Archive for the ‘Environment Protection’ Category.

Are Byron Shire Council’s complaint procedures a potential train wreck ? Suggestions for Council to stay directly on the right track.


A small history review

Back in the year 2005, I made my first representation to Byron Shire Council concerning the environmental protection of mature native trees.   Council’s response to me, in part, in their letter to me dated 25 July 2005, and I quote – “The resources of Council’s Compliance Department do not allow for an immediate response to each request for Council action.”  As evidenced by my previously published article, Byron Shire Council’s Compliance Department’s responses have been failures.

In the year 2017, Council still maintains the same line of procrastinations, with not much apparently being done. On Friday 26 May 2017, I made complaint representations to Council for their consideration.  Unless otherwise notified by Council, my understanding is up to a week later, no on-site inspection had been made to assess my complaint.  However, Council had the management resources and time to prepare a 4 page official letter which was forwarded to me by email at 2.59 pm on 2 June 2017, which in essence included Council’s following final statement to me, and again I quote in part – “As a result of this, all future communication with Council must now be made in writing by post to the General Manager…..or by email…” This aforesaid commentary demonstrates Council’s unfettered discretionary powers and dealing with community ratepayers with impunity.  Welcome to the Byron Shire and the old “shoot the messenger” syndrome.

How did Robert respond to all of this

Prior to receiving Council’s elaborate 4 page letter on the afternoon of 2 June 2017, earlier at 12.14 pm, I forwarded to the General Manager of Byron Shire Council my concerns at not being able to make phone contact with specific Council officers, who were aware of my complaint representations.  A copy of my email to the General Manager is noted below.

It is important to understand that prior to forwarding this email, earlier that same day, I had not been able to make contact by phone with relevant Council officers, even though I was asked to call back in half an hour’s time,  which I did, and I was still not afforded the courtesy of access.


Mr Ken Gainger
General Manager
Byron Shire Council.

Good afternoon Ken,

We have tried unsuccessfully four times by phone
this morning to make contact with Council personnel
who have discussed case number CRM #### with us

The intended purpose of our proposed calls this morning
was to provide relevant positive and helpful update information
to this case.

As evidenced by our case number, Council appears to be
overwhelmed with complaint enquiries and seemingly, has
insufficient staff to deal with these matters.

Could you please encourage one of your two staff who have
been directly involved with this case to kindly contact us again
in a timely manner, so we can provide our update.

We fully understand how overwhelmed Council are with the
magnitude of complaints received from the Byron Shire
community, and perhaps consideration should be given to
streamlining this process and determining why there are so
many complaints directed to Council from within our community.

Our experience has been that when phone contact is attempted
to be made, brick walls are put up by ancillary staff. The message
we are getting from Council is – please do not contact us as we are
far too busy to get interested.

At the same time, it is more than acceptable for Council to receive
prompt rate payments from us for the past 38 years.

Your assistance is requested.


Robert and Gillian Prikulis


The CRM concealed number referred to in my above email represents the cumulative logged complaint numbers since 1 January 2017.  At the date of my original complaint submission on Friday 26 May 2017, it was running at more than 4,700, implying that at this year’s half way mark, it could be more than 5,000.  The number of ratepayers currently existing in the Byron Shire is about 15,300.  If my submitted figures require correction, please advise me.

Additionally, find below, our extract email response made at 4.21pm on 2 June 2017 to the earlier 4 page letter emailed to me from the Byron Shire Council.


Good afternoon #######,

I am dictating this email to my wife, as I have a blindness condition.

We are disappointed with your unjustified letter to us forwarded in
your email at 2.59 pm today.

It is important to note that our legitimate enquiry phone calls were
made by both my wife and myself.

We were asked to ring back in half an hour, which we did to our
contact person, which was again unsuccessful.

The purpose of our phone contact, which did not happen, was to pass
on important positive update information about our case.  This
opportunity was denied to us, and we now receive your template rebuke
to our attempt to be helpful in this matter.

Your letter response to our attempt to make contact with Council
officers was over the top and unwarranted.

