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Byron Shire
May 18, 2024

M’bah fast-food site ‘contaminated’

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A Tweed councillor claims the proposed 24-hour McDonald’s fast-food outlet and IGA supermarket development in Murwillumbah should never have been approved before completion of a contamination report, which found petroleum-based chemicals, asbestos and other toxic materials on the site.

Cr Gary Bagnall, a Murwillumbah cafe owner who decided to run for council this year after losing a campaign to stop the McDonald’s outlet, said a report on the site on Tweed Valley Way, where an old Norco butter-factory and rural supplies outlet once stood, showed it’s heavily contaminated with volatile chemicals and asbestos fibres ‘among other things’.

But mayor Barry Longland says approval was conditional on a contamination report provided for the site and if there had been any issues with such contamination, a construction certificate would not be issued till they had been resolved.

Tweed Shire Council approved the development in February this year, and two months ago council’s environmental health unit ticked off a remediation action plan (RAP) prepared by a consultant for McDonald’s.

A McDonald’s spokesperson told Echonetdaily that as a result, construction for the $3 million development was now due to start later this year or early next.

Cr Bagnall said a contamination report on the 6,500 square-metre site had suggested above-normal levels of contaminants including heavy metals, organochlorine pesticides, benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylenes (BTEX), petroleum hydrocarbons and asbestos.

The old Norco store for years supplied farming products such as fertilisers, agricultural chemicals, stock feed, fuel and machinery products. Petroleum fuel, including petrol and diesel, was also stored at the site in underground storage tanks.

‘Although the report recommends in the end that “capping” will prove the best option for most of the site, there is one section, the eastern fuel storage area that will require other action,’ Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily.

‘The management of the site to reduce risks to workers and the wider community will be an issue in terms of dust generated, which has the potential to contain harmful asbestos fibres and will have to be closely monitored.

‘This presents a public health risk and leads the community again to question council as to why this report was not completed as it should have been prior to the approval of the development application (DA).

‘Therefore it would have been part of the business papers and open to public comment.

‘The issue for the community is that this DA should not have been granted without this contamination report completed prior to approval, according to the legal advice received by the Caldera Environment Centre.

‘Thus there is evidence in this case that council have failed to meet the legal requirements in the process of approving this development. Legally, it appears council have made an error.

‘According to this (contamination) report, the duty to report contamination is “being dealt with under local planning regulatory framework” but according to the barrister, council have been negligent with this responsibility.’

Cr Bagnall says that as a result, ‘it seems pertinent that these matters need to be reconsidered’.

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  1. Excellent work Gary and the C.E.C.
    I don’t believe this is an appropriate site for McDonald’s anyway.
    What an ugly entry into Murwillumbah are the Golden Arches. They say nothing about our town, or the people who live here, many being opposed to this type of industry.
    Surely council in all its lack of wisdom could have thought of a better development than McDonald’s to welcome locals and visitors alike to M’bah. Maybe a neon light flashing an image of the last koala would be more appropriate!
    If we must have this stuff let it be in a similar location to those other multinationals, easy to get to but unobtrusive.

  2. Of course Bagnall will claim all sorts of negativity about Macdonald’s. This development is in (as percieved by Gary) direct competition with his business. Does he not realise that he is unable to vote or make any comment about this issue because he has a financial gain to make if Macdonalds goes away?

    He needs to be completely unbiased as an elected representative of the rate payers of the Tweed.

    As the soil is contaminated is this not fantastic news that the site will be cleaned up? Surely this is a major win for the environment? Council should, including Gary Bagnall pursue the developers of this project to ensure that every last ounce of contamination is either contained or removed for future generations and our environment.

  3. You know what would have been the best outcome for the old Norco site.
    Preserving the hundred year old building in the first bloody place.
    That tremendous red brick structure could have been renovated similar to the old Buderim Ginger Factory and would have a been a grand asset in the town.
    Similar to the old Murwillumbah Ambo Station, these buildings were structurally sound and only needed a bit of imaginative design to create something very original.
    If the ambos needed more space whats to stop the O’Farrell Govt moving them to a more appropriate site, such as the defunct Greyhound Facility.
    Whilst ever dumb Councillors allow this towns older style buildings to continue dissapearing, the closer the town is to going down the gurgler.
    Wake up community, its not Queensland in the 1970s.
    Yet glancing at the National Party cohorts on Council you could be mistaken.

