Development will ruin village, say residents

Dunoon Community Group members Ross and Paula McDougall at the site of the proposed 57-lot subdivision.

Members of the Dunoon Community Group believe they are being kept in the dark by Lismore City Council over a controversial, 57-lot subdivision proposed for the village.

More than 130 of the towns 400-odd residents have openly rejected the development. The group has now called on Council to extend the exhibition period past the February 1 deadline to give villagers more time to finalise a submission.

Dunoon Community Group member Paula McDougall said on Wednesday Council had neither agreed to nor denied the extension, leaving the residents in limbo.

Were not impressed, said Paula. We have no money to hire a consultant to go through the DA and so we have to slog through the 330-page document ourselves. Half the village has been away over January and have not had input we need more time.

However, Councils executive director of development and governance, Lindsay Walker, says the residents have already had two weeks longer than the statutory requirement and says hes happy to accept submissions after the exhibition period ends.

The proposed subdivision, by Sydney-based developer Hardie Holdings, lies between the Dunoon Sports Club and a subdivision of 17 lots called Avondale.

Paula said the 17-lot subdivision was built with the village atmosphere in mind and the residents didnt have any objection to it. She says the new development has much smaller lots and will be too close to the Sports Club, potentially creating conflict around noise and lighting.

Were all for development but this type of subdivision is absolutely shocking, said Paula. The charm of Dunoon is we have wide open spaces and rural outlooks if this development goes ahead as it stands, it would be the end of our village.

Management of the sewerage plant to cater for the subdivision would be the responsibility of the residents rather than Council, which has the potential for disastrous consequences, she said.

She claims all the groups requests to view correspondence between Council and the developer have been refused, and they have now applied through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the documents.

Its very suspicious, especially when theres a sewerage treatment plant involved that will sit on the headwaters of Numulgi Creek, which is a big wetland area, Paula said. If anything happens to the plant Council is not responsible but were talking about a major piece of infrastructure. What if theres a power failure or something goes wrong and raw sewage leaks into the wetland area you can say goodbye to the platypus and frogs and other wildlife that live there.

Mr Walker said he was not trying to withhold information but rather get a clear picture of what the residents were unhappy with.

The community group wanted to know what Council staff were concerned about and I refused to give them that advice because I am interested from a Council perspective on what concerns them, he said. I did not wish to colour their views.

Paula says when the initial DA was lodged by Hardie Holdings in October 2006 the Dunoon Community Group wrote to chairman Duncan Hardie requesting a dialogue. The letter was ignored.

The original DA has since been amended and was re-submitted to Council in December of last year. Paula says it does not take into account any of the residents objections.

Hardie Holdings has shown no willingness to compromise and appears determined to ride roughshod over the wishes of this community, said Paula. The subdivision would boost the population of Dunoon by more than one third in one single hit it is simply too much growth in one go for such a small community to absorb without having serious adverse effects.

Paula claims the proposal runs counter to the Councils own Development Control Plan for Dunoon, which states that it is vital that the villages character and functionality not be eroded.

She says Councils Lismore Village Development Strategy also states that any expansion of existing villages should take into account the opinions of existing residents.

It is extremely alarming to us that Council might be considering overriding its own planning documents, which it is legally obliged to follow, in favour of the developer, said Paula. It is a stock standard urban subdivision proposal, with no concession to the unique rural village environment in which it is being dumped. The amount of additional traffic alone will be horrendous. Dunoon Road is a bloody dangerous road as it is.

Mr Walker said he understood people had moved to Dunoon for lifestyle reasons and said Council wanted to hear peoples opinions.

We are going through a process that is designed to elicit concerns and input from the community, he said. Are we mindful of the character of Dunoon and the importance of that to the village? Of course we are. Its very important we get a clear understanding of the amenity and character issues they are concerned about and I encourage them to focus on those issues.

Hardie Holdings has a policy of providing no comment to the media.

However, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2006 that the company had challenged government orders to repair 150 hectares of land it cleared without consent at a proposed residential subdivision in the Hunter region.

The Dunoon Community Group has called a public meeting for tonight (Thursday, January 24) at the Dunoon Hall at 7pm to inform residents and discuss what action they will take.

There has been no community consultation over this development whatsoever, said Paula. Were all very angry were not going to let Council get away with this.

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