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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Big noise around Evans Head

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So there’s a problem with aircraft noise at Tyagarah, but what does the future hold for Evans Head and its aerodrome?

Already representations have been made to one of the largest skydiving operators to set up a base at Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome, and over 120 aviators have lodged expressions of interest to buy a hangar/home site or set up an aviation business on the aerodrome. The noise fight there has barely started!

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority refused to endorse a Fly Neighbourly Agreement for Evans Head because the council-approved residential areas were already too close to the airfield, so I’ll be surprised if the complainants get any relief at Tyagarah. Provided an aircraft is operating within its approved decibel level, the authorities probably won’t intervene. According to the federal government, local government knows best about how it should develop its airfields!

The Richmond Valley Council has sold an option on Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome to a developer, lock stock and barrel, all 460 acres of it, without any community consultation, without advertising it for sale, and without any tender process. Yet the revised Aerodrome Plan of Management, which didn’t go to the public for consultation, had less than a quarter of that land allocated to an air park. There doesn’t even appear to be a formal public resolution of council to sell the aerodrome at any price.

Not only has the council sold the whole aerodrome for $2.5million (which was half a million dollars below valuation, and literally the price of 10 suburban blocks of land) on a five per cent down, two-year option basis, it has been literally throwing money at the aerodrome ever since.

Some $250,000 was taken from the council’s real estate and infrastructure fund, under delegation of the general manager, and used for the restoration of the Bellman hangar. Then Council spent a further $50,000 on the carpark, disabled access and toilets – all after the sale price had been agreed.

Local MP Kevin Hogan has also obliged very well with his election promise to donate $185,000 of federal funds to the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Association and the Bellman hangar, which the Council has leased to Evans Head Air Park for $1 per year on a three-year licence. The developer told me that $50,000 would go towards EHMAHAA and $130,000 to the heritage fund, so the developer can be reimbursed his $130,000. The developer also told me that the Bellman hangar restoration had a budget of $500,000 and it ran over budget by $130,000.

There wasn’t even a DA submitted or consented to for the Bellman hangar rebuild, despite it being razed to ground zero! Not only that, the DA to convert the Bellman hangar to a museum had the general manager endorse the application ‘DA fees to be waived’.

But the saga of Richmond Valley Council’s finances, or lack thereof, doesn’t stop there. Twenty per cent of the rates money from the RSL Nursing Home lot is to be paid into the heritage fund in perpetuity after the sale completes, along with 10 per cent of all land sales of that lot. The Heritage Agreement states the money is to be paid while the council is the owner, but the contract of sale makes no reference to council’s ownership. The Evans Head Air Park lot does not have to pay anything into the heritage fund under the sale contract, as it is to be Community Title, but what is there to stop the Community Title being converted to Freehold after the sale completes? The outcome of this may be precious little money to maintain the heritage features of the site.

I understand the aerodrome sale contract also has ‘conditions precedent’, where the council is required to rezone the aerodrome before settlement. When I was a [Ballina] councillor I was told that we couldn’t do that with the sale of Angels Beach land. Have planning laws changed to such an extent that Richmond Valley Council can now do it?

Bring on amalgamation, and let’s stop the sales of public land for private development at ratepayer expense.

Margaret Howes, Empire Vale

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