The activities of Byron Shire councillor Alan Hunter are becoming increasingly unpopular with his neighbours after he recently submitted another development application for his property on Pinegroves Road, Myocum.
The former Nationals candidate for Richmond wants to transform a farm building into a road transport terminal after previous unsuccessful attempts with Council.
Additionally he wants approval for the construction of an amended storage shed, which would contain 20 shipping containers with a common roof structure measuring a total of 48m in length and 6m in width. He intends to use his property as a drop-off point for bulk deliveries of grain and chick peas and then re-disperse the produce in smaller quantities for local commercial kitchens.
But residents living in properties along the road are concerned that the extra traffic will impact on the road, and say heavy vehicles travelling up an inappropriately small and steep road will be a safety issue.
Neighbour Graham Mathews says the Hunters ‘have something of a squatters’ rights attitude to this impasse’.
‘Mr Hunter expressed to me in an earlier heated exchange, “It’s my farm and I’ll do what I want with it”. He has been uncommunicative with the neighbours about his plans and when he has been confronted about work he has carried out without approval, he has been evasive.’
Prior to becoming a councillor, Cr Hunter was prosecuted by Council and fined $2,000 for illegal construction. At the time, Council’s head of compliance Ralph James told The Echo the allegations included illegal earthworks in excess of those permitted by his approval for a farm shed, and placing 18 shipping containers on the site, joined together to form a storage facility.
Mr Mathews feels that the Hunters are costing the Shire money and fail to play by the rules. ‘The Hunters persisted in their previous applications right into the Land and Environment Court, at enormous expense to the ratepayers of this Shire (as the matter was settled by consent, each party paid their own costs)’.
He says that 14 months ago, the Hunters accepted the restricted development that the council had imposed on them and agreed to rehabilitation of the property to reverse the unauthorised works. ‘But to this day, they have failed to comply. The residents are rightly concerned at these people being granted an open ticket to run a haulage terminal and to store/distribute electrical and household goods.’
But Cr Hunter sees things very differently. He says that rejection of previous DAs is not to do with the what he was asking for, rather the fact there were changes.
‘Council didn’t accept the variation for the section 96. The only reason I got rejected was because of the variations. There has been no environmental damage. I passed all the safety mechanisms for NSW laws and local laws for safety, so I don’t see how they can claim it’s unsafe. We’ve been doing it in a small way for ten years so technically we are just legalising it.’ Cr Hunter says that the neighbours have every right to object and he has in the past tried to speak to them but they have not been amenable to that. ‘I gave up trying to talk to them and said let Council take care of it, and I have left it at that. This is a farm of 120 acres. They moved next to a farm. They knew before they moved in.’