The Land and Environment Court (L&EC) conciliation meeting between Iron Gates developers at Evans Head and the Richmond Valley Council (RVC) that took place on Monday failed according to the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc (EHRSD). A L&EC directions hearing has now been scheduled for Sydney on Monday.
‘Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc learned late yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, 8 March, 2023) that the Section 34 Conciliation process for the Iron Gates had failed and that the challenge from the developer Goldcoral Pty Ltd was now proceeding to the L&EC. So far there has been no statement issued by the L&EC Commissioner indicating why the conciliation was terminated,’ Dr Richard Gates, the spokesperson for EHRSD told The Echo.
It is understood that a directions hearing has been scheduled for Monday morning, 13 March, in Sydney at 10:45am. This will be confirmed late Friday afternoon as it can be subject to change.
The public were excluded from several sections of the conciliation meeting on Monday but it is understood that they will be able to connect online to listen to the directions hearing.
‘I am not surprised the conciliation process has failed because the case against the development application (DA) is so compelling,’ said Dr Gates.
‘The two independent reports provided to the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP), which heard the case for the DA last August, left nothing to the imagination in their rejection of the DA. This was a “slam dunk” “No” backed up by other independent reports in the same vein provided to the NRPP including those of the public.
RVC should seek costs from developer
Dr Gates has asked RVC lawyers to ask for costs against the developer should the developer lose. This is in the absence of being able to request a surety upfront from the developer as happened with other cases involving Mr Ingles and the Iron Gates development previously in the Queensland Supreme Court.
‘This developer has cost us dearly with figures around a million dollars years ago. It is no doubt much larger now and will expand dramatically as L&EC cases do not come cheaply.
‘We should not be bearing the costs of his challenge. He had ample opportunity over the eight years of the application to make his case but clearly failed to do so in spite of continuing advice.’
Dr Gates said he was told that it is ‘presumed’ that each side in the case will bear their own costs but had found that there were provisions to seek costs after the case was concluded.
Developer says GM asked him to submit DA
At last year’s NRPP hearing, where the DA was refused on multiple grounds, the Iron Gates developer Graham Ingles claimed that former RVC general manager John Walker had invited him to make the development application for the Iron Gates in 2014 because of a shortage of land at Evans Head for residential development.
Dr Gates said the EHRSD group was ‘interested to see what might come of the claim’.
‘In light of that alleged invitation, it is not unreasonable to speculate that Mr Ingles might have had some expectation that his DA might receive a sympathetic hearing. It would appear that there was an underestimation of the community’s resolve against this development in such a fire and flood-prone location with a critical Aboriginal cultural history and long sustained period of community rejection extending back thirty years.’
Withdraw the DA
‘The best thing which could happen now is for the Ingles group to withdraw its case, for council to rezone the land to a more appropriate zone in keeping with its character and for the land to be removed once and for all from future residential development so that people are not put in harm’s way,’ Dr Gates told The Echo.
‘Richmond Valley Council is in the process of completing its Growth Strategy and is ideally placed to bring this change particularly given the community’s overwhelming view against residential development at the Iron Gates site.’