Court convenes on site of controversial Toormina DA
EMOTIONS were running high at a Land and Environment Court hearing near the site of a proposed 57-lot subdivision in Toormina.
One woman fought back tears as she described growing up in the area and enjoying the bush wonderland, which is slated for clearing if the proposal by Regional Ethical Developments (RED) Coffs Coast is approved.
Lawyers had to interrupt proceedings at one point as the crowd responded with cheers and applause to a presentation from Dave Wood, a vocal opponent of the proposal.
"This is an arrogant attack on the values of our community and a shoddy attempt at making money," Mr Wood said.
Well over 100 people gathered at Hi-Tech Dr to witness the proceedings; some holding protest signs.
"To get that many people there on a work and school day was very good. There was also quite a few elderly people there who have longtime connections with that particular piece of ground," Mr Wood said.
A particularly emotional presentation came from Aboriginal woman Fiona Row who had travelled down from Queensland interrupting her university studies to be there on the day.
"The developers said they'd done a 'cultural heritage report', however the registered elders group did not sight or endorse this. We share dismay at animal habitat destruction to suit developers.
"Lot 2 land is of great significance to our animals and culture. It was extensively used for past food gathering. It is a critical koala corridor and its biodiversity would be lost forever if destroyed," she said, fighting back tears.
The proposal, which involves clearing approximately 6.99 hectares to make way for the 57-lot housing subdivision, was referred to the Land and Environment Court after Coffs Harbour City Council failed to approve it in the required timeframe making it a 'deemed refusal'.
It has triggered a number of on-site demonstrations and a change-org petition, which so far has almost 3,000 signatures.
The site includes approximately six hectares recognised and mapped as Primary Koala Habitat in the Coffs Harbour City Council Koala Plan of Management.
Another section has been mapped in the Coffs Harbour LEP as an Endangered Ecological Community (Coastal Paperbark and Sedgeland swamp habitat).
It is an 'L' shaped block, fronting Sawtell Road opposite the Linden Avenue intersection, continuing through to the Hogbin Drive Industrial Estate.
It's often used by nearby residents as a shortcut to Toormina schools or shops, walking the dog, bike riding or just enjoying the tree-scape.
Drainage has also been raised as an issue for the site.
"Why would you attempt to build in the bottom of a basin ?" Mr Wood asked.
Residents opposed to the development also fear for the future health of Boambee Creek.
"There would be irreversible damage to the creek ecosystem once the paper bark and sedgeland swamp disappear. They have always acted as filters for the waterway and currently do this for storm water run off and spillage from Sawtell Road and the surrounding areas," Ms Row said.
After the on-site conciliation the lawyers representing Regional Architects and the Coffs Harbour City Council returned to council chambers for a 'without prejudice mediation' facilitated by Land and Environment Court Commissioner Paul Adams.
The details of this mediation have not been released but lawyers representing council have written to residents informing them the conciliation conference has been adjourned for three weeks to May 22 to: "allow the applicant to provide further information to council as part of this mediation process."
Dan Stevens from Regional Architects was on site for the conciliation and was approached for comment but is yet to respond.