The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has confirmed it is investigating clearing at the controversial Iron Gates site at Evans Head, but it could be ‘weeks or months’ before action is taken.
Echonetdaily reported early last month that a bulldozer had been spotted clearing vegetation at the site, which is bordered on three sides by national park, and fronts the Evans River.
Richmond Valley Council has also confirmed that it has held talks with the developer, the Ingles Group, about a possible development application for the site, despite previous legal action between the two parties.
Evans Head resident Dr Richard Gates, an opponent of the development from its inception, said ratepayers would end up footing the bill.
‘General manager Walker has indicated that Iron Gates could accommodate 170 to 180 houses,’ Dr Gates said.
At its recent meeting, the council considered a report in which staff outlined options that might be available to attract the developer.
One of those was to reduce the cost of sewerage works from $32,437 to $8,000 per tenement.
At those rates, Dr Gates argues that the council would be providing a subsidy of $4,154,290 for 170 houses, or $4,398,660 for 180 houses.
‘So Richmond Valley Council is prepared to subsidise a developer, most likely Iron Gates Pty Ltd, with a subsidy of somewhere between $4.15 and $4.4 million for residential development while at the same time imposing a 39.1 per cent special rate rise on one of the most disadvantaged local government areas in NSW’, Dr Gates said.
‘In effect this is a subsidy of between $189 and $200 paid by every man, woman and child in the whole local government area.
‘It is nothing less than a bloody disgrace. Where are our councillors? And does IPART know about these discounts or did it take them into account in its decision to approve the massive rate rise?’
Meanwhile, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is understood to have taken legal advice regarding the clearing.
A spokesperson told Echonetdaily that officers had met with the developer and had also inspected the site.
The spokesperson said however that it could be weeks or months before any action is taken.