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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Call to halt Kings Forest planning approval

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Former Tweed Greens councillor Henry James has called on the state planning department to defer a decision on the massive Kings Forest housing project until courts have ruled on the developer’s alleged unauthorised clearing and draining of parts of the Cudgen Nature Reserve adjacent to the site.

The first stage of the 4,500-home development is currently on public exhibition with submissions closing on January 25.

On Wednesday scores of people concerned about the impacts of the development, including campaigners trying to protect a nearby koala colony, attended a meeting at Cabarita Beach where they were urged to object to the project by the Leda Group.

Authorities recently implicated Leda, owned by billionaire developer Bob Ell, in the massive illegal vegetation clearing in the nature reserve along Blacks Creek.

But the property group claimed workmen bulldozed trees and other vegetation along a 300-metre stretch inside the protected area by accident.

Mr James, who was threatened with defamation by Mr Ell some years ago after he raised questions about illegal clearing at Kings Forest, called for a freeze on further approvals until the case over Blacks Creek was settled.

Mr James, who said the illegal work along the creek inside the reserve would improve drainage in the southeast corner of Kings Forest and facilitate development in low-lying areas of the 1,100-acre site, has written a submission describing the project application ‘not fit for approval’.

Mr James said the assessment of impacts regarding the proposed maintenance of Blacks Creek ‘is seriously flawed and should not be accepted’.

It was ‘extraordinary’ that the developer’s environmental assessment report had ‘admitted that “the main east-west drain will need to be maintained to provide adequate drainage for the site, which is important in the event of flooding”’.

He said it was ‘all the more extraordinary given the recent unapproved excavation undertaken by the applicants of the section of Blacks Creek within Cudgen Nature Reserve’.

‘It is reasonable to ask whether they excavated it to specifications they have assumed for their flood modelling but for obvious reasons have not published in this environmental assessment report.’

Environment minister Robyn Parker revealed the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) only learnt about the environmental destruction after Leda dobbed itself in late last year.

After repeated attempts in the past few months by Echonetdaily to learn how the investigation into the clearing was progressing, an NPWS spokesman maintained the oft-repeated line that it was ‘ongoing’ and would not comment further till it had ‘concluded’.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann recently launched a scathing attack in parliament over the illegal clearing, saying if guilty, the property mogul should be hit with the most severe penalty available. Ms Faehrmann said Mr Ell and his company had a history of illegal clearing and used intimidation and bullying tactics against people to get their

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