Showing posts with label coastal development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coastal development. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 November 2019

In a 5 to 4 Clarence Valley Council vote a new building height precident was set for Yamba


Clarence Valley Independent, 30 October 2019:



Clarence Valley Council has approved the construction of 50 independent seniors’ living apartments at 56-58 Yamba Road, through to the adjacent Caroona aged care facility. There are 10 NSW Government Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAFH) units. Car parking is at ground level and the three levels of apartments consist of 32 two-bedroom units, four three-bedroom units and 12 one bedroom units. Vehicles will be restricted to only turning left when entering and leaving the two driveways. The Uniting Church in Australian Property Trust, which operates Caroona, is the owner. Images: CVC

The report to last week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting advised councillors that one of the developer’s justifications for approving the construction of a four-storey building on Yamba Road was that it “will not create an undesirable precedent or cumulative effect” for future development proposals in Yamba.

Councillors Peter Ellem and Karen Toms disagreed.

Councillor Toms described the proposed height variations, which exceed the maximum heights in the Seniors Living State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) and the Clarence Valley local environment plan (CVLEP), as “the biggest I can remember”, and that approving four storeys would set a “precedent”. She held privacy concerns for a neighbour, who would suffer “a large loss of amenity”. Councillor Ellem reflected on a 2007 decision, by then planning minister Frank Sartor, to approve four-storey buildings at the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort. “I editorialised against it [when the editor of DEX] … I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I supported this one,” he said. “At that height, it will set a precedent in Yamba … and have severe impacts on the neighbours.” The CVLEP prescribes a maximum height of nine metres and the seniors SEPP prescribes a maximum height of eight metres. Fifty percent of the building will stand 11.7 metres high, not including an extra metre for the lift and skylights. The LEP says the nine metre maximum is meant to “maintain the low scale character of towns and villages in the Clarence Valley

[and]

protect the amenity of neighbouring properties…”.

Staff write in the report that “the main reason for the height variation appears to be maximising the unit yield by allowing the apartments on the first storey to be above the habitable floor area required for flood affected lots”. 

In other words, the first floor is car parking. 

After considering 12 of the applicant’s justifications, for allowing variations to the SEPP, LEP and development control plan (DCP), staff only highlighted one: “The proposal is consistent with the objectives of Clause 4.3 of the CVLEP.” 

Staff noted that the height variation, “when considered against the first of the objectives of 4.3 of the CVLEP, would generally be inconsistent with maintaining the low scale character of towns and villages in the Clarence Valley”. 

Quoting the applicant’s ‘design verification statement’, which “likens the building to that of low-density buildings in coastal towns … [and advocates the] use of … horizontal emphasis and light and dark tones to additionally lower the visual scale of the buildings”, staff concluded: “In this respect the development is one that will dominate the streetscape in this location, though not be imposing, due to the overall design of the building [and] recessing or stepping of the upper level to around 17 metres from Yamba Road, [with] generous setbacks and provision of landscaping, which achieves reduced bulk and scale visual impacts.” 

On amenity and overshadowing, staff wrote: “Overall the proposal is considered to be consistent with the setback objectives of the DCP.”..... 

Councillor Grag Clancy, who said he was “not against the proposal, in principle”, spoke against; he focused on the building’s height. “I could live with something less than a one metre, but 2.7 metres in one category [LEP] and 3.7 in another [Seniors Living SEP]? … high buildings are not suitable for seniors,” he said.....

Predictably Crs. Richie Williamson, Richie's 'sock puppet' Arthur Lysaught and property developer Andrew Baker voted for the increased building height in the DA and, disappointingly, so did Mayor Jim Simmons and Cr. Jason Kingsley. Those who voted against were Crs. Peter Ellem, Karen Toms, Debra Novak and Greg Clancy.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Approval for a controversial rezoning that could allow a second boat-building yard in the Clarence River estuary must come from the NSW Berejiklian Government


The Daily Examiner, 26 October 2019, p.3: 

Approval for a controversial rezoning that could allow a boat-building yard for Palmers Island must come from the State Government. 

