Concerns have been raised over the potential impacts that a proposed dirt motorcycle track on Murwillumbah’s former landfill site would have on several rare bird species living in an adjacent wetland.
If built, the track would cater for hundreds of motorbike riders from the Gold Coast who have proposed joining with a Tweed club after sites in southeast Queensland became unusable due to urban growth.
Tweed Shire Council early last year decided to support the leasing of the old landfill site, in Lundberg Drive on the outskirts of Murwillumbah, which was capped in 2010 after it was decommissioned.
The plan, pushed by pro-development councillors, involved leasing the site for use as a dirt motorbike track at $250 a year. It came after years of lobbying by motorbike club members who have wanted their own purpose-built track in the Tweed.
Council is currently undertaking a preliminary environmental impact assessment with a focus on the environmental habitat zone between the landfill site and Council nursery in a nearby industrial area.
But Council’s natural resources director David Oxenham told Council at its last meeting that a development application (DA) for the motorbike facility would need to include a much more comprehensive study than the current Council one, which has been estimated to cost almost $6,000.
Local birdwatchers who wanted to conduct their own survey of the habitat zone next to the landfill site have not been permitted to do so by Council.
BirdTweed, former the Tweed Bird Observers group, say there are almost 50 bird species known to be using the large tract of bushland, including the rare and vulnerable Pale-vented Bush-hen and Lewin’s Rail, which they have often heard from the nearby public road.
Other species include figbirds, whistlers, doves, egrets, ibis, honeyeaters, cuckoos and cockatoos.
The bird group says the wet, overgrown area, which is zoned E2 under the new draft Local Environment Plan (LEP), is perfect habitat for these species and should be retained undisturbed in any redevelopment of the area.
A workshop with motorbike club members over the plan late last year was told that environmental values, noise, ecological impacts and agricultural buffers would have to be dealt with as part of the DA process.
Cr Gary Bagnall, who with Greens Cr Katie Milne is taking up the fight to protect the bird habitat, told councillors the bushland site was ecologically important habitat for endangered species, including grey-headed bats who roost there.
‘By the sounds of it, the small protected area is a haven for wildlife, which have a right to live without this type of noise pollution,’ Cr Bagnall recently wrote to councillors.
‘Some of them are obviously nocturnal and have a right to peace and quite during sleeping hours.
‘In this era of disappearing species and habitat, we have a big responsibility of doing what we can in our little corner of the world and I agree with Cr Milne that these creatures should be protected by us councillors.
‘We are their only hope. I don’t even think an evaluation of the site is needed, although it would be interesting,’ he said.
Former general manager David Keenan said a motocross facility would boost the local economy through accommodation and supporting small businesses to service and support the sport, and could also reduce illegal motorbike uses in other areas, as well as provide safety training for riders.
Acting general manager Troy Green agrees with the need for such a facility.
Cr Bagnall, who pushed for the current preliminary assessment of the site, told the birdwatcher group that in his experience ‘developers get (environmental) consultants that tell them what they want’ for their DAs.
He suggested that the background to the proposal was that a track used by a Gold Coast motorbike club with hundreds of members was recently closed owing to urban creep and the club had thus been ‘looking over the border for a new facility’.
He said the track would be used by ‘around 20 bikes racing at one time’ and would operate on some weekday afternoons and all weekend, and ‘will definitely be very noisy’.
Cr Bagnall said he was concerned the noise and dust from a motorbike track, as well as extra cars and people in the area, would affect the wildlife.
In the report on the proposal last year, Council staff said the landfill site had not been used for any purpose since closure and Council had ongoing commitments such as groundwater/surface water monitoring and weed control at the site, costing around $15,000 a year.
Staff said a motorcycle track would provide ‘an opportunity to generate income over this currently unused site’, but Cr Bagnall questioned this, saying ratepayers would not get value for money by charging such a ‘peppercorn rent’ of $250 a year.
However, staff said that under the proposed lease, the rent would rise to $1,200 a year for its five-year period, after which it could be renegotiated.