Rezoning deferred on plain
A DECISION has been deferred on the rezoning of 17ha of land at West Ballina, which would pave the way for a $20 million Masters home improvement store.
Ballina Shire councillors this week debated the rezoning of the land for the third time, after the Department of Planning and Infrastructure asked the council to review its refusal of the rezoning.
Masters is a joint venture between Woolworths and Lowe's companies.
Its Ballina store would employ about 150 people full time and 185 people during the construction phase.
But nearby residents are furious that further development is being planned for the West Ballina flood plain.
A highway service centre has already been approved for land adjoining the proposed Masters site.
Tracy Burke's family owns the Ballina Waterfront Village and Tourist Park, which is directly opposite the land.
"We are genuinely concerned about the effect this will have on the whole of West Ballina, not just our place," she said.
"It will actually impact on the whole town.
"Bit by bit developers will eventually build on the entire flood plain.
"We have to learn from mistakes made in other areas - look at what happened in Brisbane."
However, Masters has repeatedly told the council it will not consider any other location for its Ballina store.
Masters' senior development manager, Tony Pratt, told councillors this week they were "very keen" to open a store in Ballina.
"If there was an alternative, we would be all over it by now," he said.
"Our aim is to open a store in Ballina, not to keep battling the council."
Mr Pratt also expressed disappointment that Masters had not been consulted during the council's review of its refusal to rezone the land, and said they only found out the matter was being presented to councillors this week "by accident".
He said the company wanted the opportunity to talk with council staff.
"There are only upsides for Ballina in this," he said.
But Ballina Mayor Phillip Silver was strongly opposed to the Masters store being built on the flood plain.
"This is a floodway ... that is the single prime issue for me," he said.
"I have driven through a metre of water in that precinct. There are other sites available and they don't all belong to the council.
"This (approving the rezoning) would be the wrong thing to do."
The vote on proceeding with the rezoning was locked at 5-5, but Cr Silver used his casting vote to defeat the motion.