At its Tuesday meeting, Clarence Valley Council voted in support of a motion that effectively washed its hands of making any recommendations, handing decision-making for the proposal which has split the local community to NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes. 

Boat-building firm Yamba Welding and Engineering has applied to have a 20ha block of land in School Rd, Palmers Island, rezoned from rural to industrial usage. Company owner Bill Collingburn said expanding his operation to Palmers Island would allow him to triple the size of his operation. 

The community has flooded the council with 183 submissions (131 against and 52 for) and two petitions – one with 689 signatures supporting the proposal and another with 445 names against it..... 

Instead of following a staff recommendation on the handover, which referenced legal advice which could have ruled the planning proposal invalid, Cr Andrew Baker sought to be “neutral”, with a wide-ranging motion covering what the council had done to date on the matter. 

Deputy Mayor Jason Kingsley successfully amended the motion, to make it more neutral. 

This was not enough for some of the residents. 

Resident Peter Sutton said the attempt to be “neutral” was misleading. “Cr Baker has twisted words and included issues that are no longer valid,” Mr Sutton said. 

But Mr Collingburn was pleased to see the council take an even-handed approach. 

“It’s just people squealing,” he said. “You talk to most people and they want to see jobs and growth in the region.”

Administrative staff advice before Clarence Valley councillors on 22 October 2019 included the following:

183 submissions were received. This included two petitions and four submissions from Government Agencies including an objection to the loss of primary agricultural land from Department of Primary Industries. The submissions have been assessed by an external planning consultant (Planning Resolutions) to provide independent advice. The consultant has provided a summary report of matters raised in the submissions and a summary of the key issues at Attachment B. 

The report by Planning Resolutions concluded that: ‘The support for the Planning Proposal is almost entirely and simply support of the business/boat building industry rather than supporting a change in zoning for this particular site. The submissions objecting to the Planning Proposal provide compelling evidence as to the adverse site impacts and comprehensively dispel the reasons put forward by the proponent for not locating the business on Harwood Island. Council has completed a proper strategic planning process that establishes Harwood Island as a suitable Marine Precinct’. [my yellow highlighting]

Council has been advised by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces that it is not the local plan-making authority for this Planning Proposal and has no legal power to determine this application. 

Two separate legal advices confirm that the Planning Proposal in its current form is in conflict with State Environmental Planning Policy 55 - Remediation of Land due to a tractor storage area on the property being a potentially contaminated site. Whilst this matter is resolvable, a rezoning may not be considered in any form when such conflict with a state policy exists. Therefore on this issue alone the Planning Proposal is likely to not proceed.

It is noted that on or about 3 April 2019 Council was in receipt of Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel Gateway Review Advice Report which found among other things that: "The zoned land at Harwood is not practically available for the proposed use due to land ownership, access limitations, and operational requirements of the planning proposal".

It is further noted that there is an existing marine precinct relatively close by at Harwood Slipway.

Over the years Yamba Welding and Engineering has met with NSW government ministers on a number of occasions in pursuit of its business expansion.

As recently as 18 June 2019 the company, along with Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, met with the NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade John Barilaro concerning its development plans in the Clarence Valley.

Monday, 21 October 2019

The Queensland white shoe brigade's fascination with destroying pristine land in the NSW Northern Rivers region continues


Echo Net Daily image of the site found at NSW EDO

In 1981 Richmond Valley Council gave consent to DA111/1988 for a four stage subdivision by Iron Gates Developments Pty Limited on environmentally sensitive land bordering the Evans River and Bundjalung National Park near Evans Head in the NSW Northern River region.

In 1991 the consent for those 610 lots was challenged in the NSW Land & Environment Court by Richmond-Evans Environmental Society Inc.

Development did not proceed that year.

In 1993 Al Oslack began litigation in the NSW Land & Environment Court seeking to overturn a Richmond Valley Council consent for Iron Gates Developments Pty Limited's 110 lot development application on the same parcel of land.

This challenge went all the way to the High Court of Australia before the consent would be successfully overturned in 1998 and site remediation ordered.

Remediation remains unrealised to date.

