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Airport proposal reveals ‘lone wolf’

Geoff Helisma | At the Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) November 20 meeting, councillors listened to Cr Greg Clancy’s reasoning for tabling a motion to “reject the draft Clarence Valley Regional Airport Master Plan dated October 2018”; however, he was friendless when it came around to voting. Councillor Clancy was concerned that the proposed hangars, which cover 1,800 square metres, were located on “bushland that has high significance”. “Considering the damage to the environment [caused by clearing for] the Pacific motorway and the gaol … the Glenugie area has suffered greatly, which means the remnant vegetation has higher significance than it did five years ago,” he said. He acknowledged that the plan had cost a lot of money ($35,000 was budgeted); however, he said there would be more expense involved in the ecological studies, which “may reject” clearing that part of the forest because of the “high concentration of threatened species”. Councillor Clancy then reeled off an extensive list of endangered fauna and flora that he later told the Independent had “reliably been recorded in the area”. Speaking against Cr Clancy’s motion, Cr Richie Williamson began with a retort: “Councillor Clancy’s left out the endangered ZL 344 [the daily Regional Express Airlines return flight number],” then added, “we have to do something for the viability of the airport. “The master plan is quite significant; it hasn’t been thrown together overnight.” Councillor Williamson said the consultant had raised relevant issues “that will need to be dealt with – acid sulphate soils, bushfire, our own LEP [local environment plan] and our own approval process, which includes the possible constraints of the site. “Today’s decision is to put the master plan out on exhibition, or not. “My colleague has furnished what I believe to be a perfectly normal, legal motion … to reject the draft plan. “I’m not quite sure what that means, but, nevertheless, I understand very clearly the point that Cr Clancy is trying to articulate. “Further public input on this should be sought and then, of course, there is the opportunity for council to again further consider it.” Councillor Baker continued where Cr Williamson left off. “We’ve heard quite a bit about consulting the community,” he said “…Mr Mayor, to do the right thing by the community, as we hear so much about, [but] not from me usually, we’ll need to show the community what we’ve spent their dough on…. “Or we could go on the say-so of Cr Clancy, who I am sure is quite convincing to himself, and simply reject everything…. “Mr Mayor, this motion should be rejected outright and we should get on with the business of respecting our community with this one.” Councillor Arthur Lysaught said it would be “wasteful” to throw away the investment in the draft master plan. “It can be amended; and those who need to … can make whatever submissions they like and they will be taken into account when the final decision is made,” he said. Councillor Peter Ellem: “I’m not going to be like some other councillors and ridicule Cr Clancy, because he does have expert knowledge on flora and fauna [Cr Clancy is an ecologist], but the officer’s recommendation, as it stands, allows for full public consultation and all parties can have a say.” Councillor Karen Toms said she was “particularly impressed” with the community engagement process outlined in the master plan. In his right of reply, Cr Clancy said: “I accept some of the comments and understand where they are coming from, but when getting master plans done we do need to consider the physical constraints before putting detail over them…. “I [realise] I am a lone wolf … but if it comes back to bite us, at least can say I warned you.” The master plan is now on exhibition until January 18, 2019 and can be downloaded from CVC’s website.