Richmond Valley Council meeting about rubbish, job precinct and councillor pay

Richmond Valley Council Chambers at Casino.

Susanna Freymark

Here is a summary of the Richmond Valley Council meeting on June 25.

Read the full council agenda here.

What do you need to know about the RJP?

RJP stands for Regional Job Precinct and it includes three sites in Casino.

The RJP Masterplan will be implemented over 20 years with outcomes forecast to 2041 and beyond. It is a long term plan to bring industry and jobs to the region.

Council’s general manager Vaughan Macdonald said the RJP is a “culmination of a few years of hard work.”

“The flood modelling delayed the project by 12 months.”

The RJP has been on public exhibition. 63 submissions were received and a report has been written including the responses before the finalisation of the masterplan.

The NSW Minister for Planning will need to approve the masterplan.

Out of the 63 submissions, 75% were from people with concerns about a potential Energy from Waste (EfW) facility.

There is currently no formal proposal to build an EfW, council has said.

Other recommendations to the RJP include:

● keeping the existing industrial zoning for Mary Madden Park at the request of the Casino Historical Society.

● a review of active transport such as pedestrian/cycleways in the Nammoona sub-precinct.

Councillor Robert Hayes asked at the meeting – “what are we doing to prohibit noise and odours on residents?”

“It looks like we’ve done nothing on this?’ he said.

“The technical reports don’t go into detail.”

Land at Fairy Hill is located within the Urban Growth Area and is poised for residential growth. The report said there was an air, noise and odour report that recommended a buffer to the Nammoona sub-precinct.

Mr Macdonald said the work Mr Hayes was asking about was done by the Department of Regional NSW in line with the requirements of NSW Planning.

“They would have met the standard requirement,” he said.

“The plans talk about buffer zones and it is something we are conscious of.

“When DAs are submitted, there will be community consultation.”

Mr Hayes asked if houses would be built on the rural land at the top end of the Nammoona site.

Director Community Service Delivery Angela Jones said there would be some dwelling entitlements on some lots and the land was currently being used as rural land.

What’s in a name – EfW or AWTS?

Given that 75% of the submissions were about EfW, it is worth taking a look at the change in terminology in the RJP report and some of the other issues residents had.

While the draft Masterplan does not present a case for or against an EfW facility, such a facility is already permitted with DA consent by the State Environmental Protection Agency Planning Policy. The State Government’s Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan in 2021 included Casino as one of five sites for EfW.

The council repeated that there are no formal proposals for EfW.

Submissions also questioned the report’s use of the terms renewable energy and circular economy and the use of the term Alternate Waste Treatment System (AWTS).

In the council’s response to the RJP Response to Submissions report it said, “the pursuit of ‘renewable energy’ and circular economy/outcomes is a key aim for the RJP.

The use of EfW and AWTS was to achieve consistency with terminology by the council when consulting with the community, the report said.

References to AWTS would be revised to reflect concerns and be used as EfW/AWTS to avoid confusion.

The report said any reference to AWTS/EfW in technical reports was not an indication that an EfW will be proposed or built.

Some of the community has protested loudly about an EfW, sometimes called an incinerator.

There is more on this which you can read here in the Submissions Report.

At the council meeting, Mr Macdonald there had been 12 technical reports and more than $1million spent on consulting experts.

“People need to keep in mind when a development comes in it still has to go through a DA process,” he said.

Overheight of industrial building

The council approved a variation in height for a transport depot warehouse on Cassino Drive. The proposed height of 12.3 metres exceeds the 8.5 metre height of buildings. The building is within the RJP and the RJP Masterplan recommends removing height limits in this precinct.          

What do the mayor and councillors get paid?

Every year, the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal decides minimum and maximum payment to councillors. This year there is an increase of 3.7% which means the mayor will be paid $49,200 in 2024/2025 and councillors will receive $22,540.

Keeping the work going as the election nears

With the election on September 14, the council goes into caretaker mode on August 16–September 13.

Mr Macdonald said the aim of this is to prevent outgoing councillors from making major decisions that impact an incoming council.

Because the council didn’t want to stop its flood recovery work during this time, a decision was made that the GM had the authority to deal with tenders and contracts to tenders.

Some of the projects that are currently out to tender or about to go to tender are:

● Bentley Road rockfall

● Tatham bridges replacement

● Broadwater Bridge repairs

● Colley Park netball clubhouse

● Casino Swimming Pool clubhouse

● Namoona Waste Facility building

● Casino Sewerage Treatment Plant replacement- concept design

Room for more rubbish

Once the EPA Licence Variation comes through, the new landfill cell at Nammoona Waste and Resource Facility will provide 250,000sqm of space for rubbish.

Mayor Robert Mustow said this meant the council was right for the next 13–15 years.

“It gives us breathing space,” he said.

Once the EPA give the go-ahead and a small pump is installed, the new cell will be used.

The project was originally scooped in 2016 but issues with leachate, stormwater and cell capping meant the design wasn’t finalised until 2020. The cost of the cell is estimated at $6million.

Signs are up

Casino-based Signarama made the LGA and town signs. Local contractor Bennett and Robertson Construction installed the signs in Casino ready for Beef Week

The installation of all 25 signs is estimated to cost $170,000.  A Stronger Country Communities grant of $55,000 and $115,000 from the council’s 2022 flood insurance payout of $5million was used to fund the signs. Read more about the design of the signs here.

Read the council’s financial analysis report for May 2024.

The new signs.

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