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Palmers island boat building proposal ‘exhumed’

Geoff Helisma

A proposal to construct a boat-building facility on Palmers Island was eventually rejected by the Minister, however, a motion from Cr Karen Toms, to clarify Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) “position”, resulted in a split 5-4 decision at its April 27 CVC meeting.

Councillor Toms’ motion centred on writing to the NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to correct the record, advising that CVC is now aware that one of the alleged grounds for non-approval – “lack of any evidence that there was any support for the proposal from Councillors” – was “incorrect”.

Cr Toms also urged councillors to advise the Minister that CVC “has and does support the rezoning of [the land] to facilitate the development of a marine based industry” and that “the remediation action plan has been acted on and the contamination removed” from fill dumped at the site.

Environment, Planning and Community director Des Schroder wrote in the business paper that “none” of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s reasons for rejecting the proposal “indicates that the lack of support or evidence, thereof from the council, formed the basis for the government’s decision”.

“Council had provided support for the proposal on a number of occasions, however, that support was not given the final time council considered the matter,” he wrote – councillors unanimously took a neutral position based on legal advice.

However, Cr Toms wrote in her NOM: “Councillors were not aware that remaining neutral at that time would cause the Minister to believe there was no evidence of support for the rezoning application.”

At the CVC meeting, Mr Schroder said he would have to take a question on notice when asked if the fill had in fact been remediated.

“I cannot advise that was finalised,” he said, “and there was no need to in the end”, because the proposal was rejected – that point was subsequently removed from the final decision.

Debate focussed on the accuracy of Cr Toms’ claim that the Minister had included councillors’ “lack of … support” as one of the reasons for rejecting the proposal.

Councillors wanted proof that “Monique Gibson (Executive Director, Local and Regional Planning) [had verbally] advised the applicant’s nominated [planning] officer”, who subsequently verbally advised Cr Toms that the Minister has made a decision partly based on no support from councillors.

Councillors adopted the motion, pending receiving written evidence of the “advice provided to Cr Toms”.

Cr Greg Clancy said he was “very disappointed that this issue has been exhumed”.

Cr Peter Ellem said the NOM was a “back doorway of getting into the ear of the minister”.

Cr Richie Williams said the proposal was not being “exhumed or anything like that” and that there are “five pretty strong points [for non-approval] that will remain no matter what”.

For: Toms, Lysaught, Baker, Williamson and Simmons; against Novak, Ellem, Kingsley and Clancy.