The 37 million dollar development application (DA) for multiple rural land sharing communities (RLSC) or multiple occupancies (MO) near Uki, stretching between Mt Burrell and Kunghur, that is seeking approval for a ‘staged concept development’ was under discussion at a meeting at Uki Hall last Sunday.
With over 100 people in attendance the meeting organisers clarified that it was not an unbiased meeting and was seeking to highlight the detrimental effects of the proposed DA. None-the-less there seemed to be a reasonable contingent of supporters for the DA at the meeting to put their position.
Key concerns were raised over the failure of the DA to supply potable water, sewage, electricity, road, and technological infrastructure to the rural development as well as deforestation, damage to wildlife corridors, and a healthy koala colony.
The DA proposes splitting the land into ten RLSC and one village area. They estimate that approximately 750 to 1,500 people would reside in the proposed 392 dwellings of the ten proposed RLSC communities. The eleventh parcel of land, or village, would house between another 750 to1,200 people according to the Northern Rivers Guardians who have been analysing the DA.
Tweed Shire Council Mayor Chris Cherry told the meeting that, ‘The DA submitted previously was rejected as they sought owners consent from the Tweed Council in relation to the use of public roads to access the property. This DA has taken out the request for owners consent and the work needed on public roads to support the DA.’
Denise Nessel, Secretary of the Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG), who have been helping locals understand the implications of the DA, told the meeting that if the property was only seen as one RLSC then they would be allowed a maximum of 80 dwellings on the property.
‘Dividing it into ten RLSC’s to facilitate 392 dwellings [and then a village] does seem more like a typical urban development than an RLSC. An RLSC is usually set up by people who know one another and come together to create an intentional community,’ she told the meeting.
Ms Nessel pointed out that the DA doesn’t clarify the boundaries of the ten RLSCs and village, that the RLSCs do not get set up until stage 3 of the development so ‘who knows when you will have access to a plot of land to build on’. She also highlighted that it is difficult to work out from the DA what the company is that you are investing in and who owns the land.
Locals highlighted that the proposed number of residents on the RLSCs and village was significantly more than the 800 that currently make up the village of Uki.
‘’This DA adds another 1,000 + people, another 800 or more cars to Kyogle Road,’ said a concerned neighbour.
‘There are thee bridges and significant work on the local [public] roads that would need to be done to make them adequate for the increased traffic of this DA.’
There is also a network of 26.5km of internal roads that would need further work for the development to go ahead.
Dr Sam Dawson, Caldera Environment Centre coordinator, told the meeting that ‘the majority of the property is natural bush’ and that the proposal to ‘relocate’ the wildlife corridor, that would reduce it to a quarter of its size, had ‘not been explained or properly researched’.
‘The risk to native fauna and the reduction of habitat and the impact on a health koala community is unacceptable. There are approximately 40 vulnerable species in the land proposed for development,’ he told the meeting.
Concerns over the impact of wildlife were also raised by local farmer Diane Wilder who told The Echo that ‘There are several major issues which continue to be negated surrounding development within this region. The first issue is the impact of development on the region’s wildlife, from increases in road traffic and hence, road kill, to the destruction of wildlife corridors and the increase in wild dog populations.
‘The second issue is that of population increase which is not being discussed at all. It is recognised that people have to live somewhere, but that “somewhere” is fast becoming “anywhere” in this region, including places like this one that contain substantial forest stands critical for wildlife survival.
‘From this, it can be ascertained that the essential question of what constitutes a sustainable and practically operable development where minimal impact from humans actually supports and sustains maximum wildlife growth, is simply not being discussed between the Council and the local residents. If the Council is serious about the preservation and maintenance of the region’s wildlife, then this question needs addressing to prevent the continuation of clearly inappropriate development in this region.’
The DA was supported by some members of the audience who said they represented the Minjungbul Men’s and Women’s Tribal Councils.
In a letter to Tweed Councillors they said that the developer had promised them up to ten per cent of the land and that that was offered to their ‘tribal community and families by way of donated lands and dwelling plots, and protection of cultural sites, artefacts, culture and space’
At the meeting, Dean Roberts who was representing the group said ‘this is the first time ever that a tribal people are getting part of this. We will be here to look after the environment.’
Scott Rotuma, also spoke on behalf of the group saying that ‘the developers are gifting us back part of our real estate, therefore, we support it. We have a right to be somewhere.
The Echo sought comment from the Tweed Byron Aboriginal Land Council, who are a significant landholder in the Tweed Shire, on the issue but received no response before going to print.
‘This is clearly a divisive issue at a time when we are under extreme housing stress,’ said Greens candidate for Richmond, Mandy Nolan, who was at the meeting.
‘There was no one in attendance [at the meeting] from the development although some members of the local Indigenous community spoke in support of the development after being offered land if it goes ahead,’ she told The Echo.
‘The failure of successive governments to work towards a Treaty and the fact First Nations people have little or no equity in their own country means that when developers want to push through it’s easy to wedge the debate with what looks like a ”gift” to the community. But is it? Why can’t developers gift some land to the Tribal community in good faith, without having to clear 400 acres of bushland to make way for housing and roads?
‘This development puts a major wildlife corridor at risk with at least 40 different species including koalas who are already under threat of extinction. We have just survived major bushfires. Our wildlife has been forced into existing corridors. First Nations need treaty and equity. Developers need to respect our wild spaces. We need sustainable development. In a time of climate change we can’t be clear-felling forest.’
No more MOs
Last week Tweed Shire Council (TSC) sought to put the final nail in the coffin on RLSCs in Tweed Shire by passing a motion ‘to remove Tweed Shire from the [state planning] SEPP’ that allowed RLSCs to be created in Tweed Shire. Multiple occupancies (or RLSCs) had already been removed from the Tweed Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2000, and the Tweed Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2014. However, as this DA has already been submitted it may be judged under the existing SEPP.
Who will decide on DA?
Currently the DA is set to be determined by the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) because it is stated capital costs are valued at over $30m. However, Tweed Shire Council has raised the issue of the capital costs with the developers as they may have included up to $16m of costs that were not eligible for consideration as capital costs. If that is removed the DA would fall below $30m and therefore be decided on by the Tweed Shire Council.
State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said a significant number of local residents have expressed a range of concerns regarding the DA with her.
‘I understand these concerns and have communicated them to Tweed Shire Council,’ Ms Saffin told The Echo.
Regardless of who makes the final decision on approving or rejecting the DA Tweed Shire Council staff will provide all the advice and assessments of the application.
‘I have faith in their [the staffs] ability to assess this fairly,’ Mayor Cherry told the meeting.
Comment of DA
The community can make submissions on the DA until midnight Wednesday, 24 March.
‘If more than 10 objections are received, the Northern Regional Planning Panel will hold public hearings, which will give the community an opportunity to voice their concerns in person,’ say NRG.
For more information on the DA go to Tweed Shire Council’s DA tracker.