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March 26, 2023

Byron Council’s involvement in large soil dump next to creek ‘noted’

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Dumped fill at 295 Pocket Road, The Pocket, Marshalls Creek. Photo supplied.

A senior Council staff member told councillors at last Thursday’s meeting that his employees didn’t follow the proper process when organising the removal of a large amount of soil for infrastructure works, which ended up later being dumped along Marshalls Creek in The Pocket.

Staff Director of Infrastructure Services, Phil Holloway, also told councillors that around 150 tonnes of fill, or 12 truckloads, were brought onto the creekbank, yet Council staff ‘had not been onsite to look at the location’.

After a lengthy debate, councillors resolved to ‘note’ the issue, which occurred last October, and came to light after residents’ concerns were raised.

As previously reported, pollution of sensitive riparian areas can incur large fines.

Councillors heard from staff that the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) and NSW EPA are now investigating.

During debate, Cr Duncan Dey proposed a motion to not only ‘note’ the soil dumping, but to seek legal advice through Council channels and relevant state government departments.

Council’s legal counsel, Ralph James, told councillors any external advice could cost up to $7,000, yet said that Council’s legal team ‘could do it’, but given workloads, it may have to be outsourced.

Landowner seeks DA

Shannon Burt, Director Sustainable Environment and Economy, told councillors that she understood the landowner had engaged a town planner in the hope of submitting a DA.

Cr Alan Hunter asked, given the dumping was not permissible in the zone, ‘why would the applicant apply for a DA?’

Ms Burt replied that under procedural fairness, ‘and as is their right’, the applicant can prepare and submit a DA. She added Council staff can’t pre-empt any opinion around the assessment outcome.

It was also established that the area was a ‘fill exclusion zone’, and Cr Lyon asked staff how many DAs has Council approved in exclusion zones. Staff replied that there were no numbers on hand, with Ms Burt adding it has not been ‘in my time’.

Cr Lyon also asked if there ‘was a valid reason for putting fill on an exclusion zone?’

A planning staff member replied, ‘The applicant would have to submit a flood study/report that says even though our flood studies say you shouldn’t fill there, that flood study backs up that you could put some fill there and it would have no impact’.

After more debate, Mayor Michael Lyon hosed down Cr Dey’s attempts for further investigation or advice over the issue, and was only supportive of ‘noting’ the fill.

He told the gallery while the issue was ‘ridiculous’, Cr Dey’s motion alluded to the fill being owned by Council, instead of it being disposed of by Council.

The motion

Cr Lyon’s adopted ‘noting’ of the large soil dump at 295 Pocket Road, The Pocket, recognises that ‘Council have unknowingly disposed of material which has ended up on the site’. 

‘A Stop Work Order was issued in November 2022’, after the fill was imported from October 2022.

‘A Restore Works Order was issued [to the landowner] on December 7, 2022, to restore the area back to its original condition by April 6, 2023’.

The motion also recognises that, ‘We are now in this region’s wet season, when floods are most likely and erosion of the material into Marshalls Creek is thus more likely than usual’.

Despite Cr Dey’s concern for the soil to potentially impact the creek in a wet season, the length of time afforded to the landowner to remediate the works is unchanged.

Cr Dey told the chamber there was contention between himself and staff over whether the fill had been removed. He says loose piles were removed but the larger pad of fill remains.

He said he was concerned that with such a long time to remove the fill, if it were to flood, the soil would wash into the creek.

Cr Coorey said, ‘Let’s hope it doesn’t rain’.

All were in favour of Cr Lyon’s amendment, except Crs Dey and Sarah Ndiaye, who voted against.

Cr Sama Balson was absent.

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  1. The dirty politicing of the left is why nobody is bothering to build more houses to rent. You guys would have a fit if you saw what we do out here. No permits required.


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