Ballina council throws $1 million at developer court battle
BALLINA Shire Council has spent $875,000 on a legal battle against a Melbourne-based developer planning a major residential estate on the Cumbalum plateau.
The proposal for the 642-lot Cumbalum Views estate, with an estimated $26.5 million construction cost, was lodged with the council in April 2016.
In the original development application the planner argued the approval of the estate would be "comprehensively in the public interest", but Ballina Shire Council did not see it that way.
The Cumbalum plateau has a significant impact on the way water moves into Newrybar Swamp and North Creek, and the council has stricter conditions on residential developments in that area.
As one local put it in a submission to the council, "this land is constantly subjected to localised flooding and is a hive of activity for mosquitos and bugs".
Ballina mayor David Wright said the area, known as CURA A, was rezoned from rural land to residential in about 2013 following pressure from the State Government.
"We've done a lot of (environmental assessment) work saying any new development on CURA A and (neighbouring) CURA B would have to meet stricter guidelines," the mayor said.
Cr Wright said that there were "a lot of little things that were just not appropriate" in Intrapac's original DA.
"My words to them were that we are not going to leave for the people in the future a problem that they are going to have to pay for. They (the developer) have to do as much as they can to solve it upfront."
"None of them were insurmountable, we even offered to have sit down meetings to try and resolve this," he said.
But the developer, Intrapac, launched proceedings in the Land and Environment Court in the middle of last year on the basis of a "deemed refusal" while the council was still in negotiations over the DA.
"I think it was a tactic where they thought 'we'll do it and they'll back down'," Cr Wright said.
So far the council has budgeted $1 million on the court case, according to a staff note in this week's council meeting minutes.
Cr Wright said while he did not like to see ratepayer's money spent on a court case, the council believed it was on the right side of the law.
"We're hopeful that because we believe we're correct we will get costs awarded against Intrapac.
"You never get the full amount, but we'll believe we'll get a significant portion back."
Ultimately the Land and Environment Court will resolve the matter, but since the court case was launched last year the developer has revised the DA three times.
This was a hopeful sign for the council, Cr Wright said, because Intrapac recognised it needed to make concessions.
A hearing on the conditions still is dispute went ahead last Tuesday before Land and Environment Commissioner Graham Brown.
Ballina Shire Council will discuss the outcome of the hearing at its council meeting this week.