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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Evans Head ‘Iron Gates’ back on the agenda

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The Richmond Valley Council will today consider a report on the controversial Iron Gates development site at Evans Head, which was recently subject to clearing which is still under investigation.

The development site on the banks of the Evans River was the scene of ongoing protest action back in 1990s, when the development company Iron Gates Pty Ltd was attempting to build more than 650 houses.

The subdivision was about to go on sale in 1997 after an access road, including a bridge, was built, and sewer and water lines laid.

The NSW Environmental Defenders Office, acting for activist Al Oshlack, challenged the development successfully in the NSW Land and Environment Court, which ordered in 1997 that the consent be declared null and void.

The developer filed for bankruptcy and started legal action against the Richmond Valley Council but the court dismissed the developer’s action in 2009 … but not before the council had spent almost $1 million in legal fees defending itself.

In a report to councillors, to be considered today, however, staff indicate that there are no hard feelings.

‘Council will treat the Ingles Group to the same courteous and professional service that it offers any other business willing to invest in this community,’ infrastructure and environment manager Gary Murphy wrote.

‘Any application for development will be assessed on its merits.’

The report also confirms that court orders for the sections of the site still stand, and also that the land is not available for the council to purchase.

Any sale would be ‘dependent on the outcome of any action by the owner to progress the development on this land’, the report states.

In response to questions lodged by Cr Robert Hayes in December last year, Mr Murphy confirmed that the Ingles group was still considering completing its development, and that a development proposal forum had taken place.

The report details how reductions in council’s section 64 sewer charges from $32,437 to $8000 per estimated tenement had been used to entice residential development to the council areas in the past.

Long-time opponent, Dr Richard Gates of Evans Heads, said the report showed there had been a lot of activity going on behind the scenes between the Ingles Group and the council.

‘Council indicates it is acting on behalf of the community interest, but given the extent of proposed subsidies for section 64 developer contributions for sewerage works alone where the price is reduced from more than $32,000 to $8,000 per ET, a 75 per cent reduction,  council is showing unequivocally that it is not acting in the community interest at all,’ Dr Gates said.

‘Essentially the burden is falling on ratepayers to subsidise the development.

‘Such ‘rent seeking’ is characteristic of ‘carpet bag’ development which is well described in the business literature.’

‘The Iron Gates has already cost this local government area and ratepayers lots of money.

‘Why should we be throwing good hard-earned money after bad particularly when there are outstanding court orders for environmental rehabilitation dating back more than 16 years which could cost council dearly yet again?’

Today’s council meeting starts at 5pm.

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