially and environmentally.
"They defied the development push of the 1980s and that's what is now prized about our area ? that we are different."
Keeping the pressure off local residents will continue to occupy the mayor this year.
"We've made a solid move forward by forming a relationship with the Byron tourism industry," Cr Barham said.
Byron has the potential to become a 'model' tourist town, the mayor predicts, following a low-key European model, with pedestrian precincts and village feel.
"Tourism cannot be left to run itself, we need to be managing it," Cr Barham said.
"If we can find the balance between economic ben- efits and residential amenity, we could become a model tourist town."
Meanwhile, the community has some treats in store during this council's term: A new library for Byron Bay, new sportsfields at Ewingsdale, the preparation of a cultural plan and a push to enhance Mullumbimby's heritage precinct.
"Our cultural plan will ensure we've got those facilities to allow the community's richness and diversity to be enhanced, developed and supported," Cr Barham said.
"We have the old-fashioned and the far-out in the one community.
"We've got it all and that's what makes this place so attractive."
Looking after the shire's community facilities is also on the list this year.
"We need to upgrade the shire's heritage halls, like Mullumbimby Civic Hall, and retain the vibrancy of those community precincts," Cr Barham said.
"Bangalow is a great example of that."
The new library in Sandhills Estate, near Byron Bay Courthouse, is also progressing, with funding allocated by the council and grants being sought.
"It will be a social gathering space, with meeting rooms and museum space," Cr Barham said.
Recreational facilities across the shire are a priority, with a plan of management for new land acquired for sports fields at Ewingsdale to be prepared, while the vexed issue of sporting fields at Ocean Shores will be on the agenda.
"We're committed to delivering sporting fields in some form or another to Ocean Shores," Cr Barham said.
While Cr Barham hopes the development of a tourism management plan for the shire will help on that pressure-front, holding back the tide of development has proved more difficult: Cr Barham's first year as mayor has been defined by massive protests and all-out media warfare between the council and major developers Becton, and multi-millionaire developer Gerry Harvey.
"I'm still waiting for the ideal developer to arrive, that's my fantasy," she said.
"The perfect developer would say 'we love the place and respect and appreciate the work that the community has already done. We'd very much like to follow your rules and give something back to support the community and the environment'.
"Included in that would be an appreciation of the so-called oddfolk of this diverse community."
While the 'ideal developer' has so far failed to ride into town like a knight in shining armour, Cr Barham is ready for those that do.
2005 will see Byron Bay's Local Environment Plan (LEP) overhauled, setting firm rules for what development is and isn't allowed in the town, with a new shire-wide LEP coming in 2006.
"A new LEP will give certainty to residents and developers about the desired future character of the shire," Cr Barham said.
"Hopefully it will eliminate legal and compliance issues, and court challenges.
"Developers will know what the rules are before they set out, so they will know what profits are able to be made, and whether it's worthwhile for them to develop."