The third rejection of a long-running development application (DA) in Bangalow by Council last week will likely lead to a showdown in the Land and Environment Court, we are told.
A proposal for a two-storey building with eight dwellings, three shops with basement car park and attic has pushed Council’s planning policies beyond the max; it would cover almost the entire block and sits on the relatively quiet Station Street adjacent to the historic A&I Hall.
Submitted by Sydney-based developers Gordon Highlands, It received a lot of criticism for being out of character with the rest of Bangalow, and public meetings were held. It’s arguably out of character with just about anything in Byron Shire, really.
Anyway, confidential legal advice was given to councillors regarding their chances of defending the rejection. It’s interesting that staff opinion changed to now recommending acceptance of the DA since the last rejection, despite only minor changes being made this time.
And whatever legal advice was tabled, it clearly rattled Crs Cubis, Woods and Hunter; they voted against Council holding ground and supporting community objections. They wanted instead for it to pass and ask general manager Ken Gainger to mediate.
While voting to minimise the chances of expensive court costs is prudent, the double edge is of course is that it messes with the fine balance of public amenity and sets precedents.
And in this case the majority of councillors are rightly concerned at the impact traffic may have given the building’s size; the primary school is opposite the back laneway.
Holding ground can lead to wins of course; at Thursday’s meeting, the mayor pointed out other DAs that were defeated: KFC, Dan Murphy’s… and even a development on Mullumbimby’s Station Street that was averted just before it went to court.
Regardless, a lot of this hinges on Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP). But what is it? According to Byron Council’s website, a DCP is supplementary to the Byron Local Environmental Plan (LEP), ‘by providing more details, guidelines and controls applying to the various forms of development permitted…’
Incidentally, the DCP was also adopted by Council last week, which is a key issue that divides mayor Simon Richardson and Cr Sol Ibrahim over West Byron.
While the mayor says it’s a ‘useless’ policy that has been ‘gutted by the state government’, Cr Ibrahim says he’s confident that the DCP, ‘coupled with other statutory instruments and plans of management, can produce a great outcome.’
So doth this policy contain magical powers?
One comment gleaned was from Council’s executive manager of planning, Ray Darney. He said of the policy last week that, ‘While only a guideline, some provisions are prescriptive and must be met when submitting a development application such as sewer, water and communication utilities. Other provisions allow flexibility and innovation in design to be accommodated such as landscaping.’
So there you have it. The court will presumably, along with other factors, examine how this case applies to the DCP.
The question is: like sport, will this be a game of two halves? And instead of sport being the winner, in this case will it be the lawyers?
This week, The Echo is proud to introduce Liberal premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, as the first troglodyte in our new occasional column: Political dinosaur of the week.
Prerequisites to be included in this column are an inclination to wreck pristine environments and act against conventional science, open transparency, human rights, basic decency and ethical behaviour.
So, who is Colin? This 63-year-old former economics lecturer and barbarian was elected to public office in 1990. He represents the WA Perth electorate of Cottesloe and retained his seat in 2013 with an impressive 64.7 per cent. But ever since taking office, he has racked up a formidable list of accomplishments that hark back to the dark ages.
In 2010, his new drug laws made cannabis cultivation a crime in that state, among other draconian measures.
His contention that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs is incorrect, it’s more of a drive-through drug that leads to cheeseburgers and fries.
Barnett the barbarian also doesn’t like education, having refused Gonski reforms.
But his pièce de résistance was last week annoying almost the entire country, including Byron residents, with his stone-age plan to cull sharks. Every prehistoric predator over three metres will be shot and disposed of at sea if they come within one kilometre of his coastline. Bravo!
Klling off an endangered species at the top of the food chain fits perfectly with the state of current politics.
The likely result will draw a shiver of more sharks into a uncontrollable bloodied feeding frenzy. And just like politics, it will be a wholesale butchery on their brethren. Which would it be more interesting?
As NSW police minister I thought it important to let you know that a court case instigated by your legal team was thrown out of court and found to have wasted time and your department’s resources.
I know it may sound like a trivial matter, but it was actually a significant test case in civil liberties.
