Ballina Shire Council has given the green light to one of the largest rezonings of land for residential use on the north coast, which will eventually house up to 10,000 people.
Two large tracts of consolidated farmland properties known as Cumbalum A and B precincts, west of Lennox Head, will over the next 20 years be turned into new townships with around 3,000 homes.
Councillors last week voted 7–2 (Crs Jeff Johnson and Sue Meehan against) for the rezoning and joint project which will now be handled by the state planning department.
Mayor Phil Silver praised the decision, saying it would guide residential development in the shire for the next 20 years, but Greens Cr Jeff Johnson disagreed, saying such an important issue should not have been pushed through at the final meeting of the current council’s term.
‘You can’t just plonk 10,000 people on the hill and not expect there to be any impact on the existing town,’ Cr Johnson told Echonetdaily.
‘The costs of upgrading Ross Lane will run into the millions – who is going to pay for that? Lennox Head will struggle to cope with such a large increase in the population.’
Crs Johnson and Meehan failed in their move to defer a decision on the precinct B proposal until information is provided on the upgrade of Ross Lane.
But councillors voted for staff to explore and report on the long-term upgrade and funding options for Ross Lane.
Cr Johnson said it was the most significant rezoning decision for over 30 years, yet the housing ‘won’t be needed for at least 15 to 20 years in the future’.
Cr David Wright said the state government had pushed council to progress the rezoning, and at least council managed to extract concessions from developers for funding vital infrastructure.
But Lennox Head chamber of commerce president Louise Owen said the infrastructure of Lennox Head needs upgrading now to cope with the increasing number of visitors to the area.
Ms Owen said parking at Lennox Head was already at maximum capacity.
Councillors also voted to ask the environment department to renew its maintenance program for the drainage system within the Ballina Nature Reserve.