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A plan of the vegetation zones included in the subdivision, which will obscure the houses, as viewed from Iluka Road. Image: contributed

Subdivision ‘left in Limbo’ until radiation levels resolved

Geoff Helisma|

A proposal to develop a 141-lot subdivision at Iluka has been “supported in principal as presented”, Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) chair Garry West told a packed Iluka Community Hall on Thursday September 19.

When the mayor, Jim Simmons, who was the second speaker from the five-person panel, completed his appraisal it was clear to about 20 attendees that the subdivision would be approved; one opponent uttered “this was a waste of time” as she rose from her chair and headed for the door.

Panellist Stephen Gow acknowledged the expertise of some of the opponents to the development and revealed that background radiation, as a result of sand mining in the 1970s, might be a sticking point.

He said the radiation levels, overall, fell within guidelines; however, Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) staff said there was “enough uncertainty” to warrant a review by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

“It’s my view that that needs to be done prior to consent,” he said.

He said he was “indicating conditional consent” once the “contamination” issue is “resolved to CVC’s satisfaction”.

Following the views expressed by each of the panel members (all agreed to approve the DA) – including CVC’s deputy mayor, Jason Kingsley, and the JRPP’s Pamela Westing – Mr West gave a summation.

He said the background radiation levels across the site varied – some were over, others below.

However, while the entire site’s background radiation was rated below the minimum levels, Mr West said the wording of CVC’s assessment “put us in a position where we would be at risk [of being taken to court] if we made a [final] decision today”.

“SEPP 55 [State Environmental Planning Policy No 55—Remediation of Land] says it is a mandatory consideration,” he said.

While the DA might be temporarily “left in limbo”, Mr West said that once CVC obtained certified clearance from the EPA, the development application (DA) would be approved “electronically” – meaning there would be no need for further public consultation or amendment.

“You have a clear indication that we support the development in principal,” he said.

He said that there were also several conditions of consent that would be “tightened up” before the electronic approval is completed.

The 19.41 hectare site, including a 5.29 hectare park, is heavily wooded by regrowth subsequent to the sandmining.

People spoke against the development on environmental and ecological grounds, including: proximity to the Iluka Rainforest Reserve, threats to koala habitat, threats to various endangered flora and fauna, lack of trust in CVC to do the ‘right’ thing in certain circumstances, a perceived conflict that would affect tourism due to a lessening of the ‘Iluka Naturally’ image, criticism of “inadequate” surveys included in the DA, stormwater pollution entering the river, a “too big” development, the apparent disregard by CVC staff of a letter from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), the negative effect it might have on the local flying-fox population, the non-implementation of habitat off-setts, inadequate social impact assessment, inappropriate wildlife corridors, allowing dogs on the subdivision (cats are banned) and ineffective design regarding Colorbond fencing in relation to fauna traversing the subdivision and being exposed to possible dog attack – the east-west corridor follows the street, while the fences are located at the back of properties.

People speaking in favour said the extra population would enhance the village’s economy.

The land is owned by the Birrigan Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council; directors Amanda Carney-Laurie and Natalie Carney-Laurie said the development would provide “job opportunities” for the local Indigenous population.

“It will help us be sustainable and to protect our lands for now and in the future,” they said.

“We want self determination on this; we ask for peace, respect and to be treated fairly.

“We have been patient for many years [the DA was submitted in late 2015] … and want to walk together towards reconciliation.”

Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Billy Walker, reiterated the recent Federal Court’s native title rights determinations.

“I have no [qualifications], what I say comes from my heart,” he said.

He said the development would not be a “Redfern or Moree” and posed: “How many Aboriginal people will be able to afford to buy here?”

“Yeagl people have aspirations, economic and social,” he said.

“It’s taken 20 years to be able to talk here today.

“I hope the panel takes on board where we are coming from and what we want to happen.”

The council’s development planner, Carmen Landers, addressed the issues raised in the OEH letter, most of which were raised by objectors.

She pointed out that the OEH’s letter was advisory in nature and said, “We believe we’ve addressed all of the issues.”

Mr West noted that the Companion Animals Act precluded the banning of dogs and that it was “important” that the development would be staged (over a 10-year period), which “will allow for [ecological and environmental] adjustments to occur … I know others disagree.”

Mr Walker told the Independent: “Yaegl traditional owners did have a native title claim over the parcel of land, however, in good faith, that claim was lifted to help the Birrigan Gargle Aboriginal Land Council to upgrade their community, Ngaru Village [in Yamba].”