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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Conciliation meeting over Broadwater floodplain development terminated

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House in floodplain adjacent to the Old Pacific Highway in Broadwater. Photo supplied

Richmond Valley Council (RVC) refused a development application (DA) for a 60-lot residential development on flood-prone land on Rileys Hill Road, Broadwater, close to the Richmond River in October 2023. 

The owner of this house across the road from proposed rezoning by Richmond River at Broadwater flooded to second floor during the 2022 floods. Photo supplied

The application was from Ardill Payne & Partners proposal was 70 metres from the Richmond River on a site that according to locals flooded extensively during the 2022 flood with many houses across the road from the proposed site being flooded up to and including the first floor.

Following the refusal Ardill Payne and Partners made application to the Land and Environment Court (L&EC) appealing council’s decision. 

Richmond Valley Council’s refusal had noted that the proposal was inconsistent with the 2012 Richmond Valley Council’s Local Environmental Plan with regard to flood planning and terrestrial biodiversity, and Council’s Development Control Plan with regard to Natural Resources and Hazards. 

A conciliation meeting was set up by the L&EC for May 15 at the proposed site and there were more than 50 people in attendance. As part of that process the community was invited to address the conciliation conference to put its view to Commissioner Sarah Bish of the Land and Environment Court.

Duck kill at Salty Lagoon, 5 December 2005. Photo supplied

Current effluent load has destroyed National Park

Six local residents put the views of the community to Commissioner Bish including the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc. (EHRSD) group which had previously objected to the development on a number of grounds. These included the impact of sewage from the development on the Salty Lagoon complex in Broadwater National Park. 

‘Partially treated effluent from the Evans Head STP had previously led to a fish and bird kill in the Lagoon complex and precluded the system from public use. Despite attempts at rehabilitation, the complex remains out of bounds some 18 years later for those wanting to use it for recreation,’ explained a spokesperson for EHRSD.

Salty Lagoon September 2008. Photo supplied

‘During heavy rains the sewerage system becomes overloaded; raw sewage affects local residents. Sixty additional residences at Broadwater would only add to the burden on top of other developments at Evans Head.’

Other topics covered by local residents included the effects of the development on the local koala population and their use of the site to move from one area to another; the effects of the 2022 flood on local people, many still recovering from that event; insurability of properties and size of premiums; capacity of the SES to deal with future emergency events; current unfinished developments approved by RVC in the recent past which were a problem for the community from a number of perspectives including weeds and runoff; future flooding risks relating to climate change; limits to the flood modelling used in decision-making; and evidence showing that the Northern Rivers was already past its ‘carrying capacity’ bringing in more people for settlement than the environment was able to cope with. 

‘A scientific study in the prestigious journal Nature showing that the 2023 summer temperatures were the hottest in the northern hemisphere in 2,000 years was quoted, necessarily invoking questions about the adequacy of current climate models and therefore flood risk and what it might mean for the Broadwater site. The paper showed that we had already passed the 1.5 C set in the Paris Climate Agreement by half a degree (Esper et al.  2023 summer warmth unparalleled over the past 2,000 years. Nature, 14 May 2024: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07512-y ),’ said the EHRSD spokesperson.

House adjacent to the BP Servo in Broadwater. Wall marks show the height of the flood. Photo supplied

‘Considerable attention was also given to the 2023 BMT flood study which showed that the estimated flood height for Broadwater for the 2022 flood was 5.41 metres (AHD), above the 1 in 500 flood (0.2 AEP) probability of 5.23 metres. Subsequent evidence gave local readings above six metres.

‘Criticism of the 2023 flood study also included the fact that the testing of the model included validation against flooding events only going back to 2008 and not earlier events such as the very large 1954 and 1956 floods which had major impacts on the Mid-Richmond. A newspaper account of flooding in 1891 including the breakthrough of floodwaters at Broadwater’s Boundary Creek from the river to the sea which lasted for weeks and was 400 feet wide and more than 10 feet deep was also raised.’

At the end of the presentations the community was dismissed and the parties to the case then inspected the site and met out of the public view with the Commissioner to see if some agreement might be reached.  

Community members were informed at the end of the day that the conciliation meeting had been terminated and that now a full hearing of the appeal would be arranged for the L&EC in the near future. 

‘Clearly, an agreement was not reached,’ said the EHRSD spokesperson.

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  1. The courts, and by extension the State Government, should have an automatic liability for at least 99 years should subdivision like this be approved by a court judgement – against all best knowledge!


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