The NSW planning department has approved a new suburb for Lismore with the rezoning of 255 hectares of land to develop around 1,500 home sites.
The North Lismore Plateau (NLP) development is expected to boost Lismore’s population by around 3,600 people when completed.
The push to rezone the land, owned by a consortium of 11 landowners, has involved a 33-year planning period, extended public consultation and continuing archaeological investigations.
Lismore City Council’s project manager for North Lismore Plateau, Steve Denize, said, ‘one of the most exciting features of the development will be a developer-funded cycle and walkway connecting the plateau via Richmond River High to the heart of the CBD’.
‘This cycle link is the first major step towards Lismore developing a cycling and walking network around the town basin and along the river,’ Mr Denize said.
‘This will be a unique recreational resource for the northern rivers and will be a major factor in the rebirthing of Lismore’s CBD.’
Mr Denize said the planning process had revealed how significant the plateau is to the Aboriginal community.
‘The developers and Council are continuing to work in partnership with the Aboriginal community to ensure that this heritage is protected and that the unique story of this place is told,’ he said.
Even though Council voted unanimously in August 2013 for this development to go through the state government’s gateway process, Cr Vanessa Ekins said at the time she was conflicted about her vote.
‘This is a complicated issue. There is a huge amount of work that has gone into this plan, by staff, landholders; there are some real wins there in terms of environmental protection and also the recognition of Aboriginal cultural heritage. There are a lot of good things to recommend this,’ Cr Ekins said.
‘There are also a lot of unknowns with this proposal; we don’t know who is paying for what and when. The Department of Environment says you need linkages between your vegetation areas yet there are major roads dissecting them.
‘It is a very sacred Aboriginal site and while I know it is in private land ownership, I feel very sad that after all this time that land has been taken from people who had connection to it; they have celebrated there and buried their dead there.
‘I also acknowledge that there are people in this room that have made a real attempt to try to protect and incorporate that into the development, which is a pretty good outcome, considering some of the outcomes we have had in the past.
‘I am also disappointed that we can’t make sure every house in that development has solar panels and rainwater tanks.
‘We are providing the same old water and sewerage systems like every other development; we are not doing anything new or progressive in terms of management and sustainability.
‘I am happy about the bicycle paths and the invigoration of the North Lismore area, so I am really torn.
‘There is still a lot of work to be done regarding providing the enormous infrastructure for water and sewer and road networks.
‘I am hoping that there is some affordable housing in there, even though affordable housing means earning up to $80,000 a year.’
Chair of the Plateau Group, fifth-generation Lismore man Tony Riordan, said it was a momentous day.
‘I feel total elation. It’s something we’ve been waiting on for so long and something I’ve been personally working on over 15 years,’ Mr Riordan said.
‘We have watched other towns grow around our city at the expense of Lismore. This will focus attention back into our business centre, especially the CBD as the development is so close.
‘It will completely reinvigorate North Lismore and provide affordable housing close to where people work.
‘Many people live in other shires and travel to Lismore for work. To have this amount of available land stock turns the tables so that people can live in Lismore and work in Lismore,’ Mr Riordan said.
Council executive director of sustainable development, Brent McAlister, said Council-run workshops involving all parties reduced the rezoning time by two to three years and were instrumental in resolving critical issues.
‘The NLP size and location are unique and critical to the future success of the city,’ Mr McAlister said.
‘Being on the west side of the city means it will greatly benefit the CBD.
‘Also its size means a range of housing will be developed, including one-to-two-bedroom units. There is a real shortage of smaller house units in the city particularly with the ageing population.’
Deputy mayor Neil Marks has said previously that Council ‘should be proud of the work that has been done working with the Indigenous community’.
‘This council has set standards that this council has never met before,’ Cr Marks said.
‘This should be the base level that we set for everything we do. We can always improve and always listen.
‘This is a project that this council can hang its hat on. If I remember rightly, this is the first time the state government has let a gateway project come up, let alone get this far down the track.
‘Something we can be very proud of, considering the reputation of this council not that many years ago was “don’t bother going there, they stop everything”.
‘We haven’t stopped this. We have worked hard as Council staff, community and councillors to make sure that we get this right.
Winten development manager Jim Punch said Council’s proactive approach and support had been absolutely crucial in the rezoning process.
Council has already adopted a Development Control Plan (DCP) and section 94 contributions plan for NLP, enabling landowners to submit development applications immediately.
‘Council has been terrific. We do developments all over the state and Lismore is up there with the most forward-thinking councils we’ve ever worked with,’ Mr Punch said.
‘We’re not going to sit on our hands. We’re committed to producing a really good-quality estate and we have some of the best urban planners working on it now.’
Mr Punch said the Winten Group will lodge a DA for 450 house sites within the next four weeks and hoped to start construction in the second half of this year.