The department of planning and environment (DoPE) has given permission for a proposed development at Evans Heads’ controversial Iron Gates site to go on public exhibition, despite a previous development on the same site being overturned by the Land and Environment Court at the eleventh hour.
The draft master plan for the subdivision would allow for 176 residential lots and four public reserves with fire trails.
DoPE says the land to be developed for residential purposes is ‘already zoned as general residential land by the Richmond Valley LEP’ and that ‘no additional residential land is proposed on the site’.
A DoPE spokesperson said the department recognised ‘the environmental and cultural value of the Evans Head site, including its location on the Evans River, its native vegetation, wetlands and rainforest, as well as the places of Aboriginal cultural significance present on the land.’
The spokesperson added that, ‘if approved, the proponent’s draft master plan would provide a guide against which future development applications can be assessed by the local council or other consent authority.’
Illegally installed infrastructure
But that’s not the view of Al Oshlack, the man who defeated an earlier proposal for the site in the Land and Environment Court 20 years ago.
As a result of that defeat, the court ordered the removal of infrastructure that it viewed had been illegally installed on the land but that was never done.
Mr Oshlack believes that may constitute contempt of court and is preparing to again fight development of the fragile coastal ecosystem.
‘In 1996 the court made orders for land remediation and then they had a special hearing with the chief justice in which they made an extensive remediation order,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘It never happened. The developer put the company into liquidation and he held out for about 18 years – and the statute of limitations to carry out the court orders lapsed.
‘Part of the development proposal is to test the viability of the various infrastructures: the plan is to utilise as much as they can of the illegally installed infrastructure, plus the illegal access road.
Mr Oschlack said that far from being a ‘guide against which future development applications could be assessed’, the history of the site suggested it was anything but.
‘I think the whole thing should be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. I mean, it’s just a total outrage and contemptuous of the whole legal process and environmental law.
‘And with the alleged illegal clearing that took place in 2014, there has been an investigation going on for two years by the EPA and they have yet to give an answer as to whether they managed to prosecute or not – even though I provided evidence from expert witnesses of the damage that occurred without any development consent,’ Mr Oshlack said.
The department says it is encouraging community feedback on the plan.
‘The department takes the submissions received into careful consideration when assessing plans and making decisions,’ the spokesperson said.
The draft Master Plan will be publicly exhibited for 28 days from Monday, 1 February 2016.
To make a submission or view the draft master plan visit www.planning.nsw.gov.au/proposals