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April 22, 2021

Opponents confident after court hears plateau challenge

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Some of the members of the North LIsmore Plateau Protection Group, Patrick Speeding, Mickey Ryan, Neil Owen and Les Speeding. (Darren Coyne)
Some of the members of the North LIsmore Plateau Protection Group, Patrick Speeding, Mickey Ryan, Neil Owen and Les Speeding. (Darren Coyne)

Darren Coyne

Opponents of the proposed North Lismore plateau housing development will find out in the New Year whether they have successfully overturned the development’s approval.

The development would provide 1550 new dwellings for a population of more than 3600 people, with cycleways and walkways connecting the plateau to the Lismore central business district.

But North Lismore Aboriginal man Michael (Mickey) Ryan, who maintains the plateau is sacred, has vowed to fight the development all the way.

Represented by the NSW Environment Defender’s Office, the matter was heard on 1 December in the NSW Land and Environment Court in Sydney.

Mr Ryan said he was confident barrister Philip Clay ‘was on the ball’ and that the challenge ‘might be in with a shot’.

The Bundjalung man, who grew up playing on the plateau, has challenged the removal of proposed environmental zones, containing Aboriginal heritage sites and habitat for threatened plants and animals, from parts of the Lismore Local Environmental Plan (LEP) dealing with development on the North Lismore Plateau.

The LEP Amendment, approved by the Department of Planning, removed the environmental zones, which had originally been proposed to comprise 28.5 per cent of the 255 hectare North Lismore Plateau site.

It also rezoned 67 per cent of the area as residential and the majority of the rest remaining as primary production.

The environmental conservation and environmental management zones had been included in the original proposal for the LEP Amendment, as publicly exhibited by Lismore City Council.

They were intended to protect Aboriginal heritage sites and areas of environmental value, including regenerating lowland sub-tropical and dry rainforest, which provide habitat for threatened fauna, such as koalas, the Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, and threatened microbat species, as well as sites containing the rare native plant species, Thorny Pea and Hairy Joint grass.

An EDO spokesperson said councils in northern NSW had removed the environmental zoning, apparently due to the NSW Department of Planning’s ongoing review of the use of environmental zoning.

Mr Ryan has objected to the removal of the environmental zoning due to its potential impact on the cultural heritage and environment of the plateau.

The basis of his objection relates primarily to the fact that the LEP amendment was fundamentally different to the original proposal, as publicly exhibited.

Mr Ryan ‘s lawyers argued that, in the circumstances, the LEP Amendment was not a product of the process set out in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 for the making of Local Environmental Plans, and given that no opportunities for public consultation were provided in regard to the fundamentally altered LEP Amendment, there has been a failure to provide procedural fairness.

Justice Sheahan will deliver a judgment in the case next year.

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