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.
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.
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.
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.