Ballina Greens councillor Jeff Johnson has launched a swingeing attack on the state government for stripping Ballina Shire Council of its planning powers over a proposed coastal development at Stewarts Farm near Sharpes Beach (between Skennars Head and East Ballina).
The proposed development will now be decided by the Joint Regional Planning Panel.
Ballina Council voted to place the proposal on exhibition in October but with the proviso the owners donate a portion of land on the beach side of the Coast Road to council for public access, but agreement was not reached and negotiations were continuing.
The council had previously been told it had until February 2013 to resolve the issue, Cr Johnson said.
‘What we’re seeing is the state government breaking yet another election promise by taking planning powers away from local government,’ he told Echonetdaily this morning.
‘They made it quite clear during the election campaign that they would not be taking actions such as this. This is quite disappointing, particularly since the state government had given the council until February next year to resolve the outstanding matters.
‘This is a very important matter to the community. We’re talking about rezoning coastal land and the council is the right place to have the matters debated.
Part of the important coastal portion of land has been effectively loaned to council for car parking for a number of years but the rest effectively remains open space.
Ballina mayor David Wright told media today that in retrospect he thought councillors were asking too much.
‘The councillors were actually going against our council officers’ recommendation in doing so,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
‘A number of councillors really wanted to give people of Ballina Shire access to that land, and they thought what they were doing was right but the minister thinks we’re asking too much. Sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.’
Despite the change, Ballina’s strategic services manager Steve Barnier believes the state government is unlikely to approve a beachside development on the eastern portion of the property.