A proposal for twelve new lots in the buffer zone between Wilson Nature Reserve and existing houses on City View Drive, East Lismore, has local residents worried.
There are concerns about environmental impacts, water management, fire risk, and increased traffic on City View Drive, with the only two access roads in the area (which are very steep) already under pressure.
DA 21/253 (37 City View Drive) is before Lismore City Council, but currently subject to a ‘stop the clock’ letter while the proponent considers additional requests from council.
Neighbouring residents Jane Gilmour and Louise Litchfield have so far gathered over 80 signatures of other locals opposed to the development, which is planned for vacant land adjoining an existing property belonging to the proponent, Tim Roberts, a Lismore mortgage broker.
Appropriate development site?
Because the proposed development adjoins high conservation value bushland, which is on steep country running down to Wilsons Creek, neighbours say it is inappropriate for housing, particularly with what they say are inadequate proposals for dealing with fire risk (removing the existing safety buffer between houses and bushland) and waste water (individual septic systems are proposed), along with storm water issues.
Several mature hoop pines and other trees are also threatened with destruction. It is feared that major planned earthworks will bring new erosion risks.
Jane Gilmour said a major concern is that ‘if they do decide to improve the access road, to become compliant with the Rural Fire Service (RFS), they will then widen it or bulldoze more country’ to create a new buffer, impacting the Nature Reserve.
‘The really big issue is the Rural Fire Service hasn’t made a report yet,’ she said. ‘It’s a category one bushfire zone area where they propose to build the houses. So not to have the RFS report that complies with the through road is really problematic for whoever buys the properties and the existing residents at the top,’ said Ms Gilmour.
What about the housing shortage?
Local residents acknowledge Lismore is in the midst of a housing crisis, but argue this development is not part of the solution.
Ms Gilmour told The Echo, ‘It’s not an affordable housing option, because it’s an inappropriate site, and it’s a small number of houses. The problem is, it’s in a really high value ecological area, and it doesn’t really address the issue of the housing shortage.’
She pointed out that threatened species living in the reserve, such as frogmouths and koalas, will come under additional pressure, particularly the communities living along Wilson Creek.
Louise Litchfield said the loss of local species is already accelerating at an alarming rate. ‘I just don’t hear the tawny frogmouth any more. We used to hear them constantly at night. We’d have koalas many, many times in the year, they’d be there.’
She says koalas are now a rarity in the street, and there has been a mounting toll of echidnas and other wildlife even with existing traffic pressures.
What price nature?
With more development plans in the offing on the other side of the reserve, there are fears that the plants and animals living in the reserve will be ‘completely isolated’.
Jane Gilmour said the neighbouring bushland needs to be properly valued.
‘It’s a really unique, rare part of the one per cent of remaining Big Scrub, and it’s got one of the only dry rain forest ecosystems left in the area. Once it’s gone, it’ll never be replaced.
‘Some of these trees that they’re proposing to move off the property are over 100 years old, and there are the issues of runoff and what will happen to the catchment.
‘This development will jeopardise everything that lives along the creek.’
Ms Gilmour argues that council needs to build consideration for this natural asset into their future vision.
‘It’s not nimbyism, it’s not just about anyone’s backyard,’ she said. ‘It’s about that really, really valuable, precious resource.
‘I understand that the council is really concerned about growth for the next years. And it’s important, we need to account for that. But this is not a housing solution,’ said Ms Gilmour.