Allegedly unlawful land clearing occured on the site at some point before June 2014.

In 2014, Graeme Angus Ingles, former company director of the now defunct Iron Gates Pty Ltd (deregistered November 2008), lodged a fresh application to develop the site under the name of a company registered in Queensland, Goldcoral Pty Ltd trading under the business name Iron Gates Estate Evans Head.

Shares in Goldcoral are fully owned by Portcount Pty Ltd, previous to this shares were owned by Portcorp Land Pty Ltd

In 2014 Planning NSW would not consent to the development proceeding without a master plan and the application documents had to be amended.

The development application was registered with Northern Regional Planning Panel on 29 October 2014 as an 186 lot development.

This time it was Dr. David Ashley who applied to the Land & Environment Court in 2015 or 2016 seeking records of council meetings with the developer in the public interest.

Now in 2019 DA2015/0096-amended dated 23 July 2019 is before Richmond Valley Council. 
https://richmondvalley.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Appendix-2-Revised-ESCIR-23-July-2019-Appendix-A-B.pdf


This amended development application made on behalf of Goldcoral Pty Ltd by Graeme Ingles of the Ingles Group is for a 184 lot subdivision which includes 175 residential lots, 3 residue lots, 4 public reserves, 1 drainage reserve, and 1 sewer pump station lot.

The developmen is estimated to cost over $12 millionn and impacts on Lot 163 DP 831052, Lots 276 and 277 DP 755624, Crown Road Reserve between Lots 163 DP 831052 and Lot 276 DP 755724, Crown Foreshore Reserve and Iron Gates Drive, Evans Head NSW; 240 Iron Gates Drive, Evans Head.

The Queensland 'white shoe brigade' is nothing if not persistent.

BACKGROUND

The Northern Star, 2 October 2019:

A revised proposal for the subdivision of land at the controversial Iron Gates Drive in Evans Head has been lodged.
The proposal from three lots to 175 residential lots, three residue lots, four public reserves, a drainage reserve and a sewer pump station will be publicly exhibited from todayfor community feedback.
The development application was lodged by Goldcoral Pty Ltd and includes clearing work, road works, drainage, and landscaping.
The application will be on exhibition until Monday, November 18. Consent authority for the application is the Northern Regional Planning Panel.
Assessment
Richmond Valley Council general manager Vaughan Macdonald said council would wait for the assessment of a master plan by NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment before they finalised the development assessment process.
He said all enquiries regarding the master plan process should be directed to the department’s regional office in Grafton.
Mr Macdonald said the proposal also required approvals from relevant State Government agencies such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Rural Fire Service.
“As with all development applications received by council, the Iron Gates proposal will undergo a full professional and technical assessment to ensure it meets relevant NSW Government legislation and planning controls,” he said.
“Following council’s assessment, a report will be compiled and forwarded to the Northern Regional Planning Panel for final determination.”
Mr Macdonald said the planning panel met on an as-needs-basis, and was unable to confirm a final determination date.
Public submissions
He said those interested in the proposal could inspect the application and support documents at council’s customer service centres in Casino and Evans Head, and on council’s website.
He said anyone could formally submit comments to support or oppose the development application during the exhibition period.
However, he said council would not consider anonymous submissions.
“For feedback on a development application to be valid, a submission must be properly made in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act,” Mr Macdonald said.
Mr Macdonald said those providing feedback should be clear on why they were supporting or opposing the development.
State your reasons
He said council needed to understand the reasons behind your submission.
For example, if you think the type of development proposed for your area is unsuitable, you need to say why it is unsuitable – not simply that you don't like it.
It is important to focus on:
Whether the proposed use is consistent with the intent for the area
Whether the scale and design of the proposed development is compatible with surrounding development
How the development addresses the street and interfaces with adjoining properties
Any potential traffic and car parking issues associated with the development
How the development may impact on drainage patterns in the area
How the development fits with the natural environment.
Echo NetDaily, 2 February 2016:

