School relocation splits council

A PROPOSAL to build a primary school on flood-prone land in East Macksville has seen a split between Nambucca Shire's elected representatives and its planning department.

At last week’s council meeting, councillors voted 6:3 in favour of the $5 million development to relocate St Patrick’s Primary School, which has outgrown its current Wallace Street site, to three hectares of rural flood-prone land on Dudley Street.

Cr Paula Flack was outspoken in her opposition to the development both at the meeting and again this week.

“This development requires 20,000 cubic metres of fill to raise the school buildings to a suitable level above future floods plus it is only 300 metres from the proposed new Pacific Highway route,” Cr Flack said.

“A peer review of the flood study recommends against it, the emergency services say evacuation will be difficult and our own planning department has been saying it is not appropriate – are parents aware?”

Nambucca Shire Council’s general manager, Michael Coulter, said the decision to put the matter to a council vote without the planning department’s final report was made because of time constraints.

“This application has been with the council since September last year and the Joint Regional Planning Panel will be making their decision on April 14 - the matter could no longer be deferred,” Mr Coulter said.

He said his department’s recommendation for refusal would not have affected his own recommendation for approval.

“Clearly the elected council, like me, were satisfied that evacuation could be accommodated safely without risk to the students.”

The council’s planning manager, Arthur Tsembis, sent his report to the JRPP on Wednesday. In his report he recommended refusal of the development on the grounds of “the likely impacts of the proposed development on traffic, stormwater management and to a lesser extent, noise impacts and fragmentation of rural lands”.

He continued: “However, the major impediment to the proposed development is the potential flood impacts, particularly relating to evacuation and safety of children during an extreme flood event.”

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