Legal threats loom over North Lismore Plateau
THE long-awaited North Lismore Plateau residential subdivision seems headed for more legal delays despite its likely approval by Lismore City Council at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night.
Legal activist Al Oshlack, who worked with Bundjalung man Mickey Ryan in launching a successful case against the development in the Land and Environment Court in 2014, has threatened fresh legal action should the council endorse it.
The plateau is seen as vital to Lismore's long-term economic growth because of its position west of the city, where virtually no new land has been subdivided in recent years except Caniaba.
After being put on hold for more than a year, Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said she was concerned about further delays to the project.
"It's our hope that this will be carried on Tuesday night, the planning proposal (then) goes to the (NSW Planning) Minister, and we would hope that the Minister approves it quickly, because there's been more delay than the developers would have hoped for," she said.
"We as a city need to get this moving.
"This (development) aims at people who will work and shop in Lismore, so the economic benefit is immense.
"Their kids will go to schools here and join sporting clubs here. They will be totally embedded in the Lismore community."
The council has also put ratepayer's dollars on the line to back the development in the hope it will pay off with a growth in Lismore's population.
It's committed up to $24 million to subsidise infrastructure such as town water and sewerage which is normally paid for by developers.
The total cost of the water and wastewater infrastructure required to service the North Lismore Plateau development is approximately $21 million, a spokesperson from Lismore City Council said.
These costs will be incurred over the next 6-7 years.
This cost is primarily funded through contributions of $18,500 per lot (it is expected there will be a total of approximately 1500 lots) from the developers.
This is a total of approx. $27.75 million to be collected.
The subsidy provided by ratepayers to developers is approximately $16 per year. Over 30 years this equates to a total of around $6.7 million, the spokesperson said.
But Mr Oshlack said Lismore City Council had been sloppy with their Aboriginal heritage assessment of the land.
Mr Oshlack said the council had failed to exhibit documents relating to cultural heritage during its recent public exhibition of the development plan, because their survey was incomplete.
"They did one (survey) in the initial stages and that one was incomplete," he said. "They only did 20% of the land and they found four significant sites.
"Between November 2013 and now there's been no further cultural heritage assessment that have been completed."
He said further field work had been conducted independently which found more Aboriginal artefacts, including over areas where housing was proposed.
He warned that a legal team working on behalf of the North Lismore Plateau Protection Association, incorporated last year, was now ready to push the button on the case if the council voted for it on Tuesday.
Mr Oshlack said even if issues over Aboriginal cultural heritage were dealt with, there was also the issue of the endangered thorny pea plant, of which he said 90% of the surviving variety was growing on the plateau.
That could open up an avenue to appeal to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.