A bulldozer has been spotted clearing native vegetation at the controversial Iron Gates development site at Evans Head.
Aerial photographs taken by a concerned resident show large parcels of land have been cleared in recent weeks, prompting complaints to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
An OEH spokesperson said the office was aware of the clearing and was investigating whether there had been breaches of native vegetation or threatened species legislation.
The development site on the banks of the Evans River has met with stiff opposition from environmentalists since its inception three decades ago.
The development company, Iron Gates Pty Ltd, gained approval for 650 houses but was pushing for more than 800. Activists blockaded the site and legal action was launched against the developer.
Bordered on three sides by national park, the land contains rare coastal rainforest remnants, sites of Aboriginal significance, a wetland and an abundance of wildlife, including koalas and other threatened species.
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.
In a later judgement, the court also ordered the road be ripped up and the environment remediated.
That work was never carried out, nor were costs paid to the plaintiff which had been awarded by the court.
The developer filed for bankruptcy and started legal action against the Richmond Valley Council but the council argued the developer did not fully follow the development application.
The court dismissed the developer’s action in 2009, but not before the council had spent almost $1 million in legal fees defending itself.
Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker said it was not a council matter and that the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage was aware of the clearing.
Echonetdaily has contacted Gold Coast property developer Graeme Ingles and the administrator of Iron Gates Pty Ltd Robert Duus for comment.
The site remains zoned residential and is listed in the state government’s future development strategy.