Environmentalist Jim Warburton.
Environmentalist Jim Warburton.

Environment group stoush

TWEED'S main environmental group could be celebrating its 20th birthday next month with a sense of deja vu.

Back in 1989 the area's main conservation group, the Tweed Valley Conservation Trust split after its founder, the late Bruce Chick and others disagreed over several issues, including whether the flat-topped Mt Nullum just outside of Murwillumbah should be developed for a health retreat.

That prompted the formation of the Caldera Environment Centre by more assertive green activists, including the centre's co-ordinator, retired architect Paul Hopkins.

Last week the first huge row in the organisation in 20 years revealed a split with dedicated conservationist and the group's joint secretary Jim Warburton, who has been supporting controversial plans for a new “environmentally sensitive” township west of Mt Warning.

Mr Warburton has been expelled from the organisation for his support for Nightcap Village and backing Murwillumbah car dealer Phil Taylor in his unsuccessful run for the council last September.

Mr Hopkins yesterday defended the organisation's decision, saying the majority of members had decided “We weren't on the same wave length as Jim any more.”

And just as he still admired the late Mr Chick for “doing a lot of good stuff with tree planting” he also respected “the good work” Mr Warburton had done.

“This is pretty unusual for us. We try to make things work because we believe in consensus democracy,” Mr Hopkins said.

“We wish Jim well but we are not kindred spirits anymore.

“I hope he continues doing good stuff.”

In 1989 Mr Chick had partly sided with then shire-president Max Boyd who back development of a sanatorium on the top of Mt Nullum for patients recuperating from illness - some of whom would be flown in and out by helicopter.

Mr Chick also pushed for the clearing of undergrowth around Stotts Island to allow for the planting of native trees, whereas other conservationists were fiercely opposed to the use of the proposed weedicide “Round-Up”.

Mr Chick went on to plant thousands of trees around what is now Chick Park near Stotts Island and in other areas.

Mr Warburton is a fierce supporter of planting trees around river and creek banks across the shire.

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