ELECTION: Candidates on development in Richmond Valley and Iron Gates

We asked the 18 Richmond Valley candidates what they thought about development in the area. We gave them 60 words to answer this question.
We asked an additional question about Iron Gates after readers said they wanted more detailed and a specific answer on this development at Evans Head.
Hence some answers are more lengthy.
We asked:
How would you like to see the area develop?  What is your stance on Iron Gates?
Daniel Simpson: We have a current predicted growth rate of less than 1% per year which is another 200 people per year. This is a sustainable and manageable growth rate however covid has had an impact and people are increasingly looking to move to regional areas.  I support planned and sustainable growth provided it is supported by the right infrastructure and limits the impact on the valley’s natural assets and maintains our current lifestyle.
My own personal view is that Iron Gates is not the right location. The health of our river system is too important. That said you can’t obtain affordable housing without creating additional housing supply. If I could create an idealistic solution to the problem, it would be to facilitate a land swap with the developer. Swapping land closer to town and the aerodrome (to be developed instead of Iron Gates) and then converting the Iron Gates site to National Park or handing it back to traditional owners.
Obviously, that’s a very simplistic solution to what is a much more complex problem.
I think it’s important that readers understand that: Council is not the consent authority. Councils’ involvement is purely administrative. The planning staff must assess the current proposal against NSW Planning regulations, taking into considerations all the submissions received for and against the proposal and provide a recommendation to the Northern Rivers Joint Regional Planning Panel who are the consent authority and will ultimately make the decision to approve or not.
If re-elected our group commits to bring the issue to a council meeting, so that it can be debated in the public domain after being assessed by council staff and prior to being sent to the planning panel.
Trudy Lamont: As a priority, I’d like to see our shire’s housing crisis addressed with some urgency. I’d also like to see greater and more accessible facilities for families and youth.  Long term, I’d like to see the Richmond Valley establish its own identity as a tourist destination, rather than just somewhere you pass through on your way elsewhere.
Jacob Dhnaram: An agenda that is close to my heart is job creation and learning opportunities like apprenticeships. Any development needs to be sustainable, and we need to be environmentally conscious about it. I believe we need job creating industries for our local community, so our residents don’t have to travel away for these opportunities.
I am against the Iron Gates development as it has a significant negative effect on an already sensitive environment, will destroy sacred land to the Bandjalang people and overburden the village infrastructure.
Jill Lyons: The natural beauty we all enjoy here in the Richmond Valley is a valuable tourism asset but one we must ensure to protect as we attract visitors. Eco tourism, adventure tours, overnight stays in rainforests would all thrive and contribute to our economy in a sustainable manner bringing jobs and new possibilities to our valley whilst adding another layer of protection to our environment.
Michele Yates: The area needs to be developed in a sustainable manner. I believe there are many people in the Richmond Valley with wonderful ideas for the future who would welcome an opportunity to put forward their vision. A truly grass roots future strategic plan would emerge from such conversations which could inform future policy.
Iron Gates has been contentious from the beginning. The original opposition drew attention to issues of several environmental concerns and lack of understanding and respect of the First Nations connection to the land on which the development occurred. The issue has never been about development rather about development in that particular spot. The owner was ordered by the courts to repatriate the land. That court decision has never been carried out. It makes a mockery of our judicial system and due process. The owner has a huge parcel of land west to the Blue Pool road and north to the Woodburn Evans Head road and could develop another area within it. I believe it shouldn’t go ahead. I will always oppose development on the river.
Robyn Kapeen: Richmond Valley has a blend of beauty in its boundaries. We have the beautiful country bushland and seaside to enjoy. Attraction to these areas are promoted by the people who live there. The environment within the Richmond Valley should always be maintained.
Neale Genge: Slow and steady. Richmond Valley does not have the roads, medical services, and other infrastructure to handle significant fast paced development.  We need to have moderated development and try and focus new developments around the villages to provide employment and facilities for the outer areas.
We have a housing affordability crisis.  Land is needed.  So if not Iron Gates, why not?  Locals cannot afford to purchase in Evans Head.  Young families need a home.  Releasing land will increase affordability.  It is however likely that Iron Gates will become an exclusive development?  We all want a home, I was in my 40’s before I could afford to buy my first place, after spending years of renting, paying off university debts, being a stay at home parent and raising the kids.  In regards to the Iron Gates development Council has no decision making role for the DA process, which is under the assessment process for the Northern Region Planning Panel.
