The withdrawal of the Masterplan should spell the end of the current development application (DA) for the controversial 175 lot Iron Gates development in Evans Head say opponents to the DA; but it appears the developer and Richmond Valley Council (RVC) are still looking for a way forward.
‘Without an approved Masterplan, a DA cannot proceed under the legislation (SEPP 71) which applied at the time of his application in 2014,’ said Dr Richard Gates from Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc.
This was confirmed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DOPIE) with The Echo. The existing development application was submitted in 2014. Under the legislation that applied at the time (SEPP 71) a development cannot be determined without an approved master plan, or a master plan waiver.
The Iron Gates developer Graeme Ingles applied for a wavier but this was denied by the DOPIE.
A spokesperson from the DOPIE said ‘The Master Plan was withdrawn by the proponent in a letter to the Department on 19 July. The development application is currently under consideration by Richmond Valley Council (RVC)’.
This was confirmed by RVC who told The Echo that ‘Council is aware the master plan has been withdrawn by the applicant and is reviewing what this means for the assessment of this development application. This will require liaison with the applicant, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and other government agencies.’
Fire danger and cultural heritage
The site itself, is approximately one kilometre from Evans Head, has outstanding court ordered remediation work, is considered a high fire danger area as well as an area of high Indigenous cultural value.
Native title was recently granted recognising the importance of the area to the Bundjalung Nation through evidence provided by the local Bandjalang People.
Dr Gates said that the Richmond Valley Council and its predecessor council, Richmond River Shire Council, have been pushing for residential development at this site since the 1980’s notwithstanding a great deal of opposition from the community, many legal cases against it, and a $33 million dollar law suit brought against Council and 11 other parties by the developer. This development has cost ratepayers and taxpayers a great deal.
‘The question for many is why does council continue to push for this development at such a cost to us all, and in such fire-prone country which has the potential to put us all at risk and not just residents of this isolated spot? But what we don’t know is why the $33 million lawsuit against council was dropped?’ said Dr Gates.
‘Council has been very secretive about this matter. Council must be transparent.’
Dr Gates said that he wouldn’t be surprised if RVC was pushing to extend its Regional Jobs Precinct status to include Evans Head in its discussions with the developer.
The Jobs Precinct is a subset of State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) (Activation Precincts) 2020 and overrides other SEPPs and Local Environment Plans (LEP).
‘You only have to look at the use of this controversial SEPP in the Snowy Mountains National Park by Deputy State Premier Barilaro to know that the state government couldn’t care less about protection of our natural and cultural estate,’ said Dr Gates.
A RVC spokesperson told The Echo that extending the Regional Jobs Precinct status to include Evans Head is ‘not up to us. It is a NSW Government specialist program; only a few towns selected. Hopefully one day it will be expanded to include Evans Head.’
Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development says there are better options for the Iron gates development site that should be pursued.
They are calling on RVC ‘to reject the current DA for the Iron Gates because there is no Master Plan as required by law, and to insist that the land be remediated by the proponent.
‘The current proposal is a land use planning conflict which will put people in harm’s way should it proceed. And it will destroy the very reason many of us live and visit her. There are many other “better use” options for the land which will help sustain Evans Head’s advantage as a tourism destination and economic engine for employment.’