Residents who were peacefully protesting against an unwanted Metgasco CSG test site at Glenugie near Grafton on January 7 this year were arrested on questionable grounds.
It appeared like a fairly sloppy piece of legal work; charges were also changed at the last moment.
But most concerning was that magistrate David Heilpern last week suggested there may have been political interference.
He said, ‘In this case I find myself asking what could possibly be the reason for continuing on with such an innocuous charge in these circumstances?’
I think it’s in the public interest to know who was behind this.
Who pressured a police prosecutor to proceed with ‘vexatious’ charges? It’s possible you know already… but if not, maybe you can find out who it is so they can be made accountable? As you would know, such behaviour undermines the public’s confidence and the capacity of the police to keep law and order.
I believe the police force for the most part carry out their duties professionally; however, directives and the tone of any organisation come from the top. I sincerely hope that you agree that police should not act as private security guards for corporate interests and that this matter should be explained publicly.
The small spotlight that shone on fossil fuel investment by the four big Australian banks last week was a reminder that catastrophic environmental destruction is a cornerstone of western economic success.
Although from a public relations point of view, divestment campaigns make great copy.
And maybe that’s all that’s needed to get a wider movement started towards realistic renewable targets.
The latest push to divest from companies that are heavily involved with fossil fuels comes from Bill McKibben, who is the founder of grassroots climate campaigning organisation 350.org.
He told The Guardian that a recent Oxford University study claims it’s the fastest growing divestment movement in history.
The most important thing, he says, is getting the analysis out into the ‘information bloodstream’.
‘Most of the carbon in the world has to stay underground,’ he says. ‘The analysis has now spread to the point where the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and just about everybody else has said that we have to leave at least two-thirds of the carbon we know about underground.’
And while the current knuckle-dragging Liberal/National government wants big polluters to help themselves to public funds for vague climate change solutions, economists think otherwise. Fairfax Media reported last week that after a poll of 35 prominent Australian economists that they almost universally back an emissions trading scheme (ETS) over Toned Abb’s ‘direct action policy’ on climate change.
I understand you represent one of the most powerful lobby groups in Australia which influence our so-called elected leaders.
Firstly, congratulations on becoming the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief back in February.
This is an important job where many positive changes could occur.
For instance, are you lobbying to curb the duopoly of our food supply? Currently Coles and Woolworths control 70 to 80 per cent of the nation’s food supply, 1 and farmers say this duopoly is eroding their viability to produce 2. Surely more competition will ensure better outcomes to farmers and consumers?
Anyway, the reason I write to you is not that, but the three paragraphs on your website www.afgc.org.au rejecting the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).
I put it to you that it’s lazy and disingenuous to say ‘numerous reports confirm that a mandatory scheme such as CDS generates environmental outcomes at a very high cost relative to other options.’ Where is the proof? These ‘numerous reports’ need to be referenced. And with the senate inquiry into this topic, your lobby group’s figures have been found to be rubbery 3.
Do you dispute this? If you would like to be taken seriously regarding the financial benefits of not recycling, then let’s hear it.
It’s just an idea to think about while you burp up those expensive long lunches with our so-called elected leaders.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
1 Fact checked by theconversation.com.
2 Crunch time for supermarket food suppliers – ABC Drum online.
One bright note of this election, perhaps the only, was the development of fact checking organisations, one of which is run by theconversation.com.
The site examines the interesting question: ‘will scrapping the carbon price lower electricity prices?’ According to author Dylan McConnell from Melbourne University’s Energy Institute, removing the carbon tax would result in a reduction in electric- ity prices of ‘around five per cent, with an upper boundary of about 10 per cent.’ But he points to an example from Victoria
in recent years, where transmission costs went up 27 per cent, distribution by 11 per cent and retail costs by 17 per cent.
‘These components are independent of the carbon price, and account for the majority of hikes in retail electricity prices.
‘It’s worth remembering too that even without the carbon price, electricity prices are predicted to rise. Climate Change Authority research suggests that without the carbon price, the rise would with be slightly smaller, with retail electricity prices just six per cent lower.’
