'Minority' against towns

THE man steering proposals for two big new townships on the Tweed says opposition is coming from “a minority” of special-interest groups rather than the broad community.

Reg van Rij, who is regional manager for property billionaire Bob Ell's Leda Developments, late yesterday told Tweed Shire councillors at a community access session that although more than 1500 submissions had been lodged expressing concern about the projects they represented a minority.

Leda is proposing two townships of about 5000 people each at Cobaki Lakes west of Tweed Heads and Kings Forest west of Casuarina Beach.

Mr van Rij said the company would shortly resubmit the proposals to the NSW Department of Planning which had sought responses to a list of concerns following the public submissions.

But he said an analysis of the submissions on Kings Forest showed 75 per cent came from “Murwillumbah and villages immediately surrounding Murwillumbah”, an area with less than 10 percent of the population from Burleigh Heads south into the Tweed.

Rather than representing widespread community concerns, he said that indicated “the existence of special interest groups”.

“These people, if you peel away their submissions, are really about a stop-development agenda,” he said.

Many of the submissions, he added, did not deal with matters that were part of the approval process, but touched on rezoning of the land which in the case of Kings Forest was determined “20 years ago” and for Cobaki Lakes “in the late eighties”.

Mr van Rij said concerns that koala habitat would be affected had become a rallying cry for opponents of the devel- opment.

Asked by Cr Phil Youngblutt how much clearing would be carried out at Kings Forest, Mr van Rij said the area of “core koala habitat” to be affected would be “a resounding zero”.

He said the number of koala food trees to be removed as a result of the first five years of development was also “zero” and only 20 swamp mahogany trees would be cleared as a result of the whole development.

“We will plant something in the order of 20,000 swamp mahoganies,” he added.

However spokesperson for Team Koala Inc Jenny Hayes told the councillors the issue was not “koalas sitting in trees” but their need to move.

She said a four-lane road, high-density development including a shopping centre and a golf course would stop koalas from being able to move about their usual range.

“It would take 10 years for trees to be established,” she added, warning that if the development took place as currently planned, “in 10 years the koalas will not be there”.

In June, Department of Planning experts called on Leda to provide for a massive amount of extra environmental information for the Kings Forest project.

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