Copied below is our email forwarded to your General Manager,
Mr Ken Gainger, at 12.14 pm earlier today.

Our intention is to make representation on this matter and your
letter forwarded to us, to elected Councillors, being community

We simply find your letter of today most unreasonable, extreme, not helpful
and unacceptable to us.


Robert and Gillian Prikulis


On the evidence of Council’s  letter to us, it appears that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Council’s 4 page emailed letter makes no reference to my earlier email of that day addressed to the General Manager.

My suggestions to Council to facilitate an improved complaints management system

  • Practise a professional Public Servant ethos with ratepayers and other persons who try to make complaint representations to Council.  Continual procrastinations and excuses do not represent proper attention to the job.
  • The extremely high numbers of complaints logged by Council staff represents a serious level of dissatisfaction within the Byron Shire community.  Council’s capacity to properly deal with the high numbers of complaints no doubt results in staff stress itself, and associated stress to the person making the complaint.  Perhaps more staff and better systems could be implemented to address these growing failures.
  • Council’s attitude to the Byron Shire ratepayers and community’s complaints needs a new direction.  More fruitful time could be spent dealing with the work rather than writing 4 paged template rebukes.
  • To properly undertake this investigation work, Council could consider introducing a payment system to register and log complaints made, in order to effect results in a timely manner.  This may result in a decrease of complaint numbers.
  • Council should consider a methodology to actually deal with complaints so that persons know where they stand after a complaint is made and logged.  Within Council’s website, an online chronological data base should be established, open and  accessible to the community with numbered complaints being able to be tracked online to ascertain Council’s progress and decision to the complaint made.  Similar to how a DA can be tracked today online. This type of open system will bring more certainty and less stress to all stakeholders.
  • If a person is dissatisfied with Council’s decision regarding a complaint made, Council should put in place the opportunity of an appeal process to that decision for the interested person.

The purpose of my article is to attempt to facilitate a much needed investigative review of the current, in my view, failing practices by Byron Shire Council and their need to lift their game in the management of the existing complaint procedures and processes.

All we wanted to do was to provide a positive update of our complaint to Council.


.Staying on the rails, on track and heading in the right direction,
should be Council’s Objective.


Vulnerable escarpment lands under pressure in the Byron Shire, Part 3

Is Environmental Protection a green myth at Coorabell  ?


Turning healthy mature native trees into poles


Extreme branch lopping does not help mature native trees survive


More than 30 years to grow and about 60 seconds to cut down


Plant trees ~ grow trees ~ protect your trees ~ for the benefit of all


What is the primary objective of multiple assaults of tree cutting and tree interference of mature native trees on the same property, on the Coorabell Escarpment, in a 7 (d) Scenic / Escarpment Protection Zone ? In my opinion, simply to attempt to enhance the property’s views for monetary gain.

Between 2008 and 2014, Byron Shire Council has issued the following enforcement penalty orders for the unlawful cutting down of multiple mature native trees on this same property, on different occasions by different owners, at the time.  Tree felling on this property was first brought to the attention of Council in 2005.

  • 2008 – The unlawful cutting down of 24 mature native trees.  Byron Shire Council issued a penalty order to the owner to implement a tree restoration plan, to replant the 24 trees, their ongoing maintenance  and noxious weed management.
  • 2009 – The extreme lopping and removal of the canopy of approximately 50 mature native trees, and incomprehensibly, no penalty issued by Byron Shire Council.  Commented upon and strongly criticized by the Senior Solicitor of the Lismore NSW Environmental Defender’s Office in a letter to Council, dated 15 October 2009.
  • 2012 - The unlawful cutting down  of 4 mature native trees.  Byron Shire Council issued a penalty order to undertake a replanting program which involved the replacement of 50 trees and weed control.

  • 2014 – 13 October; Byron Shire Council advises by email that the current owners have accepted responsibility for the unlawful felling of 12 mature native trees on 24 July 2014, and Council has issued a penalty infringement notice of a $1,500 fine.  The property owners will also be required to replant and maintain similar trees to those removed.  A notation of the Council Order has been placed on Council’s internal Property Register.  If the property owners re-offend, Council has indicated that it would issue a Court attendance notice.  Provision is also made for the owners, if they so desire, to have this current enforcement penalty referred to and determined by the local court.

