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September 22, 2023

Iron Gates development at Evans Head: application to ‘amend’ DA refused

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Iron Gates Evans River Estuary. The Iron Gates property is on the right. There was once a 10ft waterfall here but the Ironstone cap blocking the river was blown up in 1894. Photo supplied

On Monday, 18 September 2023 the Land & Environment Court (L&EC) rejected an application to amend a development application for a satellite residential development at the controversial Iron Gates site at Evans Head. 

The Court refused the amendment on the grounds that it effectively constituted a new DA.

The application from Goldcoral Pty Ltd (in receivership and administration) was opposed by Richmond Valley Council and Ms Simone Barker from the Bandjalang community at Evans Head. The Court refused the amendment on the grounds that it effectively constituted a new DA (see judgement at Goldcoral Pty Ltd v Richmond Valley Council [2023]  NSWLEC 1540).  

The Court ordered that:

‘(1) The application for leave to amend the development application is refused; and 

   (2) The Notice of Motion is dismissed.’

Previously refused by NRPP

The L&EC Court Case followed the refusal of the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) to approve a development application (DA) from Goldcoral Pty Ltd at 240 Iron Gates Road Evans Head on 7 September 2022 for a large and controversial concept residential development.  

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

The site has been subject to DAs for over 30 years and the community has fought since that time against the inappropriate development of the flood- and fire-prone site.

The current DA was lodged on 27 October 2014 and four amendments followed prior to the NRPP hearing. The developer, Mr Graeme Ingles from the Gold Coast, subsequently lodged an application against the refusal decision on 19 September 2022, less than two weeks after the NRPP decision.  

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

Refusal recommended 

The NRPP refusal followed significant public submissions against the proposal and two independent expert assessments, one from Richmond Valley Council and the other from the Department of Planning and Environment. Both independent assessments recommended against approval of the development. 

Following his application to the L&EC developer Ingles put the Iron Gates land on the market for sale but it was withdrawn from the market in early 2023.   

On 1 February 2023 Goldcoral Pty Ltd was put into receivership and a manager was appointed. Legal matters were taken over by Corrs, Chambers Westgarth who proceeded with the application for an amended DA through the L&EC.  

The L&EC banned photos at hearings. Locals waiting to speak before the L&EC hearing.

Community refused access to conciliation meeting

Initially, a Section 34 conciliation meeting was organized by the L&EC on 6 March 2023 in an attempt to resolve the matter. The community gave evidence preliminary to the meeting but was subsequently refused attendance at the conciliation meeting. The Section 34 was unsuccessful.  

Developer Graeme Ingles. Photo inglesgroup.com.au

New DA required?

Three hearings were held subsequently by Registrar S Froh in the L&EC in Sydney. Live viewing was made available for the public via video link because of widespread community interest in the Iron Gates case and the distance of interested parties from the Court. 

In her decision Registrar Froh noted that the DA ‘…had a long history’ and that while the parties to the case appeared to agree that the ‘proposed amendment remains a subdivision’, the question before the court was whether the changes made in amendments to the DA ‘…constitute[d] a development for which a fresh application was required’.

LEP wetlands riparian map of Iron Gates site and Evans Head. Image supplied

Registrar Froh cited case law where the courts had previously agreed to allow certain kinds of changes but noted that none in the Iron Gates case were ‘determinative’. The Registrar said that she was required ‘to consider the cumulative effect of the whole of the proposed amendment’ and had concluded that the amendments had ‘pushed past’ a ‘tipping point’ as they were ‘more than minor’.  ‘Accordingly, I am satisfied that the proposed amendments are, as a matter of fact, so different as to constitute a new development application’.  ‘The consequence is that I must refuse the application’.  

The refusal by the L&EC of leave to amend the DA means that the original DA refused by the NRPP will now go before the L&EC for review in October.  

Some of the drains that the developer was ordered to fill that still haven’t been filled in, over twenty years later. Photo supplied

Time to re-zone?

A spokesperson for Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development said today that ‘the carefully considered decision of the Registrar was a welcome relief. It was a well-argued judgement based in case law which would make it more difficult for the applicant to be successful in their appeal against rejection of the original DA in the L&EC in October’.  

‘The original DA was overwhelmingly rejected by the NRPP, the independent consultants and the community in 2022 and here we are again more than a year later with the weight of evidence clearly still against the proposal. It will be interesting to see if the applicant proceeds with the case in the L&EC or withdraws and submits a new DA or takes some other action. The current DA has been running for nearly nine years with October the ninth anniversary.

‘I guess we will have to wait and see what Goldcoral Pty Ltd (receiver and manager appointed) does but it is long overdue for the land to be appropriately rezoned in keeping with its environmental and cultural significance, and for it to be removed from the list of residential lands for development in the Richmond Valley Council area. The land was zoned forty years ago and times have changed with new pressures from climate changes with flood and fire a perennial problem for the site.

Drainage canal dug by the developer at Iron Gates in the 1990s. The developer had their DA removed by the L&EC and were required to do approximately $2 million worth of remediation work. The remediation work has never been done. Photo supplied

‘Nearby land in the same flood plain has been taken off the list of lands for future residential development by Council. This land should follow suit with appropriate compensation for the developer less the costs of land rehabilitation from damage created by earlier activities of the developer which are the subject of L&EC Court Orders from 1997. These Court Orders need to be executed.’

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  1. Good work lefty’s. You have onece again prevented the further development of Evans Head. People need land to build on, it’s all well and good for the self righteous to block progress as they already have their little piece of paradise. Every one else can go jump, find another shire to build in. Hypocrites of the highest degree, you all disgust me.

  2. Iron Gates at Evans Head must be the most beleaguered development in history maybe it’s passed through the hands of consecutive developers and also would have to learn , keep up with and incorporate all the changes in legislation over the years that are relevant to this land. I remember in 1992 reading about this in the paper in the Northern Star why don’t they just give up and leave that land alone.

  3. The Iron Gates have attracted the developers eyes since 1978 to my knowledge and every developer proposal has been rejected for very good reasons! The First Nations people and those speaking on behalf of nature must be so sick & tired of this developer game. Leave the Iron Gates alone.


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