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May 26, 2024

Fears donga plans could force airport closure

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The proposed Evans Head donga village development site. The photo was taken around 2000 when the site was illegally cleared. Photo supplied
The proposed Evans Head donga village development site. The photo was taken around 2000 when the site was illegally cleared. Photo supplied


Chris Dobney

A plan being considered by Richmond Valley Council (RVC) to allow housing for road-workers to be built at Evans Head could be the death knell of the town’s memorial aerodrome, its president fears.

The first sod has been turned on the Woolgoolga section of the highway and the council sees Evans Head as a likely place to house road workers.

RVC is considering plans to supply water and sewerage to the site, which would see up to 400 workers housed in a donga village.

A similar village currently operating in Bangalow is set to be sold for private development once the roadwork moves on.

But the proposal has fallen foul of users of the Evans Head Aerodrome who say it is too close to the airfield for its safe continued operation.

As well as hosting the annual Great Eastern Fly-In, which attracts hundreds of light planes and their pilots from around the country, the heritage World War II aerodrome is used as a base for fire-fighting aircraft during the bushfire season.

Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome president Richard Gates says that this, along with several other proposed developments that council has on the drawing board for Evans Head, could create a ‘pincer movement’ that would eventually surround the airport on three sides with housing.

‘Our concern is that there is to be a residential development so close to the aerodrome and that this “temporary” residential development will be used as a Trojan Horse for future residential development around the aerodrome,’ Dr Gates told Echonetdaily.

‘As it is, council has been pushing for residential development on Currajong Street and for residential development along Woodburn Road adjacent to the airstrips. And now this on the NW side of the aerodrome.

‘In other words residential development is being pushed on three sides of the aerodrome. No prizes for guessing what this may mean for the aerodrome in the long run. It is, in effect, a pincer movement to try and close down the aerodrome for aviation.

‘And it begs the question what has happened to the Airpark Developer who signed an option to purchase the aerodrome for $2.5 million a couple of years ago? Why hasn’t this matter been brought to completion?’ Dr Gates questioned.

By the way the land for the Donga is not, as far as we know, zoned for intensive residential development. And there would need to be a rezoning.

Illegally cleared

Dr Gates is also concerned the land identified for the donga village is former wetland, which was illegally cleared around 2000, before the current owners bought the property.

No one was ever charged over the clearing, which encroached on endangered Pygmy Perch habitat.

‘The perch is listed on the IUCN Red List and covered by the EPBC Act. It is also the subject of a Recovery Plan.  The proposed development would be anathema to that fish,’ Dr Gates said.

He added that the proposal ‘flies in the face of Coast Guidelines for NSW which does not encourage strip development along roads of the kind we see here.

‘There is also the matter of the adjacent Broadwater National Park. I wonder what its views are? The new highway is already compromising the Park as is the Evans Head Sewerage Treatment Plant effluent in Salty Lakes.

‘The proposed development has the potential to compromise the Park even further…a death by a thousand cuts!’ Dr Gates said.

Public meeting

A spokesperson for Richmond Valley Council told Echonetdaily, ‘No official development proposal has yet been lodged with council, however, our pre-lodgement team met with Outback Camps Australia on June 18 to discuss the proposed 400-person camp on the Woodburn-Evans Head Road.

‘The intention is to use the site as single room 12m2 ‘donga’ style accommodation for Pacific Highway workers,’ the spokesperson said.

The Evans Head Business & Community Chamber will be holding an information night next Wednesday, 12 August, at the Evans Head Bowling Club at 5.30pm.

Contact chamber president Brian O’Farrell on 0428 661 400.

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  1. Richard’s points regarding Broadwater NP are salient, however NPWS operate in their own little bubble with scant regard for community concern and what happens beyond the edge of protected areas. The long term viability of Broadwater NP as a protected area is already questionable under the existing plan of management.

  2. No official development proposal has yet been lodged with council? Does that mean a paper bag of money has been filled or waiting to be filled?


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