A local employer that manufactures plastic water tanks may need to find a new home after Ballina Shire Council yesterday voted to discontinue support for rezoning land adjoining its existing site.
Duraplas sought the rezoning of an area of approximately 0.68 hectares land in Robb Street, Alstonville, to allow it to legally use rural land next to its existing operations for industrial purposes.
The land forms part of a buffer zone between the townships of Alstonville and Wollongbar.
Staff recommended that council confirm its support for the rezoning in part to legitimise operations already taking place there.
GeoLINK consultant Rob van Iersel spoke on behalf of the proponent during deputations and said that though the community was concerned about the urban buffer, there was nothing to worry about as things would remain the same.
‘There will be no physical change at all,’ he said. ‘No construction, no new buildings, no new roads, no change to the land at all. Rezoning will allow a a boundary readjustment, it only changes lines on the map nothing else. Nothing on the ground changes.’
Duraplas managing director John Fleming also spoke to Council saying that ‘common sense should prevail’.
‘Duraplas has provided up to 90 local jobs since 1984,’ he said. ‘These employment opportunities are essential for the community.’
Duraplas had indicated that its business would not be viable if it could not operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
‘The risk to the ongoing viability of the community would be serious and irresponsible,’ said Mr Fleming.
Cr Keith Johnson said that there had been a long history of conflicts and problems and that some of the concerns were that this type of rezoning would open the door for others.
‘The only thing you have to fear is fear itself,’ he said. ‘This is a straightforward application. It does not threaten anybody’s wellbeing or lifestyle.’
Both councillors Jeff Johnson and Sharon Cadwallader were opposed to supporting the proposal, Cr Johnson saying that a wrong decision would create more problems in the future and that there was sufficient unused industrial land available in Ballina and Alstonville.
Cr Cadwallader said that rather than being a straightforward application it was a complicated issue.
Cr Keith Williams was also opposed to the rezoning.
‘My concern is that we set the precedent that, if you keep coming back, Council will eventually say yes,’ he said.
‘We are getting into problems when we ignore decisions we have already made. What’s the point of having a local environment plan if you ignore it when it’s inconvenient. Once this is zoned industrial we have essentially lost control of what can happen. Once we allow something, we have opened the gate. I can’t support the recommendation as much as I would like to support Duraplas.’
Mayor David Wright said that Duraplas have done a fantastic job but he likened the issue to having a splinter in your finger.
‘This is like a splinter; it’s a bit annoying,’ he said. ‘Instead of us doing something tough in the past the splinter got infected. Now you can take the splinter out or chop the finger off and I think rezoning is like chopping the finger off.’
The planning proposal was denied when Council voted – it was resolved that Council discontinue support for the planning proposal for reasons outlined in the report.
Councillors David Wright, Jeff Johnson, Sharon Cadwallader, Keith Williams, Susan Meehan and Ken Johnston voted for the motion (and against the proposal). Councillors Keith Johnson, Paul Worth, Robyn Hordern and Ben Smith voted against.
After the meeting John Fleming told Echonetdaily he had hoped things would go differently.
‘I felt that a more commonsense approach would have resulted a better outcome,’ he said. ‘But I will continue my commitment towards a pleasant and permanent solution for all parties involved.’