Belated talks on development
By LUKE PRENDERGAST
"AN OVERSIGHT." That is how Petrac director of special projects Stephen Bowers explained the company's failure to notify Suffolk Park residents of plans for a 33-house boutique residential project at the end of Hayters Drive, Baywood Chase, during a hastily arranged and fiery public information session at the site on Saturday.
Petrac bought the land last November and submitted the development application to Byron Shire Council in December. However, it was only last week that it erected a sign onsite and invited local residents to Saturday's meeting.
The deadline for public submissions is Wednesday.
Locals were unimpressed and concerned about the impact on both their lifestyles and the environment, and they took it out on Mr Bowers.
"Why have you not contacted residents before today?" Megan Kinninment asked.
"Three days before we have to put submissions in, you hold this. I find it incredibly disrespectful. You could have come and spoken to me a month ago. Why did you not do that?"
"I've got to say, it's an oversight," Mr Bowers replied. "The consultations we've held, the discussions we've held, have been with the council."
That did not deter Ms Kinninment.
"I know for a fact that the mayor of Byron council advised you months ago to hold a public meeting and consult with the neighbours; I know that, I have that on record. Now why wasn't there a meeting held?" she said.
"You did go to council, you did have discussions with them and the advice they gave you was to consult with the community and you ignored that advice. Now you're telling us that it's an oversight.
"Why should I believe a single thing you've got written on there (the information sheet)? When we find this place is destroyed, when we find the run-off down in the lake, when we find the animals destroyed, what will you tell us then it's an oversight? It's not our fault any more, we've sold it, it's an oversight?"
Mr Bowers assured the gathering that the new residents would clean up after themselves.
He said the project was designed to reserve 73 per cent of the site for habitat purposes, including the preservation of the rainforest on the western escarpment and ecological rehabilitation areas. Dogs, cats and residential fences would be prohibited.
"The responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of this environment here will be the responsibility of the people who live here," he said.
"It won't be a burden to council, council won't have to maintain the roads, council won't have to maintain the internal water supplies, council won't have to maintain the group water tanks, council won't have to maintain the vegetation, they won't have to do the weeding, none of those things. They will be undertaken by the residents.
"This style of development we're talking about is going to deliver the best of outcomes. Compared to conventional housing, which has normal run-off and everything like that, this development will actually have very, very low impact."
But resident Col Caithness said promises were secondary to profit for a developer.
"Council won't enjoy the millions of dollar profit that you're looking into the future to establish here and in Ballina, and in all the other areas round here, because you're a huge developer and your concern is to the shareholders in your development, and everybody that lives in the area is the end of the line," he said.
"Except we put it the other way, we're the beginning of the line. If we can stop it now, we'll do our best to stop it."
"And we will try to stop you," added Ms Kinninment. "When you say a developer has commitments, that commitment of a developer ends the day he sells his last block; the council is here for ever," Mr Caithness said.
Residents queried why another access point was not catered for from Coogera Circuit. Mr Bowers said the developers would take the suggestion onboard.