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December 1, 2021

Controversial Iron Gates DA at Evans Head open for submissions

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The sensitive site of the controversial planned Iron Gates development, which the state government has refused to consider without a masterplan. Photo Supplied

The controversial Iron Gates development application (DA) at Evans Head is once again on exhibition and open for submissions until 11.30pm Sunday 24 October.

The site is owned by Graeme Ingles, most recently of Queensland based GoldCoral Pty Ltd, who has been seeking to develop the site against significant community resistance since the 1990s. An approved DA was overturned by the Land and Environment Court (L&EC) in 1997 after Mr Ingles proceeded with unauthorised works at the site and he was ordered to do around $2m worth of remediation work that has never been completed. Further unauthorised clearing took place at the site in 2016.

The current application was submitted in 2015 for the 184 lot subdivision including 175 residential lots, and 3 residue lot (DA2015/0096). At the time of the DAs submission a masterplan was requited to be approved for the DA to progress to approval. However, this was not achieved by the developer who withdrew the masterplan application earlier this year. The developer then sought, and was granted, a Clause 55 variation by the Northern Rivers Planning Panel (NRPP), who are the approval body as due to the value of the DA, at their 6 September meeting.

‘The development application was referred back to Richmond Valley Council following the Northern Regional Planning Panel’s acceptance of an amendment to the 2019 application, making it a Concept Development Application containing two stages. The application states that stage two will be subject to a further development application,’ said media release by the Richmond Valley Council (RVC).

However, locals who have been battling the DA for the last 25 years say there are a number of reasons why the DA should not be approved.

Teela Barker, Lyndall Murray and Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow. Photo supplied.

Impact on country

In 2019 traditional owner Teela Barker along with local Lyndall Murray, founder of stopirongates.org presented a petition to RVC Mayor Robert Mustow that raised the concern of people in the Northern Rivers area about the proposed development.

‘I want other people of my generation, and future generations to have similar opportunities [here in Evans Head]. That should not be at the cost of the destruction of fragile ecosystems, our beautiful river and important Aboriginal heritage. There are better ways for Evans Head to grow than plonking high-density development on the riverbank,’ said Murray.

Dr Richard Gates, from Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc., said that National Parks tried to acquire the Iron Gates land on at least four separate occasions.

‘The acquisition could have been used for capacity building for the Aboriginal Community in conjunction with National Parks. It seems that there is still the opportunity for this to happen particularly now that the importance of the area to the Bundjalung Nation has been widely recognised through Native Title completed Determinations and in particular through evidence provided by the local Bandjalang People.’

The back entrance to Iron Gates property from the Blue Pool Road at Evans Head. Photo Dr Richard Gates

Fire risk

The Iron Gates site is surrounded by bushland and Dr Gates has pointed out that the impact of the Black Summer bushfires only further highlighted the fire risks of developing the site.

‘Make no mistake, the Iron Gates is an enormous firetrap for residential development. If anyone is attending to any of the debate about our recent disastrous fires, any plan for residences in this location is just plain dumb and dangerous. Richmond Valley Council, in particular, which was badly affected by fire, should be recommending against the development.’

Evans River is currently in ‘poor’ health and locals are concerned that the proposed Iron Gates development will push the river into further decline. Image supplied.

River health

The health of the Evans River is rated as ‘poo’ and locals believe that the impact on the of the development will further degrade the rivers health.

‘The NSW State of the Beaches 2018–2019 showed our [Evans] River water quality was graded “Poor” indicating water quality is susceptible to faecal pollution, particularly after rainfall. It is time that Richmond Valley Council did more to restore healthy water quality in the Evans River,’ said local Craig Gillespie who organised a Iron Gates protest paddle in November 2019.

An aerial photo showing further clearing at the Iron Gates site in April this year. The state government has announced it could not find enough evidence to show the clearing was illegal. (supplied)

Manipulating the process

The previous DAs required the DA be accompanied by a masterplan approval which the applicant failed to achieve prior to its recent withdrawal. The new DA is seeking Concept Development Application rather than approval for the entire DA.

‘The whole process for the Iron Gates DA determination is now changed as I see it,’ said Dr Gates.

‘Before the recent Clause 55 Regulation 2000 decision, approval had to given for the whole development.  Now, a separate DA approval is required for the second stage which we know little about. But more than that the consent authority “does not need to consider the likely impact of the carrying out of development that may be the subject of subsequent development applications.”  So we are left being unsure about what else might happen at the site in future.’

General Manager of RVC Vaughan Macdonald said ‘It is an amended DA, so community members who have made previous submissions are advised that new submissions will be required so the assessment considers all matters relevant to the DA that is now on.’

He said anyone could formally submit comments to support or oppose the development application during the exhibition period.

‘However, Council [will] not consider anonymous submissions, and all submissions [will] be made publicly available on Council’s website in their entirety.

‘For feedback on a development application to be valid, a submission must be properly made in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act,’ Mr Macdonald said.

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  1. The owners of the proposed Iron Gates development at Evans Head have once again put on exhibition their revamped controversial DA and is now open for submissions until 11.30pm Sunday 24 October.


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