The Iron Gates development, that is on flood- and fire-prone land near Evans Head, has been fought by the community for over 30 years. The current company that owns the site, Goldcoral Pty Ltd whose director is Graeme Ingles, has now been placed into administration according to a letter seen by The Echo.
‘This is “déjà vu all over again” to quote famous baseball player Yogi Berra. We have been here before with this developer but in this case it is “administration” rather than “liquidation” although liquidation could be the ultimate outcome,’ said Dr Richard Gates Executive Member of the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc.
‘In administration there is an attempt to try to save the business or sell it to try to repay its debts to the benefit of creditors whereas in liquidation a company is usually wound up to pay creditors. It is also a way of dealing with the problem of trading while a company is insolvent, that is can’t pay its debts but continues to trade. Various penalties and legal sanctions apply.’
Al Oshlack, researcher and advocate with the Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network who successfully stopped the Iron Gates development in the 1990’s said:
‘As far as I’m concerned this charade over the Iron Gates development shows the director of Goldcoral has no sense of propriety and total disregard of the community.
‘This developer has defied Court orders to remediate his [$2M] illegal work then had the gall to set up a new company [Goldcoral] to try and get it reapproved.
‘For over 30 years, millions of dollars have been squandered in defending the environment and cultural heritage from rapacious greed and arrogance,’ Mr Oshlack told The Echo.
Dr Gates told The Echo, ‘The community will remember that the same developer put Iron Gates Pty Ltd into liquidation more than 20 years ago. 21 Remediation Orders through the Land and Environment Court (1997) were not carried out. An outstanding fine to the EPA remained unpaid. There may have been other unpaid debts. The “in liquidation” status continued for many years before Iron Gates Pty Ltd. was wound up.’
‘Putting the company into liquidation at the time was seen by the community as a way of avoiding responsibility for the debt and for having to undertake remediation work. This left a bad taste in the community particularly when it became clear that the cost to Council, and therefore the community, for legal matters was around a million dollars and remediation work was not done. And this bad taste was compounded by the fact that Iron Gates Pty Ltd [in liquidation] and Graeme Ingles [the developer] continued with legal action in 2006 against 11 defendants: RICHMOND RIVER SHIRE COUNCIL (first defendant), WALKER NEWTON PTY LTD, LINDSAY WALKER, DAVID ARDILL & ASSOCIATES PTY LTD, DAVID ARDILL, WP BROWN & PARTNERS PTY LTD, GARY D SPENCE, KEILAR FOX & MCGHIE PTY LTD, PAUL RING, IRON GATES DEVELOPMENTS PTY LTD and HERBERT PATRICK MCCORMACK.
‘For members of the community it begged the question: ‘how can a company continue to take others to Court when it is in liquidation and allegedly has no money?’ This continued to add to the cost burden to ratepayers.
‘The current matter before the Land & Environment Court (L&EC) through Goldcoral Pty Ltd has been on foot now as a development application for more than eight years and continues to incur legal and consultancy costs to the community in addition to the enormous costs of council and government staff time. Consultants were hired by both Richmond Valley Council and the State government to provide independent reports about the development application. Both reports roundly rejected the Ingles proposal,’ said Dr Gates.
‘The NRPP refused the DA. Substantial sitting fees are paid to the planning panel. All of this would have cost the community a lot of money. It is hard to understand why the matter has gone to the L&EC with such an overwhelming refusal of the DA?’
Mr Oshlack agreed saying that, ‘The latest performance of commencing an appeal against the Northern Regioanl Planning Panel (NRPP) refusal of the latest proposed Iron Gates is all part of the developers playbook. Unmeritorious environmentally damaging development is exposed. Liquidate the company, abandon the field, leave town owing huge amount of debts.
What has it cost the community and ratepayers?
‘It is time for a full accounting to the public for what this developer has cost us,’ said Dr Gates.
‘But more than that it is time for there to be an investigation of all the processes surrounding development at the Iron Gates including investigation of the question “to what extent do the activities reflect a ‘phoenix activity’, that is an activity ‘…when a company is liquidated, wound up or abandoned to avoid paying its debts. A new company is then started to continue the same business activities without the debt. Phoenixing causes significant harm to the community’?”.
‘This current proposal has been ongoing for nearly ten years putting the community and council under a lot of angst and financial pressure,’ said Mr Oshlack. ‘It is time for the government to step up and stop this bullshit once and for all and incorporate the Iron Gates site into the Bundjalung National Park.’
A great piece Aslan.
Let’s hope we can get this development off the agenda once & for all. We keep fighting but it’s exhausting!