Out of six councillors, only two voted against the DA in spite of massive opposition from local residents who had a long list of complaints. They were Councillor Katie Milne and Barry Longland. Over 500 submissions were received by council. In the Land and Environment Court hearing, 100 people spoke against it and only 1 for it. In spite of this the Commissioner approved it.
Although an Environmental Impact Statement was done some time ago, it was shelved. The advice given in the EIS was not acted upon by the developer, and instead a forest of rare and endangered species of trees (including teak and red cedar) where koalas once lived was clearcut. This clearcutting was done before the DA was approved. I wonder what the Ombudsman would say about all this?
Ironically, the four councillors who voted in favour of the DA all stood on a green platform at the last elections.
Local residents spoke eloquently and with great passion enumerating the many reasons why they opposed it. The main argument was the size of the village for the location. How ludicrous to have 130 three storey units, 250 houses, a 100-bed backpacker and 100-bed motel and 50 assorted shops in a remote area with a pub.
By far the most important concern was the very real possibility of effluent going into the Tweed River which is the town's drinking water, in the event of heavy rainfall and a failed filtration system. This would be a key issue not only for humans but for endangered species such as the Giant Barred frog who live in the vicinity.
How unrealistic to restrict future Nightcap residents to only half the amount of water that people in the town of Murwillumbah use. This will force the council to truck water in to parched residents at Nightcap village and who will pay for this? Ratepayers, people who are already unhappy with recent rate increases.
A predicted 4,500 extra car movements per day on narrow, winding, country roads will slow down locals’ day, make it even more dangerous for them to enter Kyogle Road from rural properties whose entry may not be obvious, increase road kill, road accidents, vehicle pollution and in general detract from the village atmosphere Uki and local residents so enjoy. Locals can kiss goodbye their magnificent view of the stars illuminating a pitch-black night sky.
Not only was no EIS study presented, but also no aboriginal heritage study. According to a local water diviner, Peter Symmons, there is an aboriginal curse on the land due to a massacre that occurred some centuries ago that whoever lives on the land will receive the curse.
The four councillors who voted in favour of the DA - Dot Holdom, Kevin Skinner, Warren Polglaze and Phil Youngblutt - with at times bored looks on their faces, not even paying attention to speakers, were chided by one speaker for their rudeness. Several speakers complained that they had better things to do with their time than address council, who is appears to be serving the needs of developers ahead of the people who elected them.
Courageous green councillor Katie Milne, made a motion to reject the DA, reminding the other councillors how they stood on a green voting platform and their need to listen to the wishes of the people along with all the very valid complaints presented. Her motion was seconded by Cr Barry Longland. However they were outnumbered by the other four pro-development councillors.
On announcement of the vote in favour of the DA, the gallery broke into a near brawl, as residents yelled at the top of their voices their extreme anger and disappointment.
A number of amendments were made among which was a clause to require of the developer a $200,000 bank guarantee until 100 premises have been connected to the sewage treatment system to ensure the system is maintained. But then what happens after the 100th premise is sold and the rains begin in earnest to flood the area, as it is well known to do. Why doesn't the guarantee stay in place? Not that money will solve the problem of flooded sewage overflowing into the Tweed!
Strangely enough, according to a reliable source, the developer's original vision was to have composting toilets and a maximum of 450 people but both were rejected by council who forced him to have the current unsatisfactory sewage system and 1,000 residents, both requirements of which have raised the most objections by the community.
Tonight’s decision clearly shows us in the Tweed Shire there is no democracy – most of the councillors do not appear to care what people want. Logical deduction suggests that their actions must be motivated by concerns other than democratic representation. Residents also have grave concerns about the role played in advising and decision-making by General Manager Mike Rayner based on his appointment as Director on the board of Repco Rally Australia.
The role of Council General Manager, Mike Rayner, seems obscure to the residents. He has authority and influence over councillors and staff by virtue of his position as manager, yet he has no personal duty to represent the electorate, albeit, as a public servant. Residents feel he should be demonstrably above all vested interest, both political and pecuniary, as clearly stated in the Council Code of Conduct. The residents are concerned that they have little information about how Rayner affects decisions or where he stands on them, particularly since his primary duty is to his employers rather than to the political concerns of local residents.
After the extraordinary meeting deciding the DA on Nightcap Village, people in the community feel it's time to sack this council including Mike Rayner, and keep only the two councillors serving the people – Crs Katie Milne and Barry Longland. And this time, change the laws so that previously sacked councillors and general manager will be ineligible to run for office.
See also: "Raceway through the Rainforest. Paradise lost!" of 19 Apr 09, "Kyogle residents fight World Rally motor race" of 7 Mar 09 and other articles about fight by Tweed and Kyogle residents against World Car Rally.