The approval for the development of 433 lots, of the possible 1,300 lots, for the North Lismore Plateau by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) last night led to JRPP chair Gary West (Nationals) closing the meeting to the public.
Objections have been raised to the development of the site since it was first mooted over 20 years years ago when the site was originally put up for development as part of a feasibility study. However, last night things came to a head when members of the audience accused the JRPP of ‘rubber stamping’ the development approval.
Concerns around the impact on koala and other native species habitat, Indigenous cultural heritage and the financial impact on the broader Lismore community through rate rises and increases in water charges were raised in objection to the development being approved.
‘The Lismore Council need to spend $19 to 22 million dollars to build the infrastructure for the development,’ said Al Oshlack the research advocate with the indigenous justice advocacy network.
Added to this, Mr Oshlack said the Lismore Council recognised that they didn’t have enough water to supply more than stage one of the development. In a closed meeting in August they moved to borrow another $10m to build a water reservoir to support the future stages of the development.
‘They are now borrowing up to $32m to support this development,’ said Mr Oshlack.
‘It will take over 25 years to pay that back. In Lismore we have the highest rates on the north coast with residential rates already over $2,000 per year and water rates around $800. Council is already in a difficult financial position and now they are proposing to put up the general and water rates again.’
Mr Oshlack says the JRPP is required under planning legislation to consider the development in regards to the ‘public interest’ and says that by not taking the financial impact on rate payers into consideration they have failed to consider this appropriately.
Funding not JRPP concern
Speaking to Echonetdaily JRPP chair Garry West said that it was not within their jurisdiction to look at how infrastructure is funded.
‘It is council policy as to how they fund their infrastructure,’ said Mr West.
Approval based on zoning
Following the closure of the meeting to the public panel members, councillors and council staff continued their deliberations in private.
‘The tape kept rolling and the deliberations will be available online within seven days,’ said Mr West.
Speaking about the approval process Mr West said ‘Once the land has been re-zoned it would be wrong for us to turn that on its head. As long as the development application meets and is consistent with the appropriate zonings’ then the JRPP makes its decision based within that framework.
Mr Oshlack said the case doesn’t end here. Objectors are currently looking into challenging the approval in court based on five key grounds.
‘There is core koala habitat in the development and they are required to do a koala management plan, which they haven’t done. There are cultural heritage consultation processes that they have failed to comply with. Thirdly there are issues around how the site is accessed that haven’t been addressed. There are federal court issues in relation to Native Title and the fact that land the council are looking to develop themselves was gifted to them as koala habitat. Finally the JRPP failure to consider the public interest and the impact on the broader rate payer, under the act they are required to consider the public interest and I don’t believe they did.’