We all want a home, a place to call our own.  And if the development is in Evans Head, Casino or Rappville, provided it meets the State approval processes and passes the environmental requirements it should be accepted and approved.  If people don’t agree with the environmental requirements thresholds then these should be referred to the State Government.
Patrick Deegan: I’m pro-development and would like to see new job creating industries. I want to ensure our young people don’t have to leave the area to access employment and other opportunities. Any development must be sustainable, and not creating environmental harm. It’s also important that we do not lose what is special about our small towns and villages across the valley.
Iron Gates is in the wrong location. Evans Head needs more housing to put downward pressure on housing and rental prices but not at the expense of sensitive environmental areas or cultural considerations. There is land on the Evans Head Woodburn road that would be more appropriate for housing developments, so long as any flooding concerns can be addressed. Importantly. we don’t want to see Evans Head become another Ballina, we need to keep what is special about the town.
Peter Neilsen: The natural beauty of the Richmond Valley is often overlooked by those who would like to industrialise the area. However our green rural landscapes, bushland lanes, promised bike tracks, forests full of iconic wildlife, rivers and unspoilt beaches and unique coastal heathlands offer the perfect opportunity to develop a thriving tourism destination with rural retreats, farm stays and tourist venues.
I do not support the Iron Gates development. This is a high risk development with too many problems. We need houses but this development is in the wrong place. It was knocked back by the Land and Environment Court years ago and the required remedial work to repair damage done by the developer has still not been done. It is important habitat for koalas and many other species, and the joining Aboriginal lands on three sides.
Portia Walker-Fernando: I would love to support a cultural and historical tourism industry that show cases the amazing history of the Richmond Valley LGA. I would also love to see more programs that address the growing mental health issues and suicide epidemic we have on our hands. We need more peer support programs and also training for suicide prevention for local communities.
Robert Hayes: Future development and population growth across the LGA depends on a number of things, future water security, Potential for industrial and residential developments, infrastructure up grades, all of which will need to be sustainable especially considering future impacts on the environment.
Iron Gates is a complex matter. Council is not the consent authority. Councils’ involvement is purely administrative. The planning staff must assess the current proposal against NSW Planning regulations, taking into considerations all the submissions received for and against the proposal and provide a recommendation to the Northern Rivers Joint Regional Planning Panel. The Northern Rivers Joint Regional Planning Panel are the consent authority and will ultimately make the decision to approve or not.
Iron Gates land is privately owned and is zoned residential. The proposal in its current form is not ideal to me, there has been a lot of chances to alter the proposal over the last seven years. The guaranteed health of our river system and the safety of the people that will live there are very important to me as is the future growth of Evans Head. The wedge that this proposal has driven into our small community is not acceptable and does not fit into our close-knit village lifestyle.
The new concept DA has placed a financial burden on council to carry out the assessment and council has engaged independent planners to be totally transparent with the assessment.
Now that the proposal has been reduced in size it may be achievable but for me to fully support it there would need to be a lot more environmental constraints inclusive of much larger buffer zones to the river. Other items such as infrastructure, bush fire, effects on flora and fauna, cultural impacts and possible flooding can be addressed with current planning policies. If these changes are made, I feel that it could be the type of development for Evans Head’s sustainable growth into the future, however I do not support it in its current format.
Ted Hoddinott: The Richmond Valley is a magnet for not only tourists but also the sea change and tree change exodus from the cities. Beautiful beaches, pastoral serenity and a vibrant local community are our greatest drawcards. Embracing and enhancing the Art Deco architectural heritage of Casino is something we could pitch to encourage tourists to not just pass-through town.
Robert Mustow: Development and population growth will occur, our environment  and lifestyle must not be impacted by this. We must be ahead of the game and make sure we have infrastructure to support this growth.
Louise Wicks: I would like to see our area develop in a way that is environmentally sustainable and puts the people of the Richmond Valley first.
Red marker is the location of the Iron Gates development in Evans Head.


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