What About Wallum?

April 27th, 2024

The Wallum is a tract of land south of Brunswick Heads. It is an extension of a housing estate known as Brunswick Bayside. The land has been zoned for development for decades and is what the opponents refer to as a “Zombie Development.” This is where the residential zoning was given to land that would not meet today’s more stringent environmental standards.

The Clarence Property Group have DA approval to build 124 houses over 12 hectares of a 30-hectare site. 60% of the site is to be protected and rehabilitated.

As often happens in Byron Shire, an issue that should have been mediated and resolved has become fraught. Everyone is manning the barricades and waving placards at ten paces. There are a few points that all parties agree on:

  • NSW planning regulations are broken and do not fit the purpose.
  • Greenfield, urban sprawl developments like this one are last century’s planning and should be phased out.
  • We must protect as much High-Value Vegetation as we have left and grow more.

Instead of focusing on these major concerns, time and energy are spent dealing with these spotfires in the bush.


Why the fuss?

Battle lines have been drawn around the details. Clarence Property believes they have done everything legal, followed all the rules, and passed every required threshold. Opponents say the site is too rich in biodiversity, and Byron Council should intervene and rescind the development approval. Byron Council says they cannot cancel it as it was approved by the state government’s Northern Regional Planning Panel in 2021.


Activists have set up camp outside the fenced development site. Two young women established tree-sitting platforms in the branches of two large gum trees threatened with demolition. It had the vibe of a small festival, and relations between protestors and security seemed harmonious for a while. That changed when some equipment and machinery were stopped from entering. Bodies were locked onto equipment, and we now have a Mexican standoff.


Some unpleasant truths:

  • Only some ‘Zombie Developments’ are due to land banking. Sometimes, it is due to convoluted approval system delays. It is common to develop in stages over a long period, as in this case in Wallum.
  • Even if Byron Council can block the DA, Clarence Property will probably win in the Land and Environment Court. Or, even worse, they will sue BSC, and ratepayers will be up for an expensive compensation bill.
  • I am not disputing the worth of this coastal land, but what rural land cannot claim to be the natural habitat of some threatened species?
  • We are in the middle of a housing shortage that will take another 20 years to resolve. Species loss or housing crisis: who gets to choose what gets priority?
  • Yes, this is a housing estate that will not be affordable. But people will move into these homes and vacate other homes that probably will be.
  • The council’s already limited resources and man-hours are being absorbed in this drama, which is not of its making. 75% of the Council’s total legal spend has already gone on Wallum.
  • The council once had a good policy of joining up our existing Conservation Zones, providing more fauna habitat. They are working on reviving this good idea.  Equally, finding more funding and donations to reforestation projects like Brunswick Valley Land Care and Reforest Now could be a better outcome than paying legal bills or massive compensation saving Wallum.

This Development Application went on public display and was open to community consultation in 2021. That was the appropriate time for objections, amendments, or cancellations. Unfortunately, it is only when the cyclone fence goes up, and the heavy machinery is at the gate that people get agitated and man the barricades.

Do a Deal

A compromise option is being negotiated now. Mayor Lyon and Cr Coorey discussed with the developer the idea of reducing the footprint and saving the small section of old-growth forest threatened by the chainsaws. This would be in exchange for some medium density and some smaller blocks, which are what are needed anyway.


Saving existing old-growth forests is crucial, but this is not that. It has been cleared land since the 1990s and allowed to regrow. Building more housing is equally crucial and can be done if we accept higher density in new developments. Many eco-warriors protesting at this site would also be against that, which makes no sense. Density allows for more affordable dwellings. If it is still on the table, we should try to complete the compromise deal and move on to more important battles.

4 Replies to “What About Wallum?”

  1. Hi Michael, Excellent summary of the Wallum debacle. Thanks for a little common sense, well done. regards….Phil Daly

  2. Hi Michael, thanks for the article, and your measured response to this issue. I agree with you, that dense and mixed house is a priority.

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