A BUNDJALUNG elder has launched legal proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court against planning minister Pru Goward and Lismore City Council over the high-profile North Lismore Plateau development.
Court documents lodged by elder Mickey Ryan allege Lismore City Council failed to conduct community consultation after removing the environmental zones from the development's planning proposal.
They argue this invalidated the planning minister's approval for the development, because the minister's approval was based on the altered proposal that had not gone on public display.
The original proposal went on exhibition last year and was subsequently approved by the Planning Department in February.
Mr Ryan said someone without authority had simply "stripped" the environmental zones away.
"The whole process undertaken by the council to rezone (the plateau) has not been done in accordance with the law," he said.
The alleged removal of the e-zones, which guaranteed 28.5% of the plateau would be left undeveloped, may relate to the ongoing review of e-zones across the North Coast announced by former planning minister Brad Hazzard in late 2012.
Yesterday a group of Aboriginal elders and supporters took part in a traditional smoking ceremony to mark the court action, due to be heard next Friday.
Mr Ryan recalled spending his childhood playing on the plateau and said it was sacred to the North Lismore Aboriginal community.
"If anyone builds up there, they will get bad luck," he declared.
"The battle's just started.
"People don't know about the significance of the plateau to us.
"The whole mountain itself is a sacred place, from top to bottom."
Lismore City Council staff and mayor Jenny Dowell declined to comment on the matter, directing inquiries to the Planning Department.
The Bundjalung Elders Council has unanimously supported the court action, with chair Bertha Kapeen upset over the original heritage assessment which, despite finding four sacred sites, only surveyed 25% of the plateau.
But Mr Ryan's views on barring development on the plateau are by no means unanimous in the Lismore Aboriginal community, with Aunty Thelma James telling The Northern Star last year that Aboriginal people had been "significantly involved" in the development.
Aunty Thelma said adequate buffer zones around the culturally significant sites were included in the proposal.
Mr Ryan has vowed to continue his fight against any development of the plateau.
"They've divided Aboriginal people over this," he declared.
About the North Lismore Plateau Development
- The biggest housing development in Lismore since Goonellabah.
- Will provide 1550 new dwellings and a population of more than 3600 people.
- Includes a cycle and walkway connecting the plateau to the CBD.
- Promised to be crucial to the "rebirthing" of Lismore's CBD.
- Developed by the Winten Group, who have already lodged a DA for 450 house sites.