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Byron Shire
August 16, 2022

Goonellabah koalas win after rescission lost

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One of the contentious pieces of business at Tuesday’s Lismore Council meeting was the rescission motion moved by Councillors Steve Krieg, Andrew Bing and Andrew Gordon on Council’s June 23 decision to refuse the DA at 226 Invercauld Road, Eastwood Estate extension.

The motion to refuse the DA was moved by Councillors Guise and Cook on the grounds of the likely impacts of that development, including impacts on both the natural and built environment, and the suitability of the site.

Cr Andrew Gordon was the first to speak, stating that even though he’s a real estate agent he will take no part in any of the land sales. ‘My life as a real estate agent is rapidly coming to an end. I’m reaching retirement age and I’m happy to pass over to the next generation, but until I do, we’re not involved with any of the sales from that development should it be approved.

‘I am saying that I have a non-pecuniary and non-significant interest in any of those matters before council tonight.’

Public Access

Public access was lively including an appearance from a giant koala.

Speakers from the community against the rescission were Lib Ruytenberg, Allison Kelly, Wendy Bithell. Ina Egermann, Sean O’Shannessy; Al Oshlack and Widjabul Wia-bal woman Cindy Roberts, and Burribi the marsupial mammal.

Ms Ruytenberg wanted to remind Council that Australia has the highest rate in the world for extinction of mammals. ‘The biodiversity development assessment report in the DA is of particular interest. It outlines the impact not just to koalas, but to many other threatened species – the grey-headed flying fox and then about another six or seven micro-bat species.

‘The vegetation removal proposed for this development will impede significantly on the connectivity between other high conservation value corridors,’ she said.

‘It’s understandable that Council is under pressure to come up with housing to replace that lost in the floods. However, this should not be at the cost of our precious environment which is already under threat. It is possible to have a win-win situation for housing and the environment.’

Hoping to convince Council

Allison Kelly from Friends of the Koala said she was hoping to convince Council to vote against the rescission motion and stick with the decision made in June. ‘I am hoping you have done your research and homework and now know that every qualified tree counts. I’m also hoping you understand that what’s left of our green corridors needs to be strengthened. I want to state for the record that Friends of the Koala is not against development, just the ones that ignore your own ecological ecologist and involve tree and habitat removal that will impact koala territories and breeding corridors.’

Wendy Bithell from Vision Walks Eco Tours said she has been taking people to see the koala colony near Friends of the Koala for the past 14 years. ’In that time, I have actually witnessed a considerable decrease in the number of koalas there. The development on Invercauld  Road is part of the home range of those koalas. We really don’t understand totally how koala colonies work. But I have witnessed on other properties in Lismore LGA, where I go and take people to see koalas wild koalas that it can just be one small thing can actually make correct a colony collapse. And I don’t think any of us want to sit here and and look at our colony collapse.’

Ina Egermann said she was hoping to reason with Council about this matter. ‘Many have voiced their opinion as to why this development shouldn’t go ahead. All of them are right. What else can be said to convince you to not make the big mistake and allow this to go ahead? It has become quite obvious to me that the developer is trying to put pressure on this council. You don’t have to bow to that.’

Sean O’Shannessy from the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) wanted Council to know that endangering the environment was not a good look, and Al Oshlack reminded Council that in the Bible it was Jesus who said ‘render to Caesar what Caesar’s and render to God is what’s God’s.

‘So those koalas are basically gods.’

Speakng from the heart

Cindy Roberts said the story began back in February 2021 with the development of the DA with McCloy [McCloy Group – who own Eastwood Living]. ‘Now, I don’t think it’s right for Lismore City Council to have any dealings with anybody that has [allegedly] committed corruption in the past within Newcastle. So why should our community be having any dealings to do with anybody that has [allegedly] committed a crime in the past, and was under ICAC, and yet they’re in our community knocking on our back door?

‘We have had several assessments done in that area and there is also cultural heritage that was disregarded and ignored, as we know. Vanessa [Ekins], she was there through the process. She knows what we went through in the dealing with this DA from the beginning, stage four, up until this got brought to my attention recently.

‘I understand that there’s a shortage of housing in this community. I’m aware, we’re all aware, of the impact of the flood and that housing is an issue. But we have to come to a place where we adapt to the environment of our animals. We can’t continue to desecrate and destroy any more of our country, our cultural heritage, because what we’ve got remaining needs to stay – because it’s all we’ve got left.’

Ms Roberts continued. ‘We talk about the last remaining corridors of our environment, our wildlife, our natural trees, our old growth, everything – it’s all under threat because of us! Everything is under threat because of us, and we have a duty of care as First Nations people that we have to protect the environment.

Serving the creator and ancestors

‘I don’t live and work for men. I serve the creator and my ancestors. I have a responsibility as a First Nations woman to look after my country as a Widjabul Wia-bal, original custodian – our animals, the water, the trees, the people – we are first.

‘It is my responsibility as a First Nations woman that we continue to protect our natural environment. Someone said “koalas, the animals, they can’t speak”. We are their voices. We speak for them. We speak for the trees, we speak for the waters, and we speak for one another.