The department of planning and environment (DoPE) has given permission for a proposed development at Evans Heads’ controversial Iron Gates site to go on public exhibition, despite a previous development on the same site being overturned by the Land and Environment Court at the eleventh hour.
The draft master plan for the subdivision would allow for 176 residential lots and four public reserves with fire trails.
DoPE says the land to be developed for residential purposes is ‘already zoned as general residential land by the Richmond Valley LEP’ and that ‘no additional residential land is proposed on the site’.
A DoPE spokesperson said the department recognised ‘the environmental and cultural value of the Evans Head site, including its location on the Evans River, its native vegetation, wetlands and rainforest, as well as the places of Aboriginal cultural significance present on the land.’
The spokesperson added that, ‘if approved, the proponent’s draft master plan would provide a guide against which future development applications can be assessed by the local council or other consent authority.’

Illegally installed infrastructure

But that’s not the view of Al Oshlack, the man who defeated an earlier proposal for the site in the Land and Environment Court 20 years ago.
As a result of that defeat, the court ordered the removal of infrastructure that it viewed had been illegally installed on the land but that was never done.
Mr Oshlack believes that may constitute contempt of court and is preparing to again fight development of the fragile coastal ecosystem.
‘In 1996 the court made orders for land remediation and then they had a special hearing with the chief justice in which they made an extensive remediation order,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘It never happened. The developer put the company into liquidation and he held out for about 18 years – and the statute of limitations to carry out the court orders lapsed.
‘Part of the development proposal is to test the viability of the various infrastructures: the plan is to utilise as much as they can of the illegally installed infrastructure, plus the illegal access road.
Mr Oschlack said that far from being a ‘guide against which future development applications could be assessed’, the history of the site suggested it was anything but.
‘I think the whole thing should be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. I mean, it’s just a total outrage and contemptuous of the whole legal process and environmental law.
‘And with the alleged illegal clearing that took place in 2014, there has been an investigation going on for two years by the EPA and they have yet to give an answer as to whether they managed to prosecute or not – even though I provided evidence from expert witnesses of the damage that occurred without any development consent,’ Mr Oshlack said.
The department says it is encouraging community feedback on the plan.
Sekuir Migration, 18 April 2018:
Ingles Group, which is known for its wide-scale property developments and well established accountancy firm, Ingles Accounting, is now offering inbound migration services on the Gold Coast.
Graeme Ingles, who heads up Ingles Group, says that migration services are crucial to the ongoing growth of the Gold Coast and that he launched Sekuir Migration in response to growing demand from his customer base.
Many business owners on the Gold Coast are in need of skilled workers, particularly food trades workers who can meet the needs of the thriving tourism and night economy of the region.

ABC North Coast Radio, 25 January 2015:
The Richmond Valley Council has received 62 submissions objecting to the Iron Gates development - the latest comes from the Royal Australian Air Force.
In a two-page letter, the Assistant Director of Estate Planning for the Defence Department, Marc McGowan said: 'Air weapons training at Evans Head is expected to increase in scale and density over time, towards the maximum rate of use of 70 days per year. Aircraft will be conducting bombing during day and night.
'The results of aircraft noise modelling indicate that the aircraft noise exposures from the Super Hornet compare with noise generated by busy road traffic and construction work.
'While Defence makes every effort to minimise the effects of noise on the community, aircraft noise will never be eliminated... and residents in close proximity to Evans Head are likely to be exposed to greater amounts of aircraft noise than experienced in the last few years.'
The statement goes on to read that 'glare from reflective surfaces can affect the visibility of pilots during daylight hours, and artificial water bodies can attract additional birdlife and may expose RAAF aircraft to birdstrike, posing a risk to personnel.
'Based on the above concerns, defence does not support the proposed application.'
Financial Review, 30 March 2011:

Receivers for companies of struggling Gold Coast property developer Graeme Ingles have forced the sale of three major land holdings that could fetch up to $20 million.
The new batch of offerings adds to the bloated stock of Gold Coast land parcels on offer through receivers.
St George Bank has appointed receivers John Shanahan and Ginette Muller of KordaMentha to sell Mr Ingles’s two high-rise development sites at Southport, which could fetch up to $15 million.
The sites total more than 11,000 square metres and both have development approvals for up to 44 levels, including more than 700 apartments.

