Graeme Ingles, most recently of Queensland based GoldCoral Pty Ltd, has been trying to pursue a controversial development at Evans Head since the 1990s. The most recent attempt began in 2014, and on 6 September, 2021 GoldCoral was given a Clause 55 variation by the Northern Rivers Planning Panel (NRPP) that allows them to submit further plans to develop the site. This was despite the fact that Richmond Valley Council (RVC) appeared to suggest refusing the variation of the development application (DA).
Issues raised by RVC in a letter to Chair of the NRPP on 24 August included the ongoing costs to the council to assess the application, once again, for the 184 lot subdivision including 175 residential lots, and 3 residue lot (DA2015/0096) and the fact the Masterplan (MP) had been withdrawn.
The 2014 legislation required the approval of a Masterplan for the Evans Head site for the DA to go ahead. However, the Masterplan was ‘withdrawn by the applicant [GoldCoral] on 19 July 2021, an action taken by the applicant without prior consultation with Council,’ stated the letter to the NRPP.
The letter continued, stating that ‘despite ongoing negotiations with the applicant and various agencies, [the Masterplan] was undetermined due to several outstanding issues. The prospects of Council continuing these negotiations to achieving a different outcome are unlikely and will exhaust further resources… the clause 55 amended/varied Concept Development Application has not been supported by sufficient information to satisfactorily address all the SEPP71 heads of consideration.’
The NRPP have allowed the ‘Clause 55’ variation that ‘means a development application may be amended or varied by the applicant, with the agreement of the consent authority, at any time before the application is determined’.
Dr Richard Gates from the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc told The Echo that ‘The NRPP has not yet made available the basis for its decision to accept a Clause 55 variation under the EP&A Regulation 2000, and the amended application has not been made available for the public to see as far as we can determine. So we have no idea how the NRPP decided to give the developer yet another bite of the cherry at considerable additional cost to ratepayers.’
‘The seeds of the decision would seem to be in the attached document from the NRPP website particularly those sections relating to an assessment of Clause 55 from a legal perspective.
‘The NRPP may have decided to play a safe game here and allow the amended application for reasons relating to potential for yet more litigation. You will recall that Ingles and Iron Gates Pty Ltd commenced a case against Richmond Valley Council and a number of other parties to the tune of $33 million, a matter resolved in Qld Courts and not NSW,’ said Dr Gates.
‘However, given all the other considerations of the matter provided in the two briefing reports to the NRPP and the recommendations it comes as a surprise that yet another application from the proponent for the Iron Gates is back on the agenda.’
As a result of allowing the variation it ‘means the development application will now come back to Richmond Valley Council for assessment before returning to the NRPP for determination,’ states the RVC press release and NRPP website.
The RVC General Manager Vaughan Macdonald stated that the DA will go back on public exhibition ‘once all documentation was reviewed by Council’s Development Assessment Planner… to give the community another opportunity to have a say on the merits of this development.’
The Iron Gates site has yet to be remediated following the 1997 court action by local activist Al Oschlack who took the previous development company Iron Gates Property, of which Graeme Ingles was Director and Secretary, to court over the unapproved clearing that had taken place on the site prior to a previous DA being granted.
The Land and Environment Court ordered that a remediation plan be undertaken (valued at around $2m at the time) and removed permission to develop the site under the previously granted DA.
The remediation work was never carried out as the company went into liquidation. The current DA is being put forward by a Queensland based company called Goldcoral, however, the application is again signed off by Graeme Ingles.
‘Apart from anything else a suburban residential development in this isolated satellite location is just plain dangerous from a fire risk perspective. Why would you even contemplate putting people in harm’s way!’ said Dr Gates.
‘Before anything else happens the NSW State government needs to insist that the developer remediates the Iron Gates according to the Orders of the Land & Environment Court in the 1990s.’