Youthful future foreshadowed for Byron Shire
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
FEWER homeless people, improved bike tracks and a drop-in centre 'like on Home and Away': These are some of the visions high school students have for Byron Shire's future. Students from the Byron and Mullumbimby high schools also wanted to see forests protected, fewer cars, better recreational facilities and cheaper local bus fares when asked what they imagined Byron Shire to be like in five years, as their contribution to Byron Shire Council's Draft Social Plan. While Cr Jan Mangleson yesterday described the students' input as 'touching', the majority of the councillors were less than impressed with a wordy 93-page document that was big on statistics but light on the strategies needed to make Byron the place the students dream of. All councils are required under the Local Government Regulation (1998) to prepare a social plan for their shire to 'ensure that government services are responsive to community need and diversity'. The plan also needs to be submitted to the Local Government Department by November 30, forcing councillors yesterday to vote through a document Cr Ray Kestle said would either send him 'blind or mad'. A simpler version of the executive summary will now go on display for the mandatory 28 days exhibition period, with the public encouraged to make submissions. The Draft Social Plan aims to address issues affecting groups such as children, youth, women, people with a disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from cultural and linguistically different backgrounds and older people. Byron Shire is described in the document as having a community with a 'high proportion of low-income earners, high numbers of new residents, considerable changes in family dynamics and high levels of unemployment and underemployment'. The last Social Plan for the shire was prepared in 1999 and, of the recommendations from that plan, only some have been achieved. These include improved reconciliation with indigenous residents, a full-time Youth Activity Centre co-ordinator, the preparation of a disability action plan and a community safety plan.