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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Ballina Council legal advice over alleged unauthorised land clearing kept secret

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This photo is of authorised land clearing on Ewsingsdale land for the Harvest Estate project, which is owned by Tower Holdings – there is no photo available of the undisclosed exact location of unauthorised land clearing  referred to in the May 2023 Ballina Shire Council meeting agenda
Photo Jeff ‘Big Digger’ Dawson.

The Ballina Shire Council has kept secret details of legal action it may be taking against a developer over alleged unauthorised land clearing at Lennox Head.

A relatively small staff agenda item for last month’s ordinary council meeting included reference to ‘legal implications’ associated with ‘vegetation clearing works’ in an Elevation Estate property in Lennox Head.

But the legal implications, staff said, were the subject of a confidential report.

Councillors moved into confidential session accordingly last month without objection.

They also agreed unanimously to simply note the confidential staff report as per the staff recommendation, with no matters arising publicly raised.

Staff had said in agenda item notes the matter wasn’t ‘of a type that is subject to community engagement under Council’s Community Consultation Policy or Community Participation Plan’.

The same notes also showed council staff had tried to have the owner ‘remedy the unauthorised vegetation clearing’ but attempts had been ‘unsuccessful to date’.

No development applications received for clearing, staff say

Staff noted the council had granted several development consents for the estate’s staged subdivision, including construction and revegetation works on land now referred to as the Elevation Estate at Lennox Head.

Staff said the council became aware of vegetation clearing on some of the land in June 2021.

The land in question had been subject to approved revegetation works as per the estate’s development consent.

Staff said a review of council records failed to show any lodged development applications for the clearing, nor any development consents issued.

They had since referred the matter to the council’s solicitor for advice and received the advice.

But that’s as far as the information publicly disclosed went, with council staff notes making it clear their report on the matter was confidential.

It’s unclear whether the legal advice was to pursue or abandon the matter and what the councillors discussed in response.

Independent Councillor Phillip Meehan moved for the council to note the report, with Independent Cr Stephen McCarthy seconding.

All Councillors voted unanimously with Independent Crs Nigel Buchanan and Eva Ramsey absent.

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