Is there a better way of enforcing environmental protection of mature native trees, that are cut down to enhance property views ?

There is a raft of existing, varying and sometimes conflicting legislation, which impacts on enforcement penalties for the cutting down of trees, for the purpose only of obtaining views ( posted 14 December 2014 ).  A clear policy determination by Council in this regard, would be helpful to the community and provide a more effective deterrent.

In my experience, orders for replanting and/or the implementing on the ground of a tree restoration plan, have been failures.  The proper monitoring,  nurturing and maintenance of replaced trees just does not happen.  Importantly, the obligation to restore felled trees rests with the owner, and this obligation is extinguished when a property is sold, and does not seem to pass on to the new owner.  Additionally, enforcement penalties issued by Council, do not again seem to take into account a previous history of multiple infringements on the same property.

Where trees have been detrimentally interfered with by a previous owner, Council should refuse an application to fell these supposed “sick or dying” trees.

A suggested role for a property Certificate of Title in environmental tree protection.

The act of unlawful tree felling permanently alters the property landscape and recovery to the original status is almost impossible.  As an effective deterrent to repeat offenders, it is suggested that an easement on the ground, for the protection of trees and/or a management statement for tree restoration be placed on the notations section of the Certificate of Title of the subject property.  This results in enforcement conditions being attached to the property and not being extinguished on change of ownership.  An easement for tree protection can be created, together with details as to how it operates, showing the location extent in a Registered Plan of Survey.

The easement or management statement should only be removed when the existing owner demonstrates full compliance with Council directives.  These title notifications should not be effected by a change of property ownership and should only be removed on Council’s satisfaction.  When a land title’s property search is undertaken, any person can then be immediately made aware of the responsibilities attached to that property.  It is common practice for interests to be noted on a Certificate of Title.


Robert Crumb’s interpretation sort of says it all !


Posted : 20 December 2014

Dear Reader – making representations to the proper authority, being Byron Shire Council, concerning current and repeated offenses with respect to the unlawful felling of mature native trees, has resulted in us being intimidated by Council itself with trivial and largely officious, unenforceable directions.  So what’s new.  Simply, the shoot the messenger syndrome.  Moving at a glacial pace, Byron Shire Council don’t, won’t or can’t answer clear questions put to them by us and on our instructions, by our legal representative.  This Council does not seem to recognize that multiple penalized offenses have occurred in the same locality, issuing soft penalties, which have little or no deterrent.  From our perspective, in terms of environmental degradation, Byron Shire Council itself, through it’s ineffectual inaction, becomes part of the problem.  This Council strongly promotes itself as an environmental local government organization, but does not, in our opinion, walk the talk.  In stark comparison, under the current NSW Rural Fires Act, fines of up to $132,000 and a maximum of up to 7 years jail is applicable to offenders who deliberately break the existing fire laws ( Northern Star, 25 October 2014 ).  Contrast this with a $1,500 fine for multiple unlawful tree felling for the third separate occasion by different persons.  With respect to the aforesaid, Byron Shire Council has never taken these matters to Court.

Additionally, the amenity and quiet enjoyment of our property has been impacted upon us personally by retaliation and malice, resulting from our recent justifiable complaint  to Byron Shire Council, concerning the unlawful mature native tree felling on 24 July 2014.  It is our view, that Council itself has inflamed this situation.

Community and local government dissatisfaction with the abuse of tree and vegetation clearing rules, which came into use on 1 August 2014, resulted in amendments being made on 27 November 2014 by the NSW Rural Fire Service, while a current overall review is being undertaken.