Additionally, ABC TV’s Australian Story recently ran a great yarn entitled ‘Corridors Of Power’ which exposed ‘gold plating’ by the NSW government owned electricity transmission company, TransGrid. Gold plating is building unnecessary projects and in this case, 330,000 volt electric power lines were earmarked for the Manning Valley in NSW as part of a large-scale state expansion.
In response to the plans, Manning Valley farmer Bruce Rob- ertson helped create the Manning Alliance and sparked a senate inquiry which backed his claims of gold plating. People power overcame corporate interests and the project was abandoned.
‘[Gold plating] was the single largest cause of the electricity price rises that consumers had experienced in Australia,’ says Robertson.
What other half truths are being presented as fact?
Hopefully in coming years, fact checking organisations will develop further and investigative journalism will continue to prevent truth being the first casualty of politics.
Below is a reply from TransGrid PR regarding the editorial on September 3, 2013.
You claim it's 'investment' whereas Mr Robertson says it's 'gold plating'. The implication that all investment should be welcomed without scrutiny is of course your right to promote as a corporation.
And while the rest of this letter goes to say what good things TransGrid is doing, my understanding is that most of those things have only come about from the senate inquiry the residents of Manning Valley pushed for. Unless I missed something, you have not refuted the claims from Mr Robertson.
Perhaps instead the letter should say, 'With thanks to the Manning Valley Alliance and the senate inquiry, TransGrid reviewed its TOR, stakeholder and consumer engagement and has sought to become more transparent in the future.'
Pictured left: NSW Forestry Corp CEO Nick Roberts
There’s been a smelly plume of unaccountability and wanton ecological destruction wafting from the NSW Forestry Corporation for many years.
The private enterprise arm of the toxic O’Farrell state government is tasked to ‘man- age’ our valuable natural assets, but instead destroys our heritage and makes a financial loss while doing it. Echonetdaily reported last May that ‘NSW taxpayers were slugged nearly $120 million last year to fund the ongoing logging’ of the state’s forests.’
And now it’s at our doorstep. Old-growth blackbutt on private property adjacent to the Whian Whian State Conservation Area, just west of Goonengerry National Park, is being logged by the Corporation.
While it’s legal to log privately owned land when requirements are met, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) claim the area is home to endangered koala habitat and at least four other species that are threatened with extinction.
This means they are acting illegally, they say. It’s just another in a long list of incidents that NEFA has reported. Around a year ago, NEFA found numerous koala scats in logged parts of the Royal Camp State Forest near Grafton. Later the Corporation was slapped with paltry fines of less than $1,000 by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for logging a koala high-use area. Then last June, it appeared they were up to the same thing in the Koreelah State Forest near Woodenbong.
There is little doubt that the EPA needs to be strengthened to ensure better outcomes for forest protection. But like the ACCC or the Press Council, they have little bite. The Forestry Corporation’s ‘Native Forest Operations’ have no place in modern times – plantation timber can more than provide for our needs. Stop killing koalas, Nick Roberts.
I didn’t know the federal Liberal Party had any policies until stumbling upon the ‘Real Solutions for all Australians’, released only a few weeks ago on January 27, 2013.
It’s a glossy 52-page brochure that includes ubiquitous images of boardrooms, hard-hats, baby-kissing, open-cut mining and veggie gardens. And its 15,750 word count has plenty of gushing rhetoric and motherhood statements, along with openly fascist phrases such as, ‘We need to address Australia’s growing workplace militancy.’
It’s basically an uncosted promise of a utopian life, free of pesky unions, lower taxes and wait for it – no carbon tax (it’s mentioned 26 times).
A slightly weird ‘Costed Fully Budgeted’ watermark stamp also appears throughout, obviously as an attempt to correct the seven billion dollar black-hole impression which is yet to be corrected.
It’s light on substance, bereft of big ideas and an all encompassing vision that reflects who we really are. But such is the state of current Australian politics. Anyway, the Mad Monk Abbott team also reckon the nation’s top priorities are more efficient government, building modern infrastructure and improving health and education services. Improving border security, manufacturing innovation, agriculture exports, world- class education and research are also featured as desirable outcomes for Abbott’s vision. But of course not a word on culture and arts.
