A controversial development application (DA) to massively increase the size of a sand mine at Lennox Head has been withdrawn ahead of it being considered by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP).
In a statement the proponent, Owen McGeary, said ongoing opposition to the plan by the group No Sand Mines for Lennox Head (NSMFL), had strongly influenced his decision not to proceed.
He said the group had made it clear they ‘intended to appeal any positive decision made by the JRPP’.
‘Via our planning consultant we reached out to NSMFL to see if there was any room to mitigate our project to accommodate their concerns. Unfortunately, they could not see any way to change or condition the project for it to become acceptable in their eyes,’ Mr McGeary said.
He added ‘, it is not sensible for us to risk expenditure potentially totalling $1m where no costs are likely to be awarded with a successful outcome of court proceedings’.
Victory for people power
Ballina’s deputy mayor Keith Williams has welcomed the decision, calling it ‘a victory for people power’ and has thanked members of the community ‘who have spoken up and voiced concerns’.
Cr Williams also explained why he had remained silent over the issue while other councillors were vocal in their opposition.
‘Being a member of the JRPP as deputy mayor, I have found my inability to publicly comment on the application a major frustration.’
‘This is my community, I am their local council representative, and I have spent years trying to improve the health of the Richmond River and North Creek. But if I spoke out, I would have disqualified myself from sitting on the panel to hear the application,’ he said.
No Sand Mines for Lennox spokesperson Amelia Hicks said the decision was ‘such a great win for the community: when we stand together we are so powerful’.
‘The profits of one company should never be valued over a community and protecting our way of life,’ she added.
‘This development would have risked our safety using Ross Lane, caused irreversible impacts to our local hydrology, removed important habitat for two frog species and caused dust and noise to Ross Lane residents.
‘I want to thank McGeary’s for withdrawing their application,’ Ms Hicks said.
As the current approval for an existing sand mine that McGeary’s Quarries had operated at the site has now expired, Mr McGeary said the company would now move to remediate it.
‘We have held off completing that remediation work pending the outcome [of the DA].
‘Unless Council requests otherwise, we will immediately proceed to rehabilitate the land in accordance with the approved Rehabilitation Plans,’ he said.
But Ms Hicks said her group would be ‘pushing for a revised rehabilitation plan to ensure that the company doesn’t just follow the outdated plan set out 20 years ago as it would destroy the regrowth habitat that exists there now’.
Mr McGeary has not given up on the site entirely, however, calling on Ballina Shire Council to ‘conduct a strategic planning exercise to look at the demand for quarrying material in the shire to identify (and specifically zone), appropriate locations in the shire for extractive industries.
‘We would hope that the outcome of such an exercise would be to identify our land because of its resource potential and strategic importance. If that was the case, we would prepare and submit a fresh development application for the site with the protection afforded by a site specific extractive industry zoning,’ Mr McGeary said.
Cr Williams said, ‘I understand the reasons the McGeary family decided to not proceed and I support their call for a strategic review of quarrying operations and zonings within the Ballina Shire. In the end, I think everyone is better off with clarity,’ he said.
But Ms Hicks said she hoped the company ‘won’t be that silly’ to submit a new application.
‘When a development has no social licence it never ends well for a company, despite what approvals they may get from the government.
‘We saw it with Metgasco in the Gasfield Free Campaign and we saw it with the Bangalow Food Hub. I hope they look at history and leave this thing dead in the ground,’ Ms Hicks said.