On January 20, the Independent ran an unedited Clarence Valley Council (CVC) media release – titled Accommodation to support hospitality industry – on the paper’s front page – the Independent has since sought clarification regarding how the temporary accommodation would be managed.
The council made an operational decision to extend the life of temporary accommodation, from four to six years.
The 120-bedroom complex, which was constructed in the Yamba Business Park to accommodate highway workers, was due to be removed by December 16, 2020.
The extension was granted, CVC says, to “to lure more workers to fill vacancies in the hospitality industry”.
“The opportunity to support the local hospitality industry has presented itself via a Ministerial Order in response to COVID to amend the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act,” CVC general manager Ashley Lindsay said.
The Clarence Valley’s Local Environment Plan 2011 (LEP) was amended in 2016, following the proposal’s public exhibition and subsequent planning gateway approval.
The accommodation complex is normally prohibited development IN4 General Industrial zones
Responding to the Independent’s enquiry (first lodged on December 17, resent on January 7, answers received on January 28), an unnamed CVC spokesperson wrote in an email how the decision was facilitated: “On 25 March 2020, the NSW Government introduced the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020, which made changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to support businesses and landowners who are dealing with business disruptions during the COVID 19 pandemic.”
The CVC spokesperson provided extracts from the relevant modified planning act and emergency measures bill, under which CVC made its decision: “Lapsing periods for development consents and deferred commencement consents have been extended to ensure approved projects can start once economic conditions have improved.
“Consents granted before 25 March 2020 will be extended by 2 years….”
The Independent wrote in its December 17 enquiry: “Could you please provide answers to the following questions.
Independent: Who initiated the proposal?
CVC: Council works closely with all industry sectors and the Chambers of Commerce; both highlighted the issue of a severe shortage of hospitality workers and accommodation in Yamba. A quick audit of hospitality venues undertaken prior to the Christmas holidays revealed 11 chefs and 26 front of house staff were required. The Chamber of Commerce and Council agreed to access the workforce accommodation consent.
I: Is the accommodation only available for hospitability workers?
CVC: No. As per the definition of temporary workforce accommodation, the accommodation is available to all persons employed to carry out work of a nature and scale that requires the employment of additional persons on a permanent, temporary or seasonal basis.
I: If so, who will police that?
CVC: As per the conditions of consent, no changes have been made to the management of the site.
I: Is there any fall-back if the dongas are underutilised?
CVC: This is a commercial decision of the owners.
I: What’s happening with the Grafton highway workers accommodation [that was approved for the same developer in 2017]?
CVC: It is suggested that this enquiry be directed to the land owner as this DA is still current.