RESORT SPLITS VILLAGE
By ZOE SATHERLEY and NERIDA BLOK
THE CHANNON shopkeeper Michael Quinn and hotel licensee Clayton Cooper are hailing a proposed new ecotourism development as just what the rural hamlet needs to save it from financial oblivion.
But other community members like Amanda Furze, Robyn Kelly and Caitlin Brightmon fear it may open the floodgates to rampant Byron Bay-style development and smooth the path for other local villages to be exploited by big city developers.
"Inappropriate developments can easily destroy everything the community has fought to preserve in a rural community," Amanda said.
"They can change the character of a village by increasing the number of tourists coming into the area. That means more traffic and more pressure on the environment while all the profits go to people who don't even live here."
But more tourists and more passing trade is just what is needed, argues Michael Quinn, who owns The Channon Store.
"Over the past years we have lost many businesses from the village," he said.
"We used to have a butcher, a baker and an art gallery and they've all gone.
"Those of us who are left are struggling. It would be great to have more people staying in the village. It would help support the businesses that are already here."
The Channon Tavern licensee Clayton Cooper couldn't agree more.
"There is a real shortage of accommodation in The Channon. I recently had nine couples from Brisbane wanting to come for a weekend. There was nowhere to stay so they didn't come and I lost all that potential trade," he said.
The ecotourism plan is the brainchild of Sydney celebrity architect Ian McKay.
He has lodged a development application (DA) with Lismore City Council for the multi-million dollar development on Tuntable Creek Road. His proposal consists of seven two-bedroom self-contained cabins, a residential house and a manager's cottage.
The property is next door to Amanda's bed and breakfast establishment, Eternity Springs Art Farm.
Ian previously designed the Byron Bay Beach Hotel for his friend John 'Strop' Cornell and helped actor Paul Hogan create his Pos- sum Creek mansion.
"This is a very low key, un-ostentatious environmentally sympathetic development," he said.
Amanda said in terms of the environment, she was sure Ian McKay would do a good job, 'but on the level of sustainability, we are concerned about the social impact'.
"We don't want to wake up in 10 years time and say 'what happened to our special community?'. Basically, we don't want another Byron Bay," she said.
Ian McKay says this is 'absurd'.
"It's quite clear we have been to three public meetings in The Channon and at each one, it was recognised that tourism is almost certainly the future of The Channon," he said.
"Perhaps we are the harbingers of change."
Graffiti has been placed on the fence post at the entrance to Ian's property, which he described as 'rude, intrusive and contrary to what rational human beings would do'.
"I don't want to have this argument in public. Council will decide anyway," he said.
Ian said it would be at least a couple of years before he started construction if the DA was approved by Council.
Lismore Cr David Tomlinson, a long-time resident of The Channon, said he was not aware of any widespread community con- cern over the proposal.
"If we don't bring new business into the community The Channon will just die and become a dormitory suburb of Lismore," he said.
"It is essential to protect the integrity of our rural villages and preserve the lifestyle of those who live in them.
"But, if the developments are carefully considered and in tune with the wishes of the majority of the community, I think they should be supported."