Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc president Venerable Pannyavaro believes extensions to the Buddhist retreat will be approved by Lismore City Council.
Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc president Venerable Pannyavaro believes extensions to the Buddhist retreat will be approved by Lismore City Council. Marc Stapelberg

No peace for stupa plan

IT WAS supposed to bring peace and tranquillity to the region, but an application to build a 15m high stupa at the Buddhist Bodhi Tree Forest Monastery in Tullera is causing anything but harmonious relations between its neighbours.

Lismore City Council has received almost 50 letters of objection and about 15 in support since president of the Buddha Dharma Education Association Venerable Pannyavaro submitted the development application last November.

The plan is to build the stupa next to a meditation hall, dining hall and pagoda with guest accommodation and a car park, so the temple can offer meditation retreats.

If approved the development will take up about 1% (4000sq m of the monastery's 400,000sq m or 40ha) property.

However, it may soon become the story of the meditation retreat that slipped on the proverbial banana skin, after numerous neighbours have argued that the land should remain available for plantations.

Jeff Larsson, who like other opponents says he has no religious objections, farms almost 200ha of bananas, custard apples, macadamias and mangoes immediately north of the proposed development.

He said the prime agricultural land should be kept for that purpose.

"The Northern Rivers is seen as the fruit bowl of NSW. New developments in rural zoning should be compatible with reasonable and routine agricultural practices, especially where the area has been identified as regionally significant farm land by the NSW Government," Mr Larsson said.

Jeff Zanette also owns one of the properties adjacent to the south of the monastery, which is also used to produce a variety of agricultural products.

He said that there was "the potential for conflict with agriculture, when we have a development of that size, with the number of people that are going to attend that complex".

The opponents are backed by agricultural organisations, including the Australian Macadamia Society, the Australian Banana Growers Council and the Australian Custard Apple Growers Association.

Other objections relate to the distance of the existing shed from the property boundary, the height of the proposed stupa and the expected increase in traffic.

Venerable Pannyavaro rejected suggestions that traffic volumes would dramatically increase.

He said there would be no more than 35 people at the retreat for up to nine months of the year and for no more than nine days within every month.

"Some people seem to have got the impression this is going to be a permanent village, but that is not the case," he said.

"We are complying with the requirements. We are legally allowed to build a religious retreat house here, so the zoning is fine. We would not have bought the property if that was the case.

Venerable Pannyavaro said they informed their immediate neighbours of their long-term plans to build the retreat and stupa when they purchased the land.

"Almost all of them were very receptive of our intentions," he said.



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