PARADISE LOST By MEL MARTIN
GERRY McGilvray has no doubt a 378-lot development south of Moonee would cause irreparable damage to vegetation and wildlife, should it be approved.
"This property is uncleared, has intact forest and wetlands of very high conservation and aesthetic value, and contains the last pristine tributary of the Moonee Creek section of the Solitary Islands Marine Park," Ms McGilvray said.
"When there is ecological conservation value like that, it's hard to compromise.
"Putting 380 houses on a site of such high conservation value and not inflicting damage is impossible."
A proposal for the subdivision of part of the 102-hectare site at South Moonee Forest has been submitted for consideration to the NSW Department of Planning.
Under the proposal, Sydney-based developer Hillview Heights Estate Pty Ltd hopes to build a 378-lot coastal village that would include residential, holiday, tourist and retirement housing.
Because the land contains a number of threatened species and listed endangered ecological communities, the application proposes to conserve 67 per cent of the site and develop the remaining third.
But Ms McGilvray fears not only would it destroy the site's environmental value, it would also lead to more development of the site in the future.
"Having houses there might influence later decisions for further development, because it will intensify pressure on the area and species will disappear," she said. "It's a short-term vision that will be regretted in the future."
And she isa angry that Coffs Harbour City Council won't be the ones making the decision, under State legislation that requires 'major developments' to be approved by the State Government.
When Coffs Harbour City Council adopted the Moonee Development Control Plan (DCP), it resolved to negotiate with owners of two lots, hoping to re-zone this land to be entirely 7A Environmental Protection Habitat and Catchment.
While the council say they have negotiated to their satisfaction with the owner of the lot to the north of Moonee, they are still in negotiation with the owner of the South Moonee Forest land.
"It was a surprise to see such a large development proposal while negotiations are still going on," Councillor Rod McKelvey said.
"There is a potential to do a small scale development, but I don't think the right answer for that particular block is 380 lots, it's a bit over the top."
A spokeswoman for the council said its role was now to work with the Department of Planning to prepare a list of requirements for an environmental assessment that the applicant must prepare.
"Once the department receives that environmental assessment, the application will be placed on exhibition for community comment, but only after it considers the proposal to be viable," she said.
"Preliminary review of the application by council staff indicates the subdivision proposal varies significantly from the council's adopted Moonee DCP."
While the Coffs Coast Advocate was unable to contact Hillview Heights Estate Pty Ltd, the development application says flora and fauna species are unlikely to be significantly impacted because substantial habitat is to be retained; the threatened fauna species are highly-mobile and the site is only a small part of their habitat; the extent of suitable resources and habitat in the region; and the proposed environmental management measures.
It adds that because the majority of the swamp forest, estuarine and wetland communities will be kept, they are unlikely to be significantly impacted.