Posted : 22 October 2015

The aforesaid review has now been completed, resulting in the following adopted policy documents -
1.   NSW Government Review of the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Scheme, dated August 2015.
2.  NSW Rural Fire Service 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice for New South Wales, dated 4 September 2015

Posted : 20 November 2015

The Byron Shire Echo Netdaily report titled – Byron council downgrades key environment role, dated 20 November 2015 – appears to shed light on some of my comments made in this Journal Blog article – ” Is Environmental Protection a green myth at Coorabell ? “

Posted : 16 April 2016

Extract, page 14, Byron Shire Draft Rural Land Use Strategy, March 2016 – ” Policy Directions for Our Rural Environment - 5. Future rural lifestyle living opportunities will preserve scenic amenity, minimise environmental impacts and better manage natural or man made hazard risks. “


Plant trees ~ grow trees ~ protect your trees ~ for the benefit of all


Dedicated to Bill Taylor ~ master botanist.

Escarpment lands II ~ Background history

” The subject land forms one of the most important landscape features of the Shire.”

p 100, Report to the Council of the Shire of Byron – February 1987,                                                                    Office of the Commissioners of Enquiry for Environment and Planning.

Protection measures for escarpment lands in the New South Wales Byron Shire were created with the establishment of the Byron Local Environment Plan in the year 1988.

The rationale for the 7 (d) Scenic / Escarpment Protection Zone was detailed in the publication, Byron Bay Local Environmental Study, Byron Shire Council 1981.  This study identifies the Coorabell / Ewingsdale escarpment lands as regional prominent  landscapes.” Important vistas and landscape features are to be protected. p 16….. Lands such as the escarpment lands behind Byron Bay were identified as being of prime landscape value and stringent planning controls were recommended to be applied here. p 19 “

The Byron Shire Draft Local Environment Plan, 1986, states with respect to the Scenic / Escarpment Zone that “the major objective of this Zone is to protect and enhance areas of major scenic quality in the Shire.”

Quote Visually prominent / scenic areas ~ Inappropriately located rural settlement can ultimately destroy the very scenic amenity of an area which attracted residents in the first place.  Preserving the dominant landscape features or scenic characteristics of an area is fundamental to ensuring that the visual rural qualities of the Shire (i.e. prominent ridges, bushland or timber, creeks, views, aspect, etc.) are not further diminished by future rural settlement.  ~   As a minimum starting point, the Strategy excludes all lands zoned in the Byron LEP 1988 as  7(d) (Scenic / Escarpment Zone ) from future rural settlement in the Shire.” ~ Extract from the ” Byron Rural Settlement Strategy 1998 ~ Best Practice Guidelines and Performance Standards ” ~ Page 99

As evidenced by current site modifications on protected escarpment lands, the adherence to policies introduced more than twenty years ago have now become watered-down or non-existant, with detrimental effects to  the escarpment environment.  Perhaps the Byron Shire Council should take charge and demonstrate that it is truly serious about the environmental management of sensitive escarpment lands.

original publications covers

Escarpment lands under pressure

One cannot help but notice the visual impact of new development on the face of the escarpment in the Coorabell locality in the New South Wales Byron Shire.

Access roads crisscrossing the escarpment face and building structures that stand out and cannot go un-noticed.  These infrastructures are located on environmentally sensitive lands, that are supposed to be protected by existing land use planning legislation. Much more care should have been taken in their placement.

It seems that this type of development is now becoming the norm, with little or no restraint action being taken by the regulatory authorities. Over the years I have made representation to Local Government and relevant Government Agencies, generally receiving inadequate responses.

If the local government authority is not prepared to uphold its own planning policy in the Coorabell Escarpment locality, being a 7 (d) Scenic / Escarpment Protection Zone, then the proper protection of environmentally sensitive lands is lost now, and to future generations.

The Land Surveyor has always had a close relationship with the land. Associated with my work, at least, are accepted responsibilities in the consideration of social and environmental consequences which may impact upon the land.

Be informed, it is all too late when the noise of the earthmoving machinery is heard.

11 March 2010 update –  In response to requests, example photographs are provided. Left click to enlarge photos.

Taken from Myocum Road 2 October 2008

Taken from Myocum Road 9 March 2010

Taken from Kennedys Lane 16 October 2009

Taken from Kennedys Lane 9 March 2010

Coorabell Escarpment ~ Source ~ Google Map ~ added 13 April 2011