The last time the Lismore Mayor and Councillor met in the Goonellabah chambers, there was a historic decision to hand back culturally sensitive land to the local Indigenous people. In a sequel to the fate of the Lismore plateau, traditionally known as the Sleeping Lizard, the outcome was a little different for the Widjabul Wia-bal people of the Bundjalung Nation when it came to another part of the plateau.
The Development Application for the Proposed Subdivision at 55 Dunoon Road and 8 Sexton Road, North Lismore, went before council last night.
Slowly and surely for 13 years
Cr Neil Marks said the North Lismore Plateau has been on the cards Council for 30 plus years. ‘In the last 13 it is slowly but surely come to where it is now. Even going through court cases.
Cr Marks was clear in repeating that on the night, Council was looking at one section of one part of the North Lismore Plateau. ’As we’ve seen from the photos and those who were lucky enough to go out on to the site today, it was the site that was actually worked on when they were allowed to before the court case said “pull up stamps”, which they did.
It is 85 lots. It is the start of a process and we will see the DAs and the plans come through one by one.
‘We know from the discussions and from the overall history as to why it failed in court, and it was on the SIS report. You may remember I asked during our workshop, whether that report needed to be done for this stage one, and the answer was “no”. The overall development never failed on any of the other issues.
So, if it passed through the legal side of things, through all of that. This one doesn’t need the SIS. So, we can move forward. However, there are always questions.
‘We’ve had lots of questions about the flow of water over the site again, the stormwater management, and all of the likes there we had lots of questions about that with the proponent tonight, and that the majority of the works that have done for the overall site were more than adequate before that site there, the stage one.
In regards to the Aboriginal heritage and the reports that were done there, they were never questioned in court, however, I know that many of us have contact with our Aboriginal community, and the members of the advisory group that were involved in this, said they had been listened to, like they’ve never been listened to before when it comes to these sorts of things, and that they were more than happy with the development proposal across the whole North Lismore plateau: including the stage one.
Cr Marks reminded Councillors again that they were looking at stage one of a larger development. ‘But we’re not looking at the larger development tonight we are simply looking at stage one, and the facilities that are required for that stage one. You might want to move into the future, but we’re looking at stage one, and it ticks all the boxes that needed to be ticked, our staff have recommended that the courts recommended it from everything else that was there.
An inappropriate development
Cr Eddie Lloyd said she believes it is an inappropriate development. ‘There are so many issues and I’m not going to go into all of them in terms of the environmental impact. While this development will only have one access road onto Dunoon road, once the larger North Lismore plateau development is established, there will be alternate routes out of the area that are not flood affected, so this decision seems to be contingent on the establishment of the rest of the plateau, to which we have not even been presented with that DA yet, so I think that it needs to be refused.
On that basis alone we should not be making a decision that is based on a DA that we haven’t got yet in terms of that very important flood issue and access road.
Cr Lloyd also said she is very connected with the community here on this topic and particularly the local Bundjalung people, the native title applicants for this piece of land. ‘It’s very, very sad to me that our white law has not quite caught up with or respected the intangible and spiritual connection that our local Bundjalung people have with this land, particularly at Slater’s Creek.
Surprised, but not
‘It also surprises me – well it doesn’t really surprise me actually – that we aren’t required to do a species impact statement to do with those threatened species, the White Eared Monarch bird and the Eastern, Long-eared bat. I cannot see how development and movement and construction and trucks and silt in the air is not going to impact those endangered and threatened species up on top of the plateau, and I would take a precautionary approach in the public interest, not to support this development, because I’m concerned about the impact of those threatened species.
Cr Lloyd also said that there was a need to look at the bigger picture and the development of the plateau into the future. ‘Just because this is about one section or one part of this larger proposed development, it doesn’t minimise the significant impact it’s going to have to the connection our Bundjalung people have with that particular part of the plateau, particularly Slater’s Creek and a long history and associated the stories in relation to that.
Ticking all the boxes
‘But, we’re told that it’s “okay because it ticks all of these technical white rules and procedures and law, so it’s all good to go through”. Well, I’m listening to the wider community and I’m listening to our Bundjalung people, and they do not want development up there. They do not want development down the bottom of the plateau, whatsoever, but it seems it’s okay because the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Department bureaucrats have raised no objections, so therefore we can just accept this and approve it.
‘Well, I don’t accept that. I don’t believe it’s in the public interest that we approve this development. I stand here on Widjabul Wia-bal Bundjalung Nation land and I stand beside them tonight. I am voting against this DA because I recognise that this land was never ceded and always was, and always will be Aborginal land.
During Public Access, Al Oshlack represented the local mob with the blessing of Uncle Mickey Ryan and other Widjabul Wia-bal people.
Free advice from a bush lawyer
‘I’m not going to go through all the stuff about the environment, and the Aboriginal heritage significance, I think we’re all on to what the argument is and where the conflict is, and I’m not going to go through all the financials – I’m going to give free advice as the last of the bush lawyers – by law, if I give you advice, I’m not allowed to charge for it. So here’s the free legal advice.
‘You can refuse the development, the consequence legally would be for you that Winten (Property Group) will most probably appeal in the Class 1 jurisdiction of the court, which is a Merit case, where the court becomes the consent authority, and the Aboriginal traditional owners, most probably Mickey Ryan or the North Lismore Plateau Protection Association, would make an application to join, and council will have to defend it. If they don’t defend it, then the Aboriginal Traditional Owners will defend it.
‘My advice to you is that maybe you should try and get a vote to have the application replaced onto exhibition. That means it doesn’t cost you anything legally, and then it would most probably be the point of law that would be raised, if you refuse it. It would most probably be a point of law if you say yes.
‘My reading of it is, you can just drive a truck through this stuff.’
After everyone had spoken Councillors voted. Councillors Morehouse, Bird, Marks, Cook, and Casson voted in favour of the DA, and those against were Councillors Guise, Ekins and Lloyd.
Cr Ekins declared it carried and said she would like to note the 10 years of hard work that staff have put in for this development and the Winten group, and the registered Aboriginal parties have put in. ‘This it’s really 10 years – it’s a huge body of work.’
After the vote Mr Oshlack spoke to The Echo. ‘Some Councillors, particularly some who have been parading as environmentalists, have revealed their real politics.’