Main Arm village united to fight US company


Development plans by an American company for Main Arm are running into opposition from locals.

The plans may well feature "cutting edge energy performance measures, the restoration and rehabilitation of ecosystems and the fostering of community cohesion", but the locals are unimpressed.

They're calling for a moratorium on all community title development around the tiny township.

The eco-village planned by Regenesis is one of two developments that would transform the century-old village west of Mullumbimby into a mini-metropolis, said a spokesman for the Main Arm Residents' Association, Nick Gazzard.

"At the moment there are 11 houses in Main Arm. If these developments go ahead, there'll be about 60,"he said. "We simply do not have the infrastructure to cope with this and the social impact will be huge."

Mr Gazzard said about 65 people turned out for a public meeting recently to discuss the developments, the second of which is being undertaken by the local Davies family.

Mr Gazzard said Byron Shire Council should not consider these development applications until the Rural Settlement Strategy (RSS) review was completed.

"It's not fair to telescope in on two developments and consider them outside the RSS review," he said. He said Main Arm residents wanted the master plans for both developments on the table for consideration by the local community.

He said time was running out for Regenesis, which under Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines had to begin construction within two years of purchase of the property.

This was why Regenesis had applied for approval for a single dwelling, rather than its entire project, he said.

"It's development by stealth," he said.

Byron mayor Jan Barham said the council could not stop people from submitting development applications "just because the rules aren't worked out".

"We have to assess a DA if it comes before us," she said. "I'm confident that at Main Arm the developers are willing to talk to the community about their concerns. "We're better off getting on with reviewing the strategy while bringing the stakeholders together, rather than being heavy-handed and just saying 'no, you can't develop'." Cr Barham said the council had spent considerable time saying 'no' in the past.

"The way forward is to bring people together, to be more consultative and facilitative," she said. Neither the Davies family or Regenesis could be contacted late last week.

What the mayor wants

Cr Jan Barham wants to see changes made to the 1998 Rural Settlement Strategy.

Some areas in the RSS have been mis-identified as suitable for residential development.

More agricultural land needs to be added in the review as assessed by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources' (DIPNAR's) Northern Rivers Farmland Protection Project.

Individual village development control plans (DCPs) need to be made, rather than a 'blanket' approach to rural development.

A 'How-to' approach to development, with clearer development guidelines needed for both residents and developers.

No new villages created, existing villages enhanced through development contributions.

Vital infrastructure needs to be assessed before any major developments go ahead.

Development to be 'smart' in energy use, conservation, light footprints and deliver benefits to the community.

Developers to contribute to infrastructure.

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