The building creating so much controversy between the Kyogle community and AusDevelopments.
The building creating so much controversy between the Kyogle community and AusDevelopments. THe Northern Star/David Neilsen

Kyogle Art Deco building debate fires up

A WAR of words is raging between a Queensland-based developer and opponents of the demolition of Art Deco buildings to make way for a proposed supermarket development in Kyogle's main street.

AusDevelopments Director and Company Legal Officer Janine Aitken recently wrote to members of the Save Kyogle Heritage Committee stating its correspondence contained 'potentially defamatory and fraudulent information which may result in legal action being taken against you'.

In emails to Seth Nielsen, Damien Paull and Robert Wirth, Mrs Aitken cautioned against spending any money on a NSW Land and Environment Court challenge to the development.

“If you undertake such action we will apply to the court to have you lodge a bond of at least $250,000 to cover our legal costs if your action fails,” she wrote.

In a later email to Mr Nielsen, Nigel Mercer, of AusDevelopments, added: “ would be irresponsible not to caution you not to spend $10,000 on legal and filing costs and lose it if you were unable to come up with the necessary bond that would be required to cover our legal costs if you were unsuccessful in your action, with such bond being in the vicinity of $250,000.”

Lismore-based solicitor for the Environmental Defender's Office Sue Higginson is preparing a brief for a barrister outlining community concerns, including loss of heritage, traffic congestion and the development's impact on pedestrian access.

Ms Higginson said yesterday that, in her view, Mr Mercer's emails were 'intimidating on a number of fronts'.

She said it was 'understandable' that Mr Mercer might feel threatened by a community exploring its legal options, but it was inappropriate for him to interfere in that process, adding that it was unlikely a bond would be required by the Land and Environment Court.

“The Environment Protection and Assessment Act provides an avenue for any member of a community to bring such an action to court,” Ms Higginson told The Northern Star.

“In this case, the community is looking at whether the heritage concerns have been appropriately considered by Kyogle Council.”

AusDevelopments was first registered in April this year. It is listed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as having one director and shareholder, Nigel Mercer, 63, of Elanora, who paid $1 for his share.

Director of Planning Services for Kyogle Council John Hession yesterday told The Northern Star the council had last week appointed a heritage consultant to review a 1996 study of Kyogle's heritage buildings, with a view to consolidating the information for the town's Local Environment Plan.

Asked what would happen if the consultant found that the proposed supermarket site was worthy of heritage protection, Mr Hession said it would be 'too late' for the council to do anything about it.

Mr Wirth said the Save Kyogle Heritage Committee was concerned with saving one of the best examples of Art Deco shop fronts in the State.

Mrs Aitken said AusDevelopment's plans would recreate the Art Deco style. But Mr Wirth said Art Deco referred specifically to a style created between 1910 and the late 1940s.

Mrs Aitken wrote that AusDevelopments had spent 'quite enough time and money with your nonsense'.

“Damien and Robert, it is now time to get on with your lives. I think it would be better to be productive members of the local community, working to support your families, making their lives better,” she wrote.

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