To pay for it all, they unsurprisingly plan to boost mining exports to the rapidly growing Asian middle-class. Apparently it’s a golden opportunity to send them as much fossil fuels as they can choke on. ‘...estimates suggest that Asian demand could almost double our net energy exports over the next 20 years.’
And the answer to address our obscenly high carbon emissions and climate change complicity is to ‘establish a 15,000-strong Green Army to clean-up the environment.’ Presumably that means dole-bludging moochers will be asked to plant trees or something. What corporate suck-hole stupid fuckwits.
Achieving such ambitious prosperity goals, according to them, is to all but give up on curbing emissions. Their goal of five per cent by 2020 is far behind most other western countries, such as Spain, who in the last three months saw windfarms produce more electricity than any other source for the first time. The UK’s Guardian reports that the country remains on track to meet its goal of generating around 40 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. So okay, Spain is an economic basket case. But if they can achieve that, the Liberals/Nationals obviously just don’t give a shit about future generations or don’t understand CO2.
A prospecting application by the Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is on public submission with the intention to frack ‘n mine most of NSW.
This can be viewed in a variety of ways. Here are just two:
The push behind applying for five prospecting mining rights across NSW is to end Aboriginal poverty, NSWALC CEO Geoff Scott said in a release on November 6. ‘We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations of Aboriginal people... We can sit on the sidelines or we can take an active role to become part of the real Australian economy.’
He’s correct to say the real economy is mining. According to an article on www.asx.com.au, Top 10 ways to profit from mining boom, ‘Almost 90 per cent of last year’s 96 initial public offerings (IPOs) were resource-related companies and the top performers gave shareholders well over 500 per cent returns.’ Author Toni Case (TheBull.com.au) continues, ‘In fact, the entire materials sector has been a standout performer, with an annualised return of 10.99 per cent to 31 March 2011.’
And the future looks to be still powered by coal or gas, with the claim that ‘The Federal Treasury believes the mining boom could have another 15 years to go; demand from China and India shows no sign of slowing.’
Thankfully, this is a free country. Mr Scott is entitled to pursue whatever means neccessary to ensure the future prosperity for the future generations of Aboriginal people.
You have to wonder who will benefit from the Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC)’s plans to mine ‘n’ frack the state of NSW, because it will not be the wider Aboriginal community. Locally, the traditional Aboriginal custodians of this region, the Arakwal people of Byron Bay, have said they do not want CSG or mining in this region and have distanced themselves from the NSWALC.
What isn’t addressed in NSWALC CEO Geoff Scott’s PR is that his organisation is already self-funding, was set up by the government, and earns income from its investments. This is not about poverty, it’s about greed. The real benefactors of this will of course be the overseas mining corporations who are nervously watching the public-awareness campaign on CSG grow. Public submissions on this prospecting application end on December 5, so get in fast. Visit www.resources.nsw.gov.au for more.
Environmental worriers and warriors have been critical of the NSW government’s Green Paper so far, which aims to overhaul town, rural and city planning.
But let’s just pause and look at the state government’s own propaganda. Its website’s statements include ‘promoting a “can do” culture’ and ‘reducing red tape and delay’... and so on.
Despite the motherhood claims of transparency and efficiency, it also claims to have ‘community consultation at the forefront of planning decisions’.
And the 30-year-old planning document needs to be revised, according to www.planning.nsw.gov.au, as the ‘legislation has been modified over 150 times’.
Okay, fair enough. But here’s what the paper says about streamlining development: ‘To depoliticise decision making, it is proposed that development applications be streamed
to appropriate independent and expert decision makers. State and regional scale development will be assessed by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) and the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP). One option being considered by the
NSW government is for local level development applications to be considered by an independent expert panel... There will be targets set for timeframes for different types of assessment and the achievement of these targets will be monitored and reported, with implications for poor or inefficient decision making.’
The state government is disingenuous to say that community consultation will be at the forefront of planning decisions.
Its stated aims are to take away a community’s right to decide state and regional scale development.
Despite public feedback being now closed, NSW councils have their chance to have input until October 5. Hopefully councils across the state will apply what little wedge they can to resist innapropriate developments that the state plans to enforce in the name of economic rationalism.