Opponents of a proposed 1525 house development on the North Lismore plateau are preparing for a battle they believe could rival the Bentley blockade.
Around a sacred fire that has been kept burning on top of the plateau for the past four months now, North Lismore Aboriginal elder Mickey Ryan said the development would be vigorously opposed on a number of fronts.
If it goes ahead, it would be the largest development in the Lismore area since Goonellabah was created.
Mr Ryan is the applicant in a legal challenge that was lodged in the NSW Land and Environment Court in May, and now a hearing has been set down for 1 and 2 December.
As well, opponents have lodged an application to incorporate the North Lismore Plateau Protection Group, which will become the plaintiff in the case.
As an incorporated body, the group will be able to raise funds to cover legal and travel costs associated with the challenge.
Mr Ryan said the Lismore City Council voted unanimously to develop the site with 1525 sites in September last year, despite the Bunjalung Elders Council opposing the proposed rezoning and development.
‘The significant sites on the North Lismore Plateau are identified to be of great historical and cultural importance not only to the Bunjalung traditional owners but to a greater understanding of the history of Australia,’ the Elders Council said in a letter to the council.
‘As Bunjalung elders we are the most senior authority regarding matters within the Bunjalung nation.
‘Members of our council who speak for their country to protect significant heritage and cultural knowledge represent that authority.
‘We will not stand idle if this desecration of the Buninj (echidna) dreaming site, the women areas, our ancient burials, scarred trees and ceremonial places are further desecrated, disrespected and/or destroyed.’
Mr Ryan told Echonetdaily that the NSW Environment Defenders Office had briefed barrister Philip Clay to appear as counsel for the challenge.
He said opponents were seeking a declaration from the court that the Lismore LEP 2012 (Amendment 3-North Lismore Plateau) was invalid and of no effect.
The basis of the challenge is that the LEP amendment was fundamentally different to the original planning proposal, which was publicly exhibited by the Lismore City Council, and that the council failed to follow the proper process set out y the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The NSW EDO has sought documents indicating why the Lismore City Council or the NSW Department of Planning had decided to remove the environmental zones from the original publicly exhibited proposal.
‘We note that this decision appears to be related to the ongoing Department review of the use of Environmental Zones in the Far North Coast region,’ EDO solicitor Brendan Dobie said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ryan said a fundraiser would be held at Durrumbul Hall outside Mullumbimby on 18 October.
The fundraiser, Buninj Boothrum Bargwinj (Porcupine Dreaming Lives On), will raise money for a children’s project in Mozambique, and for the traditional custodians of the 13 tribes of the Bunjalung nation to protect their country.
The Lismore City Council has declined to comment on the opposition, saying it was a matter for the NSW Department of Planning.