‘This council should not be having any dealings with a developer that resigned from Newcastle for corruption* That says a lot about our council. Was there any deals done under the table? Hell knows, we don’t know. But we should not be doing anything with anybody that’s done anything wrong in the past and we’re quite aware of it.

‘It’s wrong. We don’t give a damn about their money. We care about our community. We care about our animals, our environment.

‘If you want to be in the city then, you go and live in the city, but leave the city in the city and leave the country in the country.

‘We can find another way for housing in this community. I don’t know how but we can work with the environment and they need to learn to adapt to the environment that’s remaining in this community.

‘The Burribi is a sacred animal unto my people. So are many other animals of this country – and we have a responsibility to look after our country to look after the animals to look after the environment and look after the trees.

‘They are all a part of the circle of life. We are in that circle also as human beings.

‘I didn’t come here with anything fancy. I haven’t got anything written down. I just come to speak from the heart because we have a responsibility as human beings to look after what God created, for our creator.

‘We all have a responsibility to look after what’s remaining.’

What have I gotten myself into?

Adrian Zakaras, on behalf of consulting surveyors and planners Newton Denny Chapelle, spoke for the rescission. ‘I wasn’t aware of what I was getting myself into at 9.30 this morning when I agreed to this. But I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of the applicant who is unable to attend.

‘I am speaking in support of the decision to rescind the refusal of developer application, and speak in support of a motion that the DA be approved based on the revised lot layout presented to council.

‘Since the last council meeting, the subdivision layout has been revised, we’ve relocate the stormwater basin out of the C3 zone land and shifted the perimeter road to further avoid removal of koala food trees within C3 zone land.’

Mr Zakaras was clearly uncomfortable reading his comments. Unfortunately much of his speech was too fast to understand, even after members of the gallery asked him to slow down.

‘Council’s ecologist comments in the report to the June 14 Council meeting states that the removal of trees within the R1 residential zones are appropriately offset, however they maintained concern with the vegetation clearing within the C3 zone. The applicant has taken these comments on board and revised the design accordingly.’

Mr Zakaras said the applicant has presented the revised layout to council’s ecologist who now supports the development application in the revised form. ‘The previous proposal did propose to removed 32 koala feed in the C3 zone land, and now proposes to remove only four. Under the revised layout the applicant still proposes to maintain the same offset planting of 1,700 trees and plants including 230 koala feed trees.

‘The proposal remains consistent with all relevant planning legislation and has the support of all council’s officers, now including council’s ecologist.

‘Other matters raised in this chamber previously, such as engineering, traffic, cultural heratage have been addressed during the assessment of the DA.

Rescission motion lost

After a lot of debate with Cr Gordon speaking for the rescission, Crs Rob and Colby making comments and Crs Cook, Ekins and Guise speaking against, the mayor asked for a vote. All those in favour of the rescission motion were Councillors Gordon, Bing and Krieg. All opposed were Councillors Colby, Hall, Ekins, Cook, Jensen, Rob and Guise.

The koalas in the area remain safe, for now.

*In August 2014, Newcastle Mayor Jeff McCloy said he would resign from the position. At the time he said he had made the decision because ongoing controversy over his appearance before the Independent Commission Against Corruption “may effect the proper functioning’’ of Newcastle council.

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  1. Well reported, Eve, from one who had missed this one earlier.

    There’s going to be a lot more pressure for inappropriate development in the aftermath of the floods, needing sharp eyes, warm hearts and thoughtful planning – by community panels, not appointed (or even elected) autocrats.

  2. Great coverage Eve, I’m sure that everyone who spoke and those watching this farce of a rescission motion thank you for shining the light clearly and so comprehensively on it. Crs Gordon, Krieg and Bing should be watched closely from now on, they are obviously doing the lobbying for this questionable developer. Those councillors voting against it have for now restored my faith in local democracy, well done. There are many areas available for housing around Lismore which do not impact so greatly on koala habitat. This was another of McCloy’s easy-big-money schemes, not that he needs it.

  3. Luis – just give me ONE suitable development area that does ‘not impact so greatly on koala habitat” – or indeed aboriginal land-claims ?
    Safe shelter is a priority for many mega-flood affected residents – as it is to us all.
    Surely compromise over this has to happen somewhere along the process.
    But then ‘compromise” and Greens never shall meet [so far apparently.] It always has to be perfect – or no dice.
    Are these factors stopping new development more important than the health and well-being of our community?

  4. “Council is under pressure to come up with housing to replace that lost in the floods. ” doubly so after some fools suggest giving away a large area of council (rate payer ) owned flood-free real-estate. The giant Koala was speechless to hear that the developers are less than moral ( no great surprise ), Probably just biding his time, because as Al Oshlack, quoting the bible argues “So those koalas are basically gods.”
    If only that were true, we might not be witnessing their inexorable collapse into extinction, at the hands of our greed !
    Even Ms Roberts confesses to culpability ” it’s all under threat because of us!” The effects of overpopulation and CO2 pollution are obvious , Yet still we allow even more immigration, coal mines and gas drilling .
    Perhaps this is where we need to be, to realise we must reverse this madness and save ourselves and what is left of this once thriving ecosystem.
    Ever hopeful, G”)


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