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May 18, 2022

Bungawalbin primitive bush camp: death by a thousand cuts

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Aerial view of part of the bush camp site during flood where the Bungawalbin Creek overtops and joins all the wetlands together. Photo supplied

Richmond Valley Council is currently considering a Development Application (DA 2021/0289) for a ‘Community Facilities – Primitive camp ground providing fourteen (14) camping sites and associated works’ on Lots 4 and 5 DP 806270, 750 Bungawalbin Whiporie Road, Bungawalbin 2469 (near Coraki). The initial application from the proponent, Mr Ian McCotter, was rejected by Richmond Valley Council (RVC) but he subsequently commissioned Ardill Payne and Partners to make an application on his behalf, lodged on 18 May 2021, which was then accepted by Council. 

The two-week opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal has long since passed – the closing date was 16 June 2021. A number of submissions against the proposal have been lodged but it is unknown if there are any submissions in favour of the proposal. 

Bungawalbin Creek. Property seeking approval for camping development on left of picture. Photo supplied

Council requested additional information (nature of request unknown) from the proponent on 21 July 2021 and a response was received on 18 October 2021. Council staff are considering the matter at present and it is not clear when a decision will be made, but it is to be noted that a number of agencies are involved in the determination process including the Rural Fire Service because the camping ground is in a high bushfire risk area. 

This DA was brought to the attention of the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc (EHRSD) committee by a number of parties including a former RVC councillor, environmental specialists, and informed locals who had serious concerns about the nature of the development and the potential precedent it would set for the Richmond Valley Council local government area. 

Flooding is so severe and stream speed during flooding so strong (up to 35km/h) that it has washed away part of the flood levee since it was repaired by Rous County Council. All three campsites proposed for the area are on the flooding side of the levee, as are toilets. Photo supplied

This area is well known to EHRSD. This proposed development is smack-bang in the middle of an area of Wetlands of National Significance, an area rich in biological diversity second only to the rainforests of Northern Queensland. As well as being in a high bushfire risk area, it is also subject to major flooding. This is reflected in the recent fire history of the area. 

Bungawalbin Creek, which forms one of its boundaries, is the subject of a Native Title Determination in 2013 (Bandjalang People #2) and Yarringully Nature Reserve is one of its immediate neighbours. We are unaware of any discussion with the native title holders about this proposal. In fact, we have been unable to find any mention of native title over the Bungawalbin Creek in the DA. Given potential use of the creek by those camping at the site for water sports, including jet ski and water skiing, you would have thought it essential to have had discussions about any effects on the Cultural Landscape and related biological values. 

Picture from proponent’s website showing use of one of the wetlands. ‘Such use will degrade the wetland badly’ says Dr Richard Gates.

This development application has many problems, not the least of which is the proposed management of the site. There will be no manager on site, and therefore no-one to deal with compliance issues – which up to 70 people will surely bring, and which inevitably arise with unregulated sites.

Further, dogs and cats are permitted on this sensitive site, a policy anathema to wildlife conservation species protection. 

♦ Dr Richard Gates is a member of the committee of Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc.

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  1. It could be done in an environmentally sustainable way, but the DA does not reflect that or address safety concerns for the patrons or the wildlife – fauna and flora. A little rain and those access tracks are not suitable for caravans. The council road is insufficient – large vehicles passing have to pull off the road.

    • Deborah,
      If what you say is true then Council will have to reject the DA. Would that not be correct or Council would be immoral to the people who elected them?
      Ratepeyers did not elect a Council to do immoral things.

  2. This will be a tragic loss of wetlands, and who is going to control the wash of our creeks banks if a heap of them start bringing speedboat, not to mention where any sewerage is going to go in flood times and then there is the rubbish that humans can’t seem to help leaving behind especially if there is no manager on site to monitor. Very sad for those of us down stream from there but even sadder for the loss of wildlife and eco system balance for the whole area. Some people may not realise but 14 campsites is not just 14 caravans or 14 tents. There are multiples of sights within each site!!! That could mean a huge influx of people. I’ve seen many comments on this page lately about the impact of rage parties in the area, well people, wake up, this development has the potential of having the same affect on our environment each and every day and if this gets approval, there is nothing we can do about it. Time to talk to our local council members. The more comments they here, the more they will be likely to do something.

    • Neralie,
      If there is sewerage going to go into the Creek then we would not want to wash our hands of this development application.

  3. I have just received verbal confirmation from Richmond Valley Council this DA has been approved with conditions. Disappointingly, many people believed ‘there is no way it can be approved’, so did not feel the need to speak up.


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