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October 4, 2022

Evans Head, Iron Gates DA public planning meeting coming

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Road area in the ‘old’ Iron Gates estate in flood after rain, a common occurrence. Photo suppplied

The current development application (DA) for the flood and bushfire-prone site of the Evans Head, Iron Gates development will go before the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) on 30 August. The meeting is open to the public and speakers can register to put forward their concerns or support of the DA. 

One of the Evans Head, Iron Gates drains yet to be filled despite Court Orders from 1997. Photo supplied

The current DA has been with the Richmond Valley Council (RVC) since 2104, however, the site has been subject to DAs and community opposition since the 1990s with an approved DA being removed in 1997 by the Land and Environment Court (L&EC). The approval was removed as a result of illegal clearing by the developer and two million dollars of remediation work was required by the L&EC; this work still remains to be done. 

Multiple refusals

The current DA has been subject to an independent review by independent town planning consultant Malcolm Scott who recommended refusal. This assessment was then the subject of an independent peer review assessment by Kim Johnston of KJ Planning, a review commissioned by the Department of Planning and Environment on behalf of the NRPP. That assessment also recommended refusal as have The Government Architect NSW (GANSW). Both independent reviews ​​made clear that the addition of conditions of consent to the development will not rescue it from refusal. These documents are available on the NSW government’s planning portal along with other documents relating to the matter.

Two public sessions

There will be two public sessions will take place for the public to comment on the DA at 11am and 1.30pm at the Evans Head RSL Club. Those who made prior submissions for or against the Iron Gates DA have been invited to address the NRPP. Bookings need to be made with the Panel Secretariat with individuals given three minutes and bona fides groups ten minutes to speak. The developer will be given 15 minutes. Those who wish to attend but not speak are also required to register by 4pm Thursday, 25 August on (02) 8217 2060 or email [email protected].

Protest at the time Iron Gates Drive was being bulldozed through Crown Land circa 1991, 30 years ago. Photo supplied

Developer responds

​​The developer Goldcoral Pty Ltd responded to the assessments on 1 August to the recommended reasons for refusal contained in the independent town planning assessment prepared by planner Malcolm Scott. The respondent rejects the reasons for refusal describing many of them as ‘baseless and unsubstantiated’.

Dr Richard Gates, spokesperson for Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development said today, ‘the response made by DAC Planning Pty Ltd for Goldcoral to the independent Scott Report was very brief. 31 pages of the 45 page response were appendices with the DAC critique covering only 14 pages of text compared with the 209 pages of the Scott Report with additional attachments taking it to 314, and the KJ Planning Report covering 154 pages with 62 pages of attachments taking it to 216.’

‘We were a little surprised at the lack of detail in the criticism of the Scott review by the developer, reliance on various State government strategic regional plans to justify the development and the argument that in the view of the developer “it would be in the public interest to approve the Development Application” because “The subject land has been zoned for residential development for in excess of 30 years”. 

‘There is no doubt the Iron Gates land has appeared in a number of regional strategies despite community opposition and a hefty legal bill for ratepayers and many requests for rezoning including at least four from National Parks because of its biological importance. 

‘However, it was zoned for residential development during the ‘white shoe brigade’ era back in the early eighties, an era that clearly does not reflect current community values and the importance of this site to future generations,’ said Dr Gates.

Flooding on the Iron Gates site, where building and infrastructure will be. And they say it doesn’t flood! Photo supplied

Developing flood-prone land

‘There is no disputing that the land is both flood and fire prone and given the State government’s commitment in its own draft strategic plan for 2041 to avoid future development in such risky areas it would seem appropriate for the developer to have addressed those important issues thoroughly before embracing these state strategies as the justification for the site to be developed. The independent reviewers certainly undertook an exacting analysis to demonstrate there were serious problems and that the DA had failed to address them.’

Dr Gates also highlighted the risks associated with the ‘infinite growth model’ and that the limitations of a constrained environment that we are seeign with the recent unprecedented floods and fires. 

‘It is very clear we live in a finite world with limited resources and with the environment’s ability to keep producing environmental services such as clean water stretched well beyond its current capacity let alone to have to cope with the demands of a larger population,’ Dr Gates said. 

‘You only have to look at the parlous state of the Richmond River pre-flood and now Evans River post-flood to appreciate how we have flogged the local environment and left no capacity or room to manoeuvre should things go wrong. There is already a study from 2001 showing we are beyond the carrying capacity of the land in the Northern Rivers.

‘​​No justification is provided by the developer or government as to how the proposed residential development will lessen the burden on the environment so that it is in good or better shape for future generations. This is an obligation we have under the principles of ecological sustainable development enshrined in so much of our legislation including the local government act NSW and EP&A act. Instead, we keep being told that we need to find the right balance between compromise of the environment and growth with no one appreciating that the only losers ultimately are the environment and therefore us. 

‘We need to stop the dishonest narrative of “jobs n growth” and perform a reality check on where we are really at and is the public interest being served by the proposed Iron Gates development. The evidence would suggest otherwise. We need to make sure there is a good turnout for the NPP determination on 30 August so that they hear clearly the community’s wish,’ he told The Echo. 

Evans Head residents objecting to the Iron Gates development. Photo supplied

7-day deliberation

It is unlikely that the NRPP will hand down a decision on 30 August but they have said they ‘will aim to publish its decision on the Planning website within seven days of the meeting’.

Dr Gates criticized the RVC handling of the DA saying that ‘up-to-date public information has not been one of RVC’s strengths when it comes to the Iron Gates. For example information about the history of the DA through Council’s DA Tracker for the development shows the latest entry as 19 September 2019 and a re-advertisement notice ‘..due to an omission within the previous exhibition notices to cite Water NSW as a relevant approval body under the Water Management Act 2000’, in February of this year. There may be an explanation for this problem but it is a source of frustration to many when searching Council’s website to try and discover what’s happening currently.’

The Determination of  PPS-2014NTH020 – Richmond Valley – DA 2015.096 – 240 Iron Gates Rd Evans Head will consider ‘Concept and Stage 1 Integrated Development Application for subdivision of land to create 147 lots being: 135 residential lots, 4 public reserve lots, 1 sewer pump station lot, 1 drainage reserve lot, 3 super lots, 1 residue lot, and 2 rainforest lots; embellishment of the proposed public reserves adjacent to the Evans River, upgrading of Iron Gates Drive, including vegetation clearing work; Subdivision works for Stages 1 and 2 including, but not limited to: clearing and earthworks, roadworks and drainage, sewer and water supply and electricity and communications’.

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