The refusal of the development application (DA) for the Iron Gates development in August this year led the developer to appeal the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) decision in the Land and Environment Court (L&EC). Yet, after close to 30 years of trying to develop the site, having company liquidations and the failure to do L&EC ordered remediations Graeme Ingles, under his company Goldcoral Pty Ltd, have now put the site up for sale.
The controversial DA which is on flood-prone and high-fire risk land, was refused by the NRPP on 30 August, 2022 following two independent planning assessments, one from Richmond Valley Council and one from NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DOPE) that both recommended refusal. The NRPP cited a number of substantial grounds for the DA’s refusal following the public hearing at Evans Head including inter alia design problems, cultural and biological importance, and bushfire and flood risk.
The developer quickly launched an appeal that commenced with LEC Registrar S Froh on 25 October 2022 with a Notice of Motion and Directions Hearing held in Court 1A in the LEC Court in Sydney (Case No. 2022/00279591). Mr Gadiel appeared for the developer Goldcoral Pty Lty and Ms Rose for Richmond Valley Council although Ms Rose made it clear that she took instruction from the NRPP.
$2m remediation still not done
Mr Al Oshlack was granted leave by the L&EC Registrar to join the case on behalf of Simone Barker (nee Wilson), daughter of the late Lawrence Wilson who opposed the development back in the 1990s, but was not granted permission to access Court documents pertinent to the case.
Uncle Laurie prepared many successful Native Title Claims for the Bundjalung Nation and the Bandjalang People. Simone is regarded as a Traditional Knowledge Holder and has actively campaigned against the Iron Gates development. She gave evidence at the NRPP hearing at Evans Head where the DA was refused.
Mr Oshlack fought successfully against the Iron Gates development in the 1990’s with the matter making its way to the High Court of Australia. It was that case that removed the existing DA and ordered over $2m of remediation works at the site which have never been done.
Documents pertaining to the case which would tell the public what the grounds for Appeal are were NOT available to the public but it would appear that the case is a Class 1 Appeal under the LAND AND ENVIRONMENT COURT ACT 1979 – SECT 34 where the Court may impose a Conciliation process to try and bring resolution to the matter(s) in dispute.
L&EC site inspection
A site inspection by the L&EC has now been set for 6 March, 2023 with further deliberations on the matter to be held at the Casino Council Chambers of Richmond Valley Council. Mr Gadiel on behalf of Goldcoral Pty Ltd sought an earlier date but no dates were available.
The site is of high cultural significance to Bandjalang People of the Bundjalung Nation the development site was bounded to the north and east by Crown Land the subject of a successful Native Title Application in April 2021 (Bandjalang Claim #3). The cultural and ecological significance of the site has led the National Parks to seek the purchase and inclusion of the site in NP multiple times, but the state government has refused to look at that solution far.
Flood Inquiry commitments
The fact that the land is low-lying and flood-prone also raises the question in relation to NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s commitment to the recommendations of the NSW Flood Inquiry that included ‘A commitment that development in future areas will not be subject to flooding’.
Land for sale
Subsequent to Tuesday’s L&EC deliberations Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc (EHRSDI) learned that the Iron Gates land, which is currently the subject of the DA Court appeal, is for sale along with a large tract of adjacent land controlled by Mr Ingles. The land area for the two blocks is 100.1ha.
The advertisement for sale pitches the site as being ‘One of the last remaining large scale residential development sites in the Evans Head township and northern NSW coastal region… [with] Additional development options including eco-village etc on the balance 80Ha of the property… [and] Road access via Iron Gates Drive already constructed providing convenient access to the township and beaches of Evans Heads’.
Dr Gates spokesperson for EHRSDI said today that it was rather curious that the land subject to the DA L&EC Appeal plus the adjacent land should be for sale.
‘No mention is made of the NRPP decision or the L&EC Appeal in the Land Sale Advertisement but we assume that any serious buyer would make necessary enquiries as part of due diligence that is a normal part of any land purchase,’ said Dr Gates.
‘The 80ha portion of the property was also the subject of some clearing eight years ago.’
Dr Gates said that while there is much speculation in the community about the Iron Gates land sale and unresolved issues about land clearing and remediation orders from the L&EC going back to 1997 for a portion of it, his committee was not prepared to comment at this stage about the sale, particularly with matters before the L&EC.
However, he did note that requests for rezoning by the community to Richmond Valley Council to more appropriate ‘ecologically-sensitive’ zonings more than ten years ago might have prevented much of the cost to ratepayers and a better outcome for the community. The Iron Gates remediation orders are now a quarter of a century old and attempts to develop the site much older than that.