    • Hello Paul
      You will find that the old Norco building was pulled down illegally. You are right, it is criminal that these old buildings are destroyed. Many in Murwillumbah have preservation orders or heritage listings on them. They are still pulling down beautiful buildings in QLD such as Cloudlands and Festival Hall -The Beatles and the Stones played there! Sadly gone.

      By the way what is the problem with having a multinational food outlet? Murwillumbah already has Subway, KFC, and what may be a Starbucks. They may be big companies but they pay their taxes and give young people jobs. Having been close to someone with cancer that needed the services of Ronald Macdonald House, it is the most wonderful facility for Children with cancer and their parents. I just pray that all of the people above dont need the philanthropic services provided for Cancer sufferers by these companies. I am sure you will turn down their offers of help.
      I wonder if Gary has had the soil tested underneath his new home and his development project. You will find that it was once an old tip site!

  4. I’m with Mick above (all McD’s being contaminated!!)

    Hatrackandcoat your claim that Gary Bagnall stands to gain from an absence of McD’s, is widely considered to be inaccurate – the large numbers of people who eat at New Leaf every day would certainly not be eating at McDonalds. Any any likely comers to a McD’s would be very unlikely to eat the delicious food at New Leaf, they would choose one of the other ‘fast food’ outlets in town no doubt.

    So your claim is falacious. Gary has the interests of the community at heart from many standpoints, as demonstrated by the community groups he has been and is involved with, and also other business owners in town.

    He will be as unbiased as the other councillors in terms of the wide purview required for councillors to represent the Tweed community.

    Thank you Gary for your diligence in bringing this flawed process to the attention of residents.

    I also think there must be a much better solution (e.g. a creative arts centre is just one idea) to mark the entry to our town. The beautification of Budd Park for local and visitors will be negated if a McDs has already been passed. With tourism a focus for our area, we can do better.

  5. So Julie,Gary Bagnall and the CEC prefers industrial wasteland as the inviting entrance to Murwillumbah.

    Who will stump up with the money to build something worthwile AND clean up this site? Certainly not the CEC or Gary Bagnall.

    If you care to follow the DA process you will see that there are very severe restrictions regarding external signage on this project. Please refrain from making statements such as ‘many being opposed to this type of industry’ It is plainly not supported with fact and since when has it become Councils role to be a developer? They and the State Government set laws and regulations. If a proposed development meets these laws and regulations then it is most likely approved.Welcome to reality.

    What is not mentioned in this saga is that there are other tenants also on this site. The most important is a new supermarket big enough to take on the monopoly held by the mega national Coles.

    This will be a win/win for those on low incomes or social security. It is obvious that those above dont care for the social wellbeing of others, just their myopic view of reality.

    Now, if you dont like Mac Donalds there is a simple remedy for this – Dont Go There!

  6. Hatrackandcoat, A win/win for those on low income or social security – are you kidding?? The IGA is a convenience store, it can’t compete with Coles exept on convenience – not price! Maccas serve cheap food for sure, but we all know it’s not good for you. Sounds like lose: lose for those on low incomes that sucked in to me. Our town has begun to pride itself on fresh, local produce, a reputation that has potential for economic, environmental and social benefits. This will help people on low incomes. I don’t believe this would have been allowed under the new LEP 2012 (draft). Council staff said so in their report….

    • Adam.
      You will find that the new SuperIGA is slightly more than a ‘convenience store’. It will require around 30 staff members to operate effectively. Not really a Quickie Mart now is it?
      Why would someone want to spend a pile of money on a new supermarket and not be able to compete?
      Please note the IGA stands for Independent Grocers of Australia. They do stock and promote local produce. They are not hamstrung like the big two into centralised buying.

  7. People who don’t care what goes into their mouths will eat at MacDonald’s, whether or not the ground is contaminated and they’ll be breathing asbestos fibres.

  8. Julie McNamara have you opened your eyes on the way into town. There is a painted mural on the levy wall under the bridge that leads straight into town, it is of a DEVIL holding a pitchfork and reads “WELCOME TO MURWILLUMBAH” This is right on the banks of the beautiful Tweed River, one of our greatest assetts. Surely you would rather see a restaurant that provides local people with employment that this eyesore??? To all the other knockers if you don’t like McDonalds dont’t eat there. Buy from a locally owned cafe/restaurant or better still cook at home. Pretty simple really.

  9. Adam, you took the words out of my mouth (or should I say typing fingers) re IGA and McDonalds and low SE groups. And well said re fresh produce etc., I agree entirely.

    And yes the 2012 LEP, just starting to look at it, is that right……what a pity the approval wasn’t stalled in that case, but it may not be too late! Here’s hoping for a ‘miracle.’


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