I had been told beforehand that the Joint Regional Planning Panel was a farce, and a rubber-stamp job for councils. Witnessing the four panel members in action at Evans Head, backed up by seven Council planning staff, certainly confirmed this.
Twelve people made deputations to the panel against the development, but their submissions fell on deaf ears. Only one spoke for the development, telling the panel that the objectors didn’t count as they were not locals.
I heard that there is no community transport in Evans Head, few buses and no medical facilities other than the local GP. I heard another tell how even the ambulance is a non-event and, if you can find one, it’s a 45km drive to Lismore Hospital, and you’re lucky if you’re still alive when you get there.
The aviation community may as well have saved its breath in an attempt to save the aerodrome from inappropriate and conflicting development. The various aviation representative bodies came great distances to make a deputation against building a nursing home on an aerodrome – delegates from the Warbirds Association of Australia drove in from Toowoomba, the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association flew in from Sydney, and Recreational Aviation Australia flew in from Canberra. Concerns by the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee and the NSW Heritage Office were wafted aside.
The Deed of Transfer from the federal government to the Richmond Valley Council dating back to 1992 was ignored. This was when Australia’s local aerodromes were handed over to the councils under the Airport Local Ownership Plan and money was provided for their upkeep so they could be retained as aerodromes.
A real estate agent was sitting there waiting to pick up the listings once the 24 residential blocks had been approved. He told me business was quiet, but people were now starting to drop their expectations of price so the sales were dribbling through.
The JRPP chair wanted to remove all reference to noise from the restrictive covenant, but was persuaded to retain it by his panel members.
I made a deputation based on the great fire of October 2007 and how six fixed-wing water-bombers and four helicopters, backed up by support crews, spent eight days saving Evans Head township from being razed by fire. At that time the airport was like a war zone with the commissioner spending $20,000 an hour for eight days under a Section 44 directive to save the houses and keep the Pacific Highway open. Like the rest, I could have saved my breath.
Proposed Council consent conditions were in each of the panel members’ hands. It took the panel about 10 minutes to deliberate after hearing the deputations and hand down their decision. The JRPP made an absolute mockery of planning rules for conflicting development, and the sooner the JRPP is disbanded, the better. Yes, the nursing home was approved right beside and at the end of the active airport runway!
Margaret Howes, Empire Vale