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Byron Shire
June 16, 2024

The scramble to save Wallum 

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Rainbow bee-eaters at Wallum. Photo Mac Maderski / Save Wallum Facebook page

With considerable public interest in the imminent loss of threatened and diminishing native habitat for an urban subdivision in Brunswick Heads, Byron Shire councillors passed a unanimous notice of motion (NoM) last week to seek legal advice and federal and state government intervention.

15 Torakina Road, Brunswick Heads. Google maps

Wallum Estate (DA 10.2021.575.1) by Clarence Property was approved by the Northern Regional Planning Panel in May, bypassing Council as a consent authority. 

It proposes 123 residential lots and three small medium density sites. 

And while it had Council staff support, some councillors have said they were unaware of the significance of the land, owing in part to the DA being advertised during the height of Covid. 

According to wallumbrunswick.com.au, the ‘premium land estate’ will see almost 18 acres (60 per cent of the site) rehabilitated for flora and fauna habitats. It is expected to be launched in 2023, with lots expected to start at $720,000.

Yet community group Save Wallum, headed by ecologist James Barrie, says the ecological reports that underpin the development are inadequate and out-of-date, and as such, threaten a unique strip of coastal habitat.

Luciana Bowen, legal representative for Save Wallum, told The Echo she doesn’t hold much hope the decision would be  reversed, yet said, ‘Things can be won in strange ways’. 

She told The Echo, ‘The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) advice was that the Land & Environment Court are very restrictive when it comes to appealing after a decision is made (i.e. granting leave to appeal)’. 

‘Environmental laws are weak compared to planning laws’, she said, adding, ‘developers get much more latitude within the court system’.

‘This is pristine land, and Australia has some of the highest extinction levels in the world. Why clear their homes for ours?

‘We are not opposed to housing developments – there is an abundance of already cleared and degraded land within the Byron Shire that would be far more suitable for housing than the Wallum site, as it is critical habitat for endangered and threatened species. 

‘Also, we are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and there is nothing affordable about this development’. 

In June 2021, Clarence Property’s managing director Peter Fahey declined to comment to The Echo on whether they would commit to ‘providing a portion of the lots to affordable and/or social housing, in perpetuity’.

Tanya Plibersek Federal Minister for the Environment and Water. Photo www.tanyaplibersek.com

Feds step in

Meanwhile, NSW Greens MP, Sue Higginson said in a media release on Tuesday that, ‘The federal minister for the environment has contacted the proponent for the Wallum Development to remind them of their legal obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) to notify the federal government when undertaking activities that are likely to have significant impact on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES)’. 

Greens MP Sue Higginson. Image: Tree Faerie

Higginson says this was a result of her request that the federal minister for the environment to focus on the proposed development. 

‘Under the national environmental law, any action that will have or is likely to have a significant impact on a MNES must be referred to the minister as a controlled action’. 

‘The presence of species that are threatened with extinction and threatened ecological communities on the site proposed to be developed mean that it is likely that the proposed action should have been referred to the federal government as part of the application process’.

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  1. 123 x $720,000 = $88,560,000
    You cannot “rehabilitate flora and fauna” when the ecology is unique, due to a unique and rare type of soil. In my opinion, the solution is to remove the eastern portion of the land from the D.A, and rezone it as a nature reserve of high value.


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