A rescission motion by Ballina Councillor Jeff Johnson to block a controversial sub-division near the Alstonville bitumen plant has failed on the casting vote of Mayor David Wright, with a 5-5 vote in Ballina Shire Council’s meeting yesterday. The motion was passed at the previous Ballina Council meeting also on the casting vote of the Mayor.
There was a lively discussion in the meeting, with strong views being expressed on both sides, but this did nothing to change the outcome. The numbers remained the same as the last time this development was discussed.
The land in question has had a restriction on its title preventing subdivision since 1992, due to the proximity to the Alstonville Quarry and the Boral Bitumen Plant.
Councillor Johnson said there were clear grounds for rejection of the subdivision, which is only 350 metres from the hotmix asphalt plant.
‘Both the Environmental Protection Authority and Boral have written submissions to Council stating that if this land is subdivided then the homes and the people living there will “likely” experience issues associated with the heavy industry which is practically on their door step, namely issues associated with dust, noise and odour,’ said Cr Johnson.
‘The asphalt plant uses outdated processes and technology which exacerbates the noise and pollution that it produces,’ he continued.
The recommended buffer is 1,000 metres.
People and asphalt plants don’t mix
Speaking in support of the rescission motion, Councillor Sharon Cadwallader said things have changed since the asphalt plant was built, and not for the better.
‘The Boral plant has become busier, but not kept up to date with more modern technologies,’ she said.
‘New development has come closer to the plant, and new development has been approved by majority vote by this council.
‘I believe a flood of complaints will continue to come through. We need reports so we have hard data about whether this will impact on the community. Dust, odours and noise are imports we put on our people, who are living in the impact zone.
‘Within five years time, when council considers renewing the Boral lease, things can change. We know we need extra space to accommodate growing community, and eventually the land will be developed. But we shouldn’t be doing it while the plant is there. We are getting complaints continually. The timing is just not right.’
Councillor Sharon Parry said the issue shouldn’t be about the EPA – ‘Council has been quite negligent in this matter’. She said, ‘it’s unfair for us to be taking a risk and approving a development which potentially could be hazardous for residents.’
Mayor David Wright said he was on council in 1992 when the restriction was originally placed on the land, and believes the quarry was the issue then, not the asphalt plant. ‘I used to live there and no one thought it was a problem,’ he said.
Councillor Johnson asked, ‘where is our duty of care?’
He said he’s at a loss as to why council is choosing to remove the restriction on the land title, given the well-documented health impacts that the Boral plant is having on surrounding houses, including headaches, nosebleeds, houses vibrating and people being woken in the night from crushing.
‘What makes this worse is that Ballina Council leases the site to Boral and has also approved it to operate all night long for up to 60 nights per year,’ Cr Johnson said.
‘The Boral lease runs out in about four years and I will be doing all that I can to ensure that this heavy industry is not allowed to continue to operate indefinitely on the doorstep of Alstonville,’ he concluded.