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Hearing reveals ‘distrust’ of CVC land reclassification

Geoff Helisma |

Around 25 community members attended a public hearing held at the Maclean council chambers on Wednesday August 8, to discuss Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) proposal to reclassify 163 council-owned public land parcels from community to operational.

The land parcels, which are scattered throughout the valley, were found to be zoned as community land during CVC’s asset and rationalisation process, however, CVC says they “were originally intended to be classified to operational”.

A report prepared by Locale Consulting notes that “distrust between [CVC] and the community members present was highly evident throughout the hearing”, mainly relating to previous sales of council-owned land.

At the hearing, Maclean resident Warren Rackham, who was the Maclean shire town planner until early 1993, highlighted this sentiment when he said that CVC “bulldozed the reclassification of 1 MacNaughton Place [near the Maclean courthouse] to operational and sold it off [in September 2017], and at a ridiculously low price [$550,000]; and also now the very strategic and desirable property containing the axed [tourism information centre] in South Grafton.

“All this in the space of about three years, so council has clearly shown its hand.”

While the report notes that the reclassification of the majority of the land parcels “was not opposed”, seven specific land parcels attracted strong opposition from various attendees: the Maclean civic centre (comprised of three lots); the Maclean council chambers and offices (four lots); the Maclean library; Munro Lane behind the Maclean Hotel (currently used for car parking), the SES headquarters and slipway in River Street; Ferry Park; and, four lots within the future Yamba motorway footprint (a duplication of Yamba Road on its southern side).
In general terms, the report states there was a “concern that council, including future councils, will sell these lands”.

Those at the hearing contended that the “retention of the above land within the community classification” would be a “safeguard” against the land being sold in the future, the report notes.

On this issue, CVC’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, said “in order to address this concern of the community, Council may also be able to consider an alternative form of assurance that the land would not be sold: such as a caveat on the land title”, the report states.

On addressing the distrust issue and the some apparent community “misunderstanding [of] … the classification process, the report states: “This situation can only be improved through Council having a consistent and transparent approach to strategic planning within the community.

“The Riverside Precinct and the proposed Maclean Community Precinct processes are prime opportunities for this to occur.

“…It may be beneficial for Council to develop and provide Plain English explanatory statements with future exhibition processes to assist the community to better understand what is a complex system of land management.”

The report makes specific mention of the Ferry Park site and that its current “community classification may be appropriate”, however, it points out that CVC “staff and the Department of Planning & Environment have differing views to the community, in that part of this land may be reclassified as operational”.

“Further examination of the extent or need for reclassification would be recommended, potentially in discussion with the Lower Clarence Arts & Crafts Association, as appropriate,” the report states.

“Council may also wish to consider other options for reassuring the community with respect to potential future sale of public land in the Maclean area.”

Details of the concerns raised about the seven specific land parcels can be viewed in the report, which can be accesses and downloaded from CVC’s ‘On Exhibition’ website page – it will remain there until CVC formally considers the public hearing report and a report on the submissions received to the exhibited planning proposal (June 1 to July 2).

This will most likely occur at the September CVC meeting.

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