The property, with the township of Emerald Beach visible to the south, is surrounded by protected areas including the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve to the north and Coffs Coast Regional park on the eastern side. Photo: Trevor Veale.
The property, with the township of Emerald Beach visible to the south, is surrounded by protected areas including the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve to the north and Coffs Coast Regional park on the eastern side. Photo: Trevor Veale.

Close call for proposal to develop Emerald Beach wetlands

WITH the latest attempt to develop a wetland north of Emerald Beach knocked back, efforts are now focused on permanently conserving the site.

Paul Reid owns the 29.7 hectare block between the beach and Solitary Islands Way and had been trying to develop it for almost three decades.

The property is surrounded by protected areas including the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve to the north and the Coffs Coast Regional Park on the coastal side.

Mr Reid's previous attempt to establish a 40-lot subdivision there was knocked back by Coffs Harbour City Council in March 2015 and later upheld by the NSW Land and Environment Court. Council spent over $600,000 to defend their decision.

 

Emerald Beach residents gather to meet with the Land and Environment court in October 2015 about the proposed 40-lot development. Photo Trevor Veale.
Emerald Beach residents gather to meet with the Land and Environment court in October 2015 about the proposed 40-lot development. Photo Trevor Veale.

Not to be deterred he amended his plans to build a large two-storey home approximately 150 metres from the water.

His latest proposal was up for consideration at last week's council meeting with senior staff recommending it be approved but Councillor Sally Townley had other ideas.

"The wetlands at North Emerald Beach have long been recognised by the community and by Council as being of very high conservation value," Cr Townley said.

"We know that building homes right behind the dunes is a bad idea and it is just a matter of time before it's a problem. The closeness to the ocean, combined with fire risk, make it an unsuitable location for even a single home."

She put up an alternative motion which called on the application to be knocked back on the grounds that it: is contrary to public interest; does not meet the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development; and will be unable to provide alternative all weather access and egress as required under Planning for Bush Fire Protection (2006) Guidelines.

Like a number of other matters up for consideration that night including the controversial Cultural and Civic Space, the votes were tied four-four.

Councillors Townley, Tegan Swan, Denise Knight and George Cecato voted to knock back the development while councillors Michael Adendorff, Keith Rhoades, Paul Amos and John Arkan wanted to see it go ahead.

Ultimately it was Mayor Denise Knight's casting vote which supported Cr Townley's motion to deny the DA.

 

Lot 62 outlined in yellow with the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve shaded in dark green and the Coffs Coast Regional Park in light green.
Lot 62 outlined in yellow with the Moonee Beach Nature Reserve shaded in dark green and the Coffs Coast Regional Park in light green.

Community groups who have been fighting for decades to see the land permanently conserved were pleasantly suprised by the outcome.

"I was always hopeful councillors would vote for common sense and avoid any future sea erosion risks to the property, but I admit to being surprised they accepted this risk over back slapping this development through," URGE member Jonathan Cassell said.

"A very prudent decision by at least four Councillors,"

URGE is hoping the land owner will work with the State Government and the Minister for Planning Rob Stokes to acquire the land at fair market value, under its Coastal Lands Protection Scheme.

"Acquiring the land for conservation is the best possible outcome for the community and the environment," Cr Townley said.



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