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Byron Shire
March 29, 2023

Iron Gates development in administration but still taking Council to court

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Iron Gates property from the air showing Evans River in the background, and extensive wetlands, cleared land and regrowth of the Iron Gates. The bright green in the upper left with dug drain running along the left side is part of the original development of the 1990s which is under Court Orders for remediation. Foreground shows extensive wetland country. Photo supplied

Goldcoral Pty Ltd the most recent development company behind the controversial Iron Gates development at Evans Head went into administration last week and has now changed law firms representing them.

Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development (EHSD) told The Echo that they had learned that law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth is now acting for the Administrator / Goldcoral Pty Ltd. The law firm, Mills Oakley, previously represented developer Graeme Ingles in legal proceedings including in the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) Hearings late last year where Ingles development application was refused the development application (DA) for the flood- and fire-prone land near Evans Head.

Evans River is currently in ‘poor’ health and locals are concerned that the proposed Iron Gates development will push the river into further decline. Image supplied.

Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development spokesperson Dr Richard Gates said today it is not clear why there has been a change of law firm in the middle of the Land & Environment Court (L&EC) appeal by Goldcoral against the decision of the NRPP but that there could be many reasons for the change. 

NO Iron Gates pop-up display.

‘What we don’t know is whether the former law firm withdrew its services or the developer made a decision to withdraw or the administrator for Goldcoral Pty Ltd recommended the change to a new firm to accommodate problems and management issues associated with its administration. There are a number of other possibilities but the change is none-the-less intriguing for those of us who have been involved with this case for so many years. The current development application is more than eight years old and has been through a number of variations that have consumed a great deal of community time. There is wide opposition to the development and has been since the 1980’s,’ he said.

‘Certainly, there are questions about the law firm change which might be put to the developer along with questions about why Goldcoral Pty  Ltd has gone into administration and what this means for the status of the Iron Gates property.  We know that the Iron Gates property was put up for sale last year not long after the DA was refused but we do not know what the status of the property is now.  Is there a prospective sale in the wind that is contingent on a successful resolution of the case in the L&EC , and/or has the pending legal matter affected a potential sale?’

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

Appeal going ahead

Despite the fact that the company has gone into administration they are going ahead with the appeal to the L&EC. The new legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth had sought and extension to ‘come up to speed’ with the case but this was refused as the L&EC Conciliation meeting is due to take place on 6 March.

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

21 Orders outstanding

Dr Gates said ‘the Iron Gates case is a very complex one with a controversial history extending back to the 1980’s. There are unresolved issues such as the 21 Orders of the L& EC in 1997 for remediation of the site which are still outstanding and which beg questions of how a new development application can arise when these issues remain unresolved? The community is hard-pressed to understand how local government can accept a new DA in these circumstances.

Cash bond sought

Dr Gates said today that ‘EHSD had requested that the developer, through the LEC, be required to put up a cash bond or surety so that if the Goldcoral appeal failed, the legal costs of Richmond Valley Council and others would be paid.

‘It is only fair that the developer meet these costs as he was bringing an appeal against a comprehensive refusal of his DA. Such sureties were obtained in other cases brought by Mr Ingles in the Queensland Supreme Court in 2006,’ said Dr Gates.

‘Sustainable Development has since learned that it is “presumed” in the L&EC that each side or sides will pay their own costs although there are provisions in the Practice Notes of the Court for a “cost order” through a filed notice of motion within 28 days of the making of the final orders in a court determination regarding an appeal.’

Simone Barker (nee Wilson), daughter of the late Lawrence Wilson who opposed the development back in the 1990s accompanied by supporter Jaydn.

Cost to ratepayers

Dr Gates said that in his view ‘this was an unsatisfactory arrangement and ratepayers could be left to pay the bill once again if the applicant, the development company Goldcoral, was put into liquidation. The community has had enough.’

The argument for a cash bond from Goldcoral was put to the law firm representing Richmond Valley Council in the L&EC case.

‘I pointed out not only prior history but also the fact that according to various formal social indexes such as the SEIFA indexes, the Richmond Valley Council local government area was at significant socioeconomic disadvantage compared with many other council areas in NSW where is stood eighth from the bottom out of 130. We can ill afford to continue to pay large legal bills because of this disadvantage and particularly because we did not generate the need for legal challenge.’

The L&EC Court Conciliation meeting with a LEC Commissioner is to be held at Evans Head on 9 March as scheduled by the Court. 

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