The Northern Region Planning Panel has again deferred a decision to approve a controversial 136 moveable home development at 8 Park Avenue Yamba until a comprehensive independent flood risk study is conducted and considered.
This is the second deferral of approval by the Northern Region Planning Panel NRPP of the $34 million development, which will require an estimated 2600 truckloads to import 32850 cubic metres of fill, following an initial knockback in March.
The proposed development by Hometown Australia dubbed ‘Parkside’ will feature 136 moveable homes, one exhibition home, community facilities (including clubhouse, swimming pool, gym and cinema) and associated infrastructure and landscaping.
Clarence Valley Council voted 4 – 2 at its February meeting to submit the Development Application DA to the NRPP, which considers “general development with a capital investment greater than $30 million”, for approval.
Councillors Day, Pickering, Toms and Whaites supported council staff’s assessment to refer the application to the NRPP, Cr’s Novak and Smith were opposed, while NRRP members Cr Tiley, Cr Clancy and alternate member Cr Smith left the room and didn’t vote.
When the NRPP, comprising Mayor Ian Tiley, Deputy Mayor Greg Clancy and state panel members Paul Mitchell (Chair), Stephen Gow and Penny Holloway met in March to consider the DA, it was deferred until a Flood Emergency Management and Evacuation Plan was prepared.
The NRPP reconvened via MS Teams videoconference at 4pm, on July 20, to consider the updated information from Hometown Australia and hear nine submissions from members of the public against the proposed development.
Mr Mitchell told the 39 people who registered to listen or participate in the videoconference, the NRPP specifically asked the developer at the last meeting to prepare supplementary reports on Flood Emergency Management and Flood Risk, Stormwater Management and Ongoing Maintenance of the Drainage Easement and Energy Efficiency of the Dwellings, requesting the developer focus on those issues.
He reminded all concerned the DA had current subdivision and construction work approval, which the NRPP must take into consideration in its decision.
Concerned resident Bob Cairns spoke first highlighting the stormwater and drainage concerns, followed by Lynne Cairns who spoke on behalf of Valley Watch, Stan Cousins, Helen Tyas Tunggal, Ros Woodward, Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann, Barbara Close resident Wendy Moffit and Barbara Rook.
“The development as proposed is not compatible with surrounding residential developments,” Mr Cairns said.
“The height of fill intrudes on the privacy of adjoining owners, adversely impacts on their safety in storm events and establishes a part of town that must deal with increased heights in stormwater flooding, these are areas that haven’t previously experienced stormwater flooding.”
Mrs Cairns said the ‘regionally significant’ development had ruined lives since the site was first filled in 2006.
“The clubhouse floor height is to be 3.63 metres AHD (above sea level) for a safe refuge for residents and the local community in time of probable maximum flood,” she said.
“How will the community be informed that they can take refuge in the clubhouse and how will they gain access to the site from Shores Drive when it’s closed from stormwater flash flooding and then river water.
“This site caused stormwater flooding through a number of properties on Yamba Road, Shores Drive, The Halyard, Telopea and Park Avenue (in this year’s floods).”
Stan Cousins highlighted the silted up natural drainage watercourse of Reedy Creek and its impacts on the Clarence Estuary Nature Reserve he discovered in 300 hours of researching the DA.
“We cannot put any water into that reserve, because it is not taking any more water and it doesn’t go anywhere,” he said.
Helen Tyas Tunggal said Hometown’s statement of effects states its stormwater would be discharged to the east of Shores Drive.
“It’s been acknowledged by councils since at least 2006 that the drain in Shores Drive is already under the capacity needed to be effective, but there’s no mention of the environmental effects from stormwater which will then be funneled into the Clarence Estuary Nature Reserve,” she said.
“The reserve contains a high diversity of plant species and significant native animal habitat including at least 30 migratory species, some listed as threatened, and there’s also a long history of intensive aboriginal use in the reserve that includes the site of the Yaegl Reedy Creek camp.”
Ros Woodward opposed the DA on community trust and social health issues, giving the NRPP eight points to consider, including the initial survey report failure to mention Reedy Creek and adjacent wetlands, historical council reports mentioning drainage wouldn’t cope, and the fact three of the NRPP members had not set foot on the site.
“The SES has not been contacted, you are relying on a report from 2017 which does not accommodate all of the cumulative fill coming into Yamba that will change flooding and stormwater behaviour,” she said.
Hometown Australia Head of Planning Joseph Waugh was joined by Development Manager Geoff Dearden, Newton Denny Chapelle Civil Engineer Chris Pickford and Flooding and Hydrology consultant Drew Bewsher concerning the 14-hectare site.
“In the interim three months since the last meeting we have provided additional landscape, stormwater, flood emergency management plan and energy efficiency documentation…to address comments made by the panel previously,” Mr Waugh said.
“This is a development for a permissible development, within the R3 zone for medium density development, it already has an existing subdivision approval and construction work approval.”
The NRPP heard the 673 square metre clubhouse would provide refuge for 1 person per 1.5 square metres of floor space in the event the site was isolated for six to seven days.
Mr Waugh said the internal drainage network has been designed to drain into an 865m³ underground tank beneath the bowling green which would drain into a new culvert beneath Park Avenue.
“The culverts beneath Park Avenue will be completely separate to the existing drainage systems in the area and convey flows from the site to the existing swale on the eastern side of Shores Drive,” the panel heard.
The NRPP also heard from Clarence Valley Council’s planner Carmen Landers and Christopher Deard who recommended the DA’s approval.
Deputy Mayor Greg Clancy asked what the plan was to cater for people who would be isolated when the development, like the rest of Yamba, is cut off for six or seven days in a flood.
“It does say in the evacuation plan that there would be some food stored in the Community Centre (clubhouse) but is that really going to be adequate for a large number of people over a number of days,” he said.
Mrs Landers told the panel that due to the nature of floods at Yamba, people would have prior warning the town would be cut off and would have time to prepare for, or leave, before the area is isolated.
The NRRP retired to consider the submissions at 5.51pm and returned at 7.45pm to deliver what Chair Paul Mitchell said was a ‘unanimous decision’.
“The Panel’s decision is to defer a determination,” Mr Mitchell said.
“We are going to ask the Department of Environment and Planning to commission an independent assessment by a suitably qualified expert of the flooding risk and the adequacy of evacuation procedures proposed by the applicant.
“Those factors only in recognition of the sensitivity amongst the community about those issues.
“Those issues will be subject to an independent evaluation, administered and paid for by the Department of Environment and Planning.
“We are going to ask the Department to have that information available to the Panel and to the public within a month and we will then reconvene a Panel meeting shortly thereafter.”
A Valley Watch spokesperson said they were concerned the panel’s decision states only ‘flooding risk’ and were enquiring with the NRPP whether stormwater drainage will also be considered in the independent assessment.