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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Community divided over Cumbalum plan

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Land behind Lennox Head that is up for rezoning has caused division among Ballina’s councillors and opposition from Lennox’s Chamber of Commerce president.

The plan will be the subject of a public information session at Lennox Head Community Centre on Saturday morning.

The proposed Cumbalum Precinct A and Precinct B is between Ross Lane and the Pacific Highway and, if approved, would be a bigger area than Lennox Head.

Election hopeful Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce’s Louise Owen is against the project, which she sees as a bid to turn Lennox Head into another Gold Coast. ‘It is the biggest rezoning that has ever occurred in the Ballina Shire,’ she said in a press release. ‘It will explode our population by more than double in a very short space of time.’

She goes on to say that this rezoning does not include all the current land already available for residential buildings, which in itself will bring another 4000 to the immediate area of Lennox Head. ‘The two new townships will have their own shopping centres so this will not advance our business community; in fact it will create much more crowding of Lennox, which in turn sends people away, not to our businesses’.

But Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader says that apart from casting an unfair and untruthful light on council and its staff, Louise Owen is using the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce as a political platform to create a scare campaign for the Cumbalum development.

Cr Cadwallader says that much of the land in the development site is unsuitable for building and what people need to remember is that this development will happen over a 25- to 30-year span, not overnight.

‘There is no indication of staging or sequencing of future development at this time,’ she says. ‘Council is dealing with rezonings, not development applications, so the current focus is on determining land suitability for the intended purposes. The detail of what things would look like, road networks, when things would be developed etc are all things for the future, and would also go through a similar process of public engagement at that time. I am not pro-development as such, but people do need a place to live and we need to provide housing’.

Councillor Jeff Johnson, on the other hand, is against the development and says that he has raised this issue with people in Lennox and they have no idea of the scale of the project.

‘When I explain what is being proposed, people are very concerned,’ he says. ‘The idea of building a whole new town on rural and agricultural land is of great concern. The last thing we need is more urban sprawl on farming land. I’m not against development per se, but it needs to be sustainable development, community-style projects in appropriate locations. What I’ve seen so far falls well short of this. This is a cash grab for the developers.’

Cr Johnson says that one of his concerns is about the funding for infrastructure. ‘Developments of this nature have flow-on effects in terms of road infrastructure and services. It has already been suggested that Ross Lane will require a realignment, which will cost millions. Most of these flow-on costs generally fall on council to fund. We need to ensure that we manage growth in a way that’s complementary for the local community, not development that leads to cost blowouts for Council and a reduction in the quality of life for existing residents.’

The community will have a chance to find out more about the rezoning in an information meeting set in motion by Cr Johnson. ‘I’m pleased that the councillors supported my motion calling for a public meeting. The community needs to be involved in the process so that we get a better outcome. To date that hasn’t occurred. New residential subdivisions need to be of the highest standard, not simply more badly designed kit-homes. We need to raise the bar in terms of energy-efficient design, community infrastructure, and sustainable development that sets a new standard’.

Cr Cadwallader says that contrary to information that is being sent around, the meeting is for information only, not to inform council policy.

‘Staff will not be recording comments or questions – the role of the staff is to explain the process of land rezoning generally, and the history and planning context relating to the current proposals. The real concern is that this gathering will be turned into something that was not intended. While staff cannot – and would not – try to prevent people from expressing their views, and presumably trying to influence others, the fact is that interested people need to be making their written submissions during the extended exhibition period, so that staff can report these to the elected Council.’

Council staff will be conducting the information session concerning the rezonings at the Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre commencing at 10am on Saturday.

Image: Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader says that much of the land in the development site is unsuitable for building and the development will happen over a 25- to 30-year span, not overnight.


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