Smart Company, 20 October 2008:
The Federal Court has found a property developer made misleading claims about the progress of construction of a golf course that was the centerpiece of a Gold Coast property development.
The Federal Court has found a property developer made misleading claims about the progress of construction of a golf course that was the centerpiece of a Gold Coast property development.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took action against Queensland developer Ingles Group and its managing director, Graeme Ingles, over the Tee Trees Residential Golf Community estate at Arundel.
A major selling feature was that it would include a golf course, but there were significant delays in construction of the course.
In 2003, the Ingles Group distributed a letter to potential buyers, providing an update on the golf course construction and a purported explanation for the delays.
But the Federal Court found that by sending the letter to potential buyers, the Ingles Group engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), 17 October 2008:


Justice Spender declared that, by sending the letter to potential buyers, the Ingles Group engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.  It had breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by:

  • representing that it had approval from the Gold Coast City Council to construct the golf course when in fact the approval granted was only preliminary and required that various further steps be taken before final approval could be granted
  • representing that the sole or primary cause of delay in construction was the drought when the primary cause was failure to obtain final council approval 
  • representing that it had called for tenders for bulk earthworks for the completion of the course and was awaiting the tender results when it had not yet called for tenders
  • representing that bulk earthworks for completion of the golf course would begin once tenders were received, when it did not have reasonable grounds for making such a claim, and
  • representing, by implication, that the course's construction would soon be well under way and would not be subject to any significant delays when it did not have reasonable grounds for such a claim, and when there were likely to be further significant delays.
According to Democracy 4 Sale from 2003 through to 2006 the Ingles Group made politcal donations to whichever of the two main poiltical parties held government in Queensland during those years.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Destruction of tree cover at Woombah Woods Caravan Park still not resolved


"We're literally on watch to call them [council officers] if we see or hear anything. The clearing started without any regard to rules, regulations or the Woombah community." [Emma Mills, Woombah resident quoted in Coastal Views, 16 August 2019] 

 ABC News, 9 August 2019: 

PHOTO: Council approval to develop the site was granted in the 1980s. (Supplied: Emma Mills)


There are fears important wildlife habitat is being destroyed as a developer tries to reactivate a 35-year-old site approval on the New South Wales north coast. 

About 30 large trees have been felled at the Woombah Woods Caravan Park near Iluka this week. Property developer William Hu paid about $2.7 million for the park earlier this year.......

PHOTO: William Hu has plans to expand the caravan park. (ABC North Coast: Bronwyn Herbert) 


He said he planned to remove every tree on the site to make way for more than 60 new cabins. 

"It is my legal right to clear all the trees within the approved footprint," Mr Hu said. 

"I'm a businessman. I want to make money. 

"But I also want my whole community to make money or live in a better environment." 

Clarence Valley Council planner Des Schroder said a temporarily stop-work order had been issued for the site. 

"The reality is that DAs (development approvals), as long as they're commenced, are valid forever," he said. 

"They have started work, the first stage; the question is whether they need DAs for further stages. 

Trees have been cut down in the Woombah Woods Caravan Park.

"That's the point for investigation ... if there needs to be a contemporary ecological survey done, even if the trees are allowed to be cleared. 

"There is significance from a koala point of view ... there is potential maybe for koala food trees or for a corridor." 

Emma Mills lives next to the caravan park and said the area was home to a significant koala population. 

It was also adjacent to a section of the Pacific Highway upgrade where the Roads and Maritime Service had taken measures to keep wildlife off the road, she said. 

"They have just recently installed a koala grid because there is an active koala colony just the opposite side of the highway," Ms Mills said. 

"They have indeed put a highway underpass for the koalas just to reach the eastern corridor, which we form part of. 

"We also see countless birdlife, kookaburras, parrots, black cockatoos, wallabies, bandicoots, possums." 

Stu Stark, who lived in the park for 18 months while building a house nearby, also said he saw and heard koalas. 

"We only saw a couple — they are very hard to spot, but they make a really loud noise at night time," he said. 

