Tweed shire councillor Gary Bagnall says the new progressive majority on council is taking steps to move the shire into a sustainable future after years of what he says was developer control.
Cr Bagnall, a Murwillumbah cafe owner elected as a first-time councillor in September, said several moves by the pro-development bloc at last week’s council meeting, the third since a new council was elected, were thwarted by the four progressives on council.
He said a push by developers to start a rezoning process of large tracts of land behind Pottsville was stalled by the progressives, who also knocked back a move by the conservative pro-development councillors to open up state-protected prime agricultural land at Cudgen.
The four progressive councillors, he said, also pushed for a sustainable entry-statement feature at the Seabreeze estate near Pottsville as the feature’s pond dried out and Tweed ratepayers have had to foot the bill to the tune of around $34,000 for truckloads of water to replenish it in the past five years.
Staff had recommended council remove the water feature, built by developer Metricon 10 years ago on council land, and for an alternative design drawn up in consultation with residents there, a move supported by the pro-development bloc.
But Crs Milne and Bagnall successfully moved to leave the pond in its current form and not to refill it with town water, relying solely on rain to fill the pond.
Their motion also called for council to request Metricon’s financial support to redesign and rebuild the pond section to eliminate use of town water, and to consult with the community on any future redesign.
Cr Polglase said he feared it could send the wrong message to ‘every developer in the Tweed’.
He said council had signed off on the feature and it was ‘very unusual’ to seek funding from the developer to rectify an issue from 10 years ago.
‘The developer will just throw the (council) letter in the bin,’ he said.
But Cr Bagnall said the feature was not sustainable when built and Tweed people expected all developments to be so.
‘We want to send a very clear message to the developers that the people of the Tweed expect new developments to be sustainable in every possible aspect of the development including ponds and other features,’ he said.
The progressives are Cr Bagnall, mayor Barry Longland, the Greens’ Katie Milne and Labor’s Michael Armstrong, while the conservative, pro-development bloc is veteran Cr Warren Polglase, his National Party colleague Phil Youngblutt and Kingscliff solicitor Carolyn Byrne.
Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily ‘it was a great win for the people of the Tweed’ who ‘asked for a sustainable future’ and ‘after years of developer control, the clouds have started to part’.
Cr Byrne, backed by Crs Polglase and Youngblutt, failed in a move for council to write to state government ministers and the police union, among others, to endorse a site on the corner of Tweed Coast Road and Cudgen Road as the preferred site for the Tweed-Byron police command centre.
The Cudgen land has the highest protection for agricultural land in the state and many moves by the pro-development bloc on council over the years have tried to break down the zoning, which would open up the area for development.
Cr Armstrong argued that Tweed Heads was a better location for the police headquarters as it had a larger population and was closer to the Pacific Highway.
Cr Bagnall said he wouldn’t support a move to rezone land of state significance and that the land was set aside for future food security by the state government.
On the issue of further development of land at west Pottsville, Cr Bagnall said the developers had been told that council could not install waste water and sewerage infrastructure required in the timeframe they wanted, as the nearby Hastings Point treatment plant was at capacity, and they had to find an alternative.
He said the developers then engaged a company to come up with a means of managing the waste, but the plan was ‘not sustainable as the developer had claimed; it is too energy reliant’.
‘The system uses pumps to pump the water out then back and through the treatment processes. With added chemicals, the water is then sold back to the people to dispose of,’ Cr Bagnall said.
‘There are more sustainable ways for using waste water and effluent, and if the development were deferred for several years, more and more sustainable technologies would meet the market,’ he said.
Council staff had recommended endorsing the developer’s plan but a move by Crs Bagnall and Milne to defer it so it could be discussed in detail at a workshop got up 4–3.
‘Protecting food-security land, postponing more urban sprawl with energy-dependent technologies and the pond, which was a statement to developers that council has changed and we are not going to put up with unsustainable development,’ Cr Bagnall said.