Arakwal representative Nickolla Clark, Byron mayor Simon Richardson and Ben Franklin MLC. The State Government has announced $25 million in funding for the Byron Shire, as promised by Mr Franklin when he ran for the state seat of Ballina in 2019.
Arakwal representative Nickolla Clark, Byron mayor Simon Richardson and Ben Franklin MLC. The State Government has announced $25 million in funding for the Byron Shire, as promised by Mr Franklin when he ran for the state seat of Ballina in 2019. Liana Turner

Byron 'deserves its fair share': $25m in projects announced

UPDATE: 1.30pm

THE State Government will be splashing big money on roads, tourism and improvements to a culturally significant area through $25 million in projects.

The funds were promised by NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts, Ben Franklin MLC, when he was running as a Nationals candidate for the state seat of Ballina.

Mr Franklin was unsuccessful in his bid for a spot in the lower house, but the funds he  promised were formally announced on Friday as formal projects.

This includes $20 million for roads and $5 million to support tourism.

The tourism spend will involve a $2.05 million Sandhills Estate activation project including a new skatepark and recreation precinct linking the Byron Bay Rec Grounds, Main Beach, Tennyson St, Massinger St and Byron St, $1.57 million for the completion of the Byron Bay to Suffolk Park cycle path, $945,000 for the South Arm carpark at Brunswick Heads and $435,000 to improve public facilities at Main Beach.

Road improvements will span from Byron Bay to Mullumbimby, Main Arm, Billinudgel and Talofa and will involve a $3.8 million asphalt overlay program, $3.65 million for resealing and $2.4 million for patching.

Mayor Simon Richardson said little consideration was given to the political divide in the collaborative work that made these projects possible.

"We're all humans; we all have very similar needs and it's about connecting with people, creating relationships," Cr Richardson said.

"If you have, some of the less important differences can fall away."

Cr Richardson said he was perhaps most excited about plans for a skate park and while his daughters might enjoy it, he might not hit the ramp as he's now  "too nervous about getting hurt".

As a drawcard for young people to be active outdoors, he welcomed its inclusion.

"I remember when I first lived here, I always dreamed of a skate park," he said.

While there were some groups pushing for skate park over the years, Cr Richardson called a public meeting on the matter two years ago. He said he was "really chuffed" to be able to deliver one.

Arakwal representative Nickolla Clark welcomed the Sandhills Estate plans. 

Arakwal representative Nickolla Clark is enthusiastic about plans to improve a culturally significant area in Byron Bay.
Arakwal representative Nickolla Clark is enthusiastic about plans to improve a culturally significant area in Byron Bay. Liana Turner

"The site is on our country, it sits right next to a threatened ecological community ...  and that area is going to be restored," Ms Clark said.

She said the fact bush regeneration would be included in the work on that site, where the Arakwal would collect food and gather, was important.

The site has been known as an unsafe area, but Ms Clark was pleased with plans to change that.

"It's good to see this area's going to become a family-friendly youth activity zone. Arakwal supports that action and that movement forward," she said.

With 2.1 million tourists visiting Byron each year but just 15,000 ratepayers footing the bill for key services, Legislative Council member Ben Franklin said he was keen to push the state for more support despite being unsuccessful in the 2019 state election.

"We've got 2.1 million tourists coming here every year and that provides enormous numbers for dollars to state coffers through a whole range of different avenues," he said.

"What that means of course is the 15,000 ratepayers of the Byron Shire continue to get whacked to provide the funding to ensure the tourists can have the best experience possible. 

"We got to a point where I was convinced that the state needed to step up and actually provide more funding for the council and for the shire, because this council and this shire is special," he said.

"It's unique. It's one-of-a-kind in NSW and it deserved extra state government support."

Mr Franklin said the promises he'd made ahead of the election were "the heart" of his campaign and the state's key leaders agreed the projects should be delivered.

"Of course the election happened and I didn't win," he said.

"But I felt that it was extremely important for my own credibility but also for the credibility of the government to deliver and to make sure this community got what it deserved, not because of who it elected but because of every individual and because this community deserves to have its fair share."
 

Initial report:

THE State Government will provide $25 million for projects in the Byron Shire, as promised by the Nationals candidate for Ballina last year.

Byron Mayor Simon Richardson and NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts, the Honorary Ben Franklin MLC - who last year ran for the state seat of Ballina - formally announced the funding this morning.

The funding is from the NSW Government's Tourism Impacts Infrastructure Election Commitment which is providing two grants to help Byron Shire Council manage the impact of tourism.

One grant is for $20 million to help council improve its road network. The second grant of $5 million is to support projects in towns that are impacted by tourism.

"During last year's state election, I announced this commitment which I am proud to be delivering today," Mr Franklin said.

"The value of Byron Shire tourism to our state is substantial which is why I have strongly advocated that the Government provide a greater level of support in return.

"That is what this announcement does."

NSW Election Candidates
NSW Election Candidates

Cr Richardson said the council was thankful for the funding.

"On behalf of council I sincerely thank Ben Franklin, and the NSW Government, for this much-needed injection of money into our shire which, for many years, has struggled to accommodate the increasing numbers of tourists who come here for the 'Byron' experience," he said.

"With more than 2.1 million visitors a year, council really struggles to provide the infrastructure for local residents and businesses, as well as tourists.

"The fact that for many years elected councils prioritised other areas above funding for road infrastructure has meant our road networks are in desperate need of repair and with a rate base of only 15,180, we just don't have the money.

"Added to council's more recent funding increases on roads and other infrastructure, this injection of money will have a massive impact and we are incredibly blown away by the tenacity shown by Ben to fight against any moves to reallocate this election promised fund to deliver to us a 'once in a generation' opportunity to get cracking on fixing our roads."

The $20 million road fund will deliver:

• $10.15 million of improvements for:

- Kingsley St (Byron Bay)

- Carlyle St (Byron Bay)

- Lawson St (Byron Bay)

- Bayshore Drive (Byron Bay)

- Fern St (Mullumbimby)

- Stuart St (Mullumbimby)

- Tincogan St (Mullumbimby)

- Main Arm Rd (Mullumbimby - Main Arm)

- The Pocket Rd (Main Arm - Billinudgel)

- Old Bangalow Rd (Talofa)

• $3.8 million for shire-wide asphalt overlay program

• $3.65 million for shire-wide reseal program

• $2.4 million for shire-wide patching program

The $5 million grant to support tourism communities will provide:

• $2.05 million for the Sandhills Estate activation including a new skatepark and recreation precinct linking the Byron Bay Rec Grounds, Main Beach, Tennyson St, Massinger St and Byron St

• $1.57 million for completion of the Byron Bay to Suffolk Park cycle path

• $945,000 for the reconstruction and upgrade of South Arm carpark at Brunswick Heads

• $435,000 to improve public facilities at Byron Bay's Main Beach.

"This $25 million will make an enormous difference to our shire, especially for local residents, and it is an enormous step towards getting our infrastructure upgrades back on track," Cr Richardson said.

Mr Franklin thanked Cr Richardson and the council for the "incredibly constructive way" they had worked with the State Government for the projects, which he said "every resident of our shire will benefit from".