"I'm not sure if that's mating, I'm not sure what it is, but we heard plenty of that when we were living over at the caravan park." 

Mr Hu said long-term residents of the park told him they had never seen koalas on the site. 

The developer said he bought the park because he liked its feng shui, and he hoped to buy and develop other similar facilities. 

"This is my baby, my first caravan park. I want to build it up to the standard of William Hu," he said. "I'm going to do more after this one."

Clarence Valley Independent, 14 August 2019:


Mr Hu said that the clearing of the trees was to make way for new cabins and he was acting on advice from consultants who assured him a 1984 approval for development meant he did not require further council approval for the trees removal. 

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) issued a notice “to cease any further works until at least Council completes necessary investigations and provides further advice”. 

The removal of the trees (thought to be grey gum and tallow wood) was raised by the ‘Association of Iluka Residents’ (AIR) last Wednesday. 

President of AIR, Tony Belton claimed the trees were “a significant koala habitat” and that it was thought many of the trees may be around 100 years old.


Mr Belton said the developer is claiming that a DA approval issued over thirty years ago is still relevant, but his argument surely is now invalid, as the science is now showing that koalas in Northern NSW are threatened and under great duress due to habitat removal, displacement and connectivity obstruction. 

“It’s ironic that the major Pacific Highway upgrade being undertaken a mere one hundred meters away (from this caravan park) has had many kilometres of koala fencing and under road tunnels and grids to accommodate the recognised koala habitat and connectivity at Woombah. 

Possibly hundreds of thousands of Federal tax dollars have been spent on this infrastructure in and around Woombah as part of the highway upgrade. 

Surely this is contradictory policy in 2019,” he said. 


As of 3 September 2019 no further tree clearing has occurred at the caravan park and it is understood that the temporary stop work order is still in place.

Given discussions between the Queensland developer and council are confidential, concerned Woombah residents still know little more than those facts contained in the initial media reports.

However, it does appear that the developer's vision for this caravan park may possibly be far removed from conditions contained in the original 1984 DA consent document.

UPDATE

Mr. Hu is apparently unhappy with Clarence Valley Council decisions with regard to his developement and has taken council to the Land & Environment Court in William Hu v Clarence Valley Council. A Directions hearing was held on 14 October 2019.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Morrison Government's newly appointed “Special Envoy” for the Great Barrier Reef is in favour of large scale land clearing on the reef's doorstep


This is the newly appointed “Special Envoy” for the Great Barrier Reef, Liberal MP for Leichhardt Warren Entsch…..


Coalition MP Warren Entsch has backed a plan to bulldoze 2000 hectares of pristine forest near the Great Barrier Reef despite being appointed to a role championing the natural marine wonder.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison appointed the veteran Liberal MP, who represents the seat of Leichhardt in north Queensland, as special envoy to the Great Barrier Reef in last month’s ministerial reshuffle.

Mr Entsch once owned Olive Vale station, a large Cape York farm north-west of Cairns, and has been a vocal proponent of land clearing on farming properties in north Queensland. Land clearing can create sediment and nutrient run-off and is the main driver of serious water quality problems on the Great Barrier Reef.

Liberal MP Warren Entsch is a strong advocate of land clearing, despite the possible effects on the Great Barrier Reef's water quality.

In particular, Mr Entsch lobbied his government on behalf of a highly contentious proposal to clear 2000 hectares of forest at Kingvale Station on Cape York Peninsula.

The land drains into two rivers that run into the Great Barrier Reef 200 kilometres downstream. Government-commissioned experts have warned that soil erosion from the work is likely to damage the reef.

Mr Entsch told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that despite his new responsibilities, the Kingvale land-clearing proposal had his “total support”.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with my role [as reef envoy],” he said…..

New Environment Minister Sussan Ley will decide on the Kingvale plan, which is being assessed under Commonwealth laws.

