Elderly and ill given marching orders to leave caravan park

MOVED ON: Some of the Terrace Reserve Caravan Park’s 22 residents forced to relocate. From left: Wayne Johnson, Judith Searles, Gary Morganson, John Whiley, Gypsy Lane, Reg Richardson, Geoff Suthon and Maxene Morganson.
MOVED ON: Some of the Terrace Reserve Caravan Park’s 22 residents forced to relocate. From left: Wayne Johnson, Judith Searles, Gary Morganson, John Whiley, Gypsy Lane, Reg Richardson, Geoff Suthon and Maxene Morganson. Digby Hildreth

WHEN Pat and Arthur Kay bought their plot of land in the caravan park on the Simpson's Creek foreshore 23 years ago they were told they could live there till they died.

Now the couple, both in their 70s and both suffering from cancer, face the prospect of being forced to relocate their home, somewhere within the Terrace Reserve Holiday Park in Brunswick Heads.

It's a "very distressing" turn of events, Mrs Kay said, of the Byron Shire Council decision to remove their home from the creek's picturesque foreshore.

"Neither of us is in good health so we don't need this at all."

They are among 22 people, mostly elderly, who will have to uproot themselves within three years, in order to create a three-metre buffer zone along the shore.

Among them are Joan and Fred Petty, who have had their place for 29 years.

At 86, Mrs Petty says she wants to stay where she is - especially as she has the added burden of caring for Fred, 87, who is in the early stages of dementia.

"This has been going on for years and it's very unsettling. If we have to move it will be hugely disruptive."

Reg Richardson, elderly, disabled and not long a widower says he will simply dig his heels in.

"Every week it's a different story. Forget it, I'm not moving," he said.

Gordon Lee, 65, and his wife Sheryl, have been resident for 13 years, and say the group is both a little community in itself and part of the larger community.

The phrase in the council resolution "noting the community view" to create the buffer zone is rubbish, they say.

"People from the south side of Brunswick Heads walk through here every day. Everyone we've spoken to is happy to have us stay."

And the residents themselves haven't been consulted, said Geoff Suthon, their spokesman.

"Councillors - including the new lot - have walked through here twice and not spoken to a single resident."

One man who may be able to stay, but will lose his immediate neighbours, is 98-year-old Jack Passlow, another 23-year veteran. He has fears for the wider community.

"By relocating these 14 residences within the park, the number of caravan sites to rent to tourists will be reduced by a third. That is going to mean losses for local businesses from the drop in visitation and a huge drop in income for the park itself."

The Kays had a caravan on their site for five years before being told by the then head of Byron council, Joe Flynn, to live in it or lose it. They chose to buy and moved down from Lismore, the last step in a life- long association with Bruns.

About the time they came, the then council was encouraging people to inhabit the foreshore, in order to protect it. Even now, there is no sign of erosion along the 250m strip that the homes occupy - one of the reasons given for the council move.

In a public access submission to council on the day the motion was passed, Michele Grant of the Foreshore Protection Group, purporting to be speaking for the Brunswick community, said it was seeking three things: "To get land managers to address the encroachment, compliance and foreshore access issues in our Crown Reserve parklands.

"No one is seeking to cause hardship," she said, adding the rhetorical question: "How many residents are so old and incapacitated that moving is seen as an impossible hardship?"

Impossible? Of course not. But a severe hardship nevertheless, on residents in their 60s, 70s and 80s who have been in the same home for so many years

Topics:  byron bay byron shire council

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