Sunday 5 May 2024

Property developers continue to come after State Significant Farmland in the Northern Rivers region


Historically three facts are clear about farmland in New South Wales.

1. Approximately half of the state's land mass can be considered to have moderately low to extremely low agricultural value [Adams VM & Engert JE, 2023]. Yet New South Wales produces about $15.1 billion of agricultural food and $38.1 billion of manufactured food & beverage products each year [NSW Govt, Investment NSW, 2024], with agriculture and primary production generally being an important industry on the North Coast as one of its largest employers and a significant contributor to the regional economy.

2. The state's 1,973km long coastal strip from the ocean to the Great Dividing Range has historically produced around 20 per cent of its primary production annually [Melville JM, 2012].

3. Agricultural and pastoral land is being removed from the state's coastal zone at an alarming rate. With up to 60% of agricultural land within the Greater Western Sydney 'food bowl' - which produces more than three-quarters of the total value of agricultural produce in the metropolitan region - being lost to property development in the last ten years. However, agricultural land loss to property development is not confined to major cities, but can be found all along the coastal zone. Wherever there are regional cities, towns & villages seen as highly desirable by those seeking a tree change or sea change lifestyle.

Such is the case here......

ECHO, 3 May 2034:

The contentiousCudgen Connection development proposed on State Significant Farmland (SSF) on the protected Cudgen Plateau next to the Tweed Valley Hospital (TVH) site was in front of Tweed Shire Councillors at yesterday’s planning meeting.

The council staff report had recommended that the application for gateway determination should be approved however, Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association (KRAPA) were clear in their objections to the proposal and highly critical of the inaccurate statements and reports relating to the SSF site.

When the TVH was proposed on the SSF the issue split the local community and when the hospital was approved and the site re-zoned from SSF both sides of the political spectrum gave ‘iron clad’ promises that there would be no further development of or rezoning of SSF on the Cudgen plateau.

Six to one in favour of refusal

We are so grateful to the six councillors who voted to refuse this application,’ Peter Newton, President of KRPA told The Echo.

Particularly the community could not have had better representation than from Mayor Cherry, Deputy Mayor Dennis and Councillor Firth who forensically addressed every community concern in speaking to the item. It’s disappointing that it was left to Mayor Cherry and others to detail the clear shortcomings and inconsistencies within this proposal, which we would have expected to see in the Council report.’

Mayor Cherry spoke to the proposed refusal telling the meeting that, ‘In order to support a variation allowed for under the North Coast Regional Plan, we need to be satisfied that the variation is supported by a sound evidence base addressing agricultural capability and sustainability. Is the land capable, is this sustainable?

We’re required to form a view as to whether the proposal has to strategic and site specific merit. For the clarity strategic merit means that the proposal has alignment with the New South Wales Strategic Planning Framework and government priorities. It also needs to have alignment with our priorities, and those that have council that have been approved by the state government. Is it consistent with the North Coast Regional Plan? Is it consistent with the Tweed Local Strategic Planning Statement with our strategies with the Tweed Regional Economic Development Strategy.

These are the questions we’ve had to consider and this is the site suitable for the relevant development. This is one question that hasn’t really come out in this assessment at all. Where’s the strategic assessment and the demonstrated need for 120 bed private hospital in this location, where is consideration of the impacts that that might have on our Tweed Valley Hospital on the existing private hospital John Flyn, on our other day surgeries in Tweed Heads? Does the proposal give regard and assess the impacts of the natural environment, including the known resources and what is our SSF but a finite resource? We can’t make any more of it.’......

Developer won’t back down

Speaking to the meeting conservative Cr Warren Polglase told the meeting that the developer wouldn’t be walking away from the proposal.

Well I support the proposal as it is,’ Cr Polglase told the meeting.

I will be voting in favour of it and I realise that the applicant is definitely going to go to review and I guess a determination will be put forward to the Regional Planning Panel, which will finish up on the minister’s desk.’

Mr Newton told The Echo that, ‘This result was the outcome our community wanted and deserved. While this decision is a very clear endorsement for protecting our precious SSF and the unsuitability of the Cudgen Connection proposal, we do appreciate that this is one step in the process.’.

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