This is what Mr. Entsch is determined to ignore……

The relationship between the position of Kingvale Station in a river catchment which discharges water into the Great Barrier Reef at a point where the reef is under stress from multiple coral bleaching events.
Normanby Catchment in Far North Queensland
Kingvale Station approximate position maked in red

Map found at Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Warren Entsch cannot be ignorant of this relationship, as Kingvale Station is in the federal electorate he has held for the last twenty-three years.

A suspicious person might wonder if Mr. Entsch was one of the government MPs who allegedly 'lobbied' departmental staff on the matter of Kingvale Station land clearing consent in the past,

Such a mind might also ponder the proposition that he was made Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef in order to assist in subverting attempts to stop landclearing so close to this World Heritage listed marine area.

BACKGROUND

ABC News, 22 May 2018:

The Queensland Government has launched legal action against the owner of a Cape York cattle station at the centre of a land-clearing controversy for allegedly breaching an obligation to care for Indigenous heritage.

The owner of Kingvale Station on the Cape York Peninsula legally cleared 500 hectares of land before the Federal Government intervened in 2016, over internal concerns about the effect on sediment run-off into the Great Barrier Reef.

The traditional owners of the land, the Olkola people, claim the owner of Kingvale Station went ahead with the clearing without their knowledge and may have destroyed a burial site.

The ABC can reveal the Queensland Department of Environment and Science is taking court action as a result of an investigation which started as early as 2016, when the Olkola people complained to the Government that they believed Kingvale Station may be in breach of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November 2018:

The Morrison government has conceded it botched scrutiny of a plan to bulldoze 2000 hectares of pristine Queensland forest near the Great Barrier Reef and has been forced back to the drawing board following a legal challenge by conservationists.

The development comes as confidential documents show government MPs lobbied environmental officials to wave through the proposal, which would raze land almost three times the size of the combined central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne.

As Fairfax Media reported in May, the Department of the Environment and Energy in a draft report recommended that the government allow the mass vegetation clearing at Kingvale Station on Cape York Peninsula.

The finding, which prompted public outrage, came despite the department conceding the native forest was likely to contain endangered species, and despite expert warnings that runoff caused by the clearing may damage the Great Barrier Reef.

Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO NSW), media release, 27 November 2018: 

In a case demonstrating the critical role community organisations play in holding elected officials to account,  the Federal Court has upheld a challenge by the Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECOCeQ) – represented by EDO NSW – to a proposal to clear 2,100 ha of native vegetation on Kingvale Station on the Cape York Peninsula in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Early in 2018, the Federal Minister for the Environment decided that the proposed clearing could undergo the least rigorous form of environmental assessment available under Commonwealth environmental law.  The Minister was required, among other things, to be satisfied that the degree of public concern about the action is, or is expected to be, ‘moderately low’.

The Minister has now conceded that decision was not made lawfully. 

ENVISAT satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef alongside the York Peninsula.

“The Act deliberately applies a strict test that must be satisfied before the Minister can opt for the least rigorous assessment,” David Morris, CEO of EDO NSW, stated.
The Government’s own experts found that the proposed clearing would have a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef and a number of threatened species.

The Minister must now go back to the drawing board to decide afresh how the environmental impacts of the proposal will be assessed. Steps that have been completed since the Minister made the original assessment decision are now void, including the Secretary’s draft recommendation report that was published online for comment in April 2018.

What follows next will depend on the assessment methodology selected by the Minister. Whichever approach is selected, there will be further opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed clearing.

Christine Carlisle, President of ECOCeQ, said ‘We hope the Minister rejects the tree clearing proposal outright, since it will destroy habitat for threatened species, the bulldozing of the forest will contribute to climate change, and there can be no guarantee that sediment run-off from this huge area will not make its way into Princess Charlotte Bay and then on to the Reef.’  

‘We trust that the Minister for the Environment will act in the best interest of the environment, and not rubber stamp this dangerous proposal. The Minister received 6,000 public comments when this clearing was first proposed, and I hope the public responds again to ensure this proposal is not approved at any level,’ she said.

This case illustrates yet again the value of the extended standing provisions in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Without community groups like ECoCeQ, and lawyers to represent them, this unlawful decision would have proceeded without scrutiny and key safeguards for our environment ignored.