A development application (DA) for ‘742 Residential Lots, 2 Neighbourhood Business Lots, 14 Public Reserves, and 1 Residual Residential Lot for future development’ on the North Lismore Plateau, by a consortium of landowners, is open for public submissions.
The development of the North Lismore Plateau has been creating community division for many years with local Bundjalung Elder, Mickey Ryan, having led the opposition to the development of the plateau.
A separate first stage of 430 lots, known as the Winten land, was declared illegal by the NSW Land and Environment Court in May of 2020, following a bitter legal battle between the developer and Bundjalung Elder, Mickey Ryan.
‘Winten had commenced work before the Court handed down it’s decision, leaving a large amount of fill causing extensive pollution run off during rain events,’ said Mr Ryan’s legal representative Al Oshlack.
‘In October 2020 Lismore Council issued an order to secure the site but Winten, after some minor work, abandoned the site which is now part of ongoing Court proceedings where Mr Ryan is seeking remediation.’
Update (4 June, 2.55pm)
Bill Sarkis, development director for the Winten Property Group has told The Echo that, ‘As far as the DA process we are required to consult with registered Aboriginal parties, which we have done over several years and we are continuing to do. All registered Aboriginal parties are invited, but not all show up.’
‘We had a DA for bulk earthworks which we got development consent for.’
‘That DA [the DA for the subdivision] we lost in the land and environment courts. At that time the bulk earthworks DA had been carried out with approved consent from council. We were then told to stop that work. Then we received an order from Lismore Council to secure and stabilise the site. That has been done. Strictly in accordance with council’s requirements.
‘We were actually on site on Monday. As a result of significant storms late last year and in March there has been some erosion and scouring. We are pretty confident that the basins and site has performed well and hasn’t, in our opinion, involved any sediment escaping the site. We are currently assessing the site in order to repair any damage caused by the previous storms.
‘We currently have a DA in for 85 lots with council. We are in the process of responding to council’s requests for additional information.’
New 742 lot DA
‘The [new] DA boasts of being the single biggest development proposal ever applied for in Lismore,’ said Mr Oshlack.
The new DA over the north and western parts of the plateau has come under heavy criticism from traditional owners and environmentalists, who say in particular that no Cultural Heritage consultation has been undertaken and significant habitats of threatened species will be severely impacted.
Lismore City Mayor Vanessa Ekins responded to The Echo saying that, ‘Council established an aboriginal reference group for the north Lismore plateau, who met for over a year and described areas that needed to be protected and stories that could be shared and what signage was appropriate and this group wrote a submission [regarding] the development asking for affordable housing for their elders and an aboriginal cultural centre. I am working on getting these outcomes.’
However, this is disputed by Mr Ryan and Mr Oshlack who say that the reference group did not give traditional owners an adequate opportunity for real contributions.
‘The so called reference group would not allow any other Aboriginal group or person to attend, they were not allowed any environmental, legal or cultural heritage consultants to attend,’ said Mr Oshlack.
‘It was run, chaired and the agenda set by a Council staff officer and Mr Ryan and any other person who could have attended these secret meetings were prevented from raising any opposition to the development.
‘Most of the development footprint was never subject to archaeological inspection. The development as proposed was never presented to the Aboriginal people who, we say, were denied all procedural fairness or natural justice. They have never even been taken out to the site.’
Mr Oshlack continued his criticism of the process for approval of development of the North Lismore Plateau, saying that ‘at its core’ was what he called, ‘the endemic racism and hypocrisy that has dogged this development.’
Issues around the impacts on heritage and the environment have also been raised.
‘The development will be generating over an extra 10 to 14 thousand car movements a day over some of the worst roads in the shire,’ Mr Oshlak told The Echo.
Are ratepayers footing the bill?
‘Further Lismore Council is borrowing up to 30 million dollars for an infrastructure delivery plan to support the development,’ said Mr Oshlack.
Mayor Ekins told The Echo that Lismore City Council ‘deferred the payment of water and sewer contributions until the lots are developed but has already spent millions of dollars building the water and sewer headworks to the development.’
‘Lismore water and sewer ratepayers had their rates increased to cover some of the upfront costs and other infrastructure projects were deferred to enable the works to go ahead. This was a poor planning decision in my view,’ she said.
* Further comment has been sought from Mayor Ekins relating to the remediation of the site as referenced above.