Kenneth Neff “fell in love” with the area. Photo: Scott Powick
Kenneth Neff “fell in love” with the area. Photo: Scott Powick

Developer gives site alternative

A BID to replace 23-year-old plans for a huge 300-room tourist resort on a secluded and rainforested beachfront on the southern edge of Tweed shire with a more modest plan for 24 luxury homes could be scuttled by red tape.

Kenneth Neff, management consultant for a wealthy syndicate that owns the 80-hectare site at Wooyung, convinced the owners to consider the more-environmentally friendly alternative after he “fell in love” with the area while working on the original development.

But the alternative is in doubt because the land is not zoned for housing and Tweed Shire Council's planning director Vince Connell yesterday said he could not “mix the two issues”.

Mr Connell said the latest proposal for 24 homes, a manager's residence and a community centre failed to meet today's council rules.

The council gave approval in 1988 to the huge resort, which would cover 45 hectares.

That was upheld in 2006 by the NSW Land and Environment Court, which found approval had not expired because surveyors' pegs driven into the ground in 1989 constituted “physical commencement” of work.

Mr Neff began working on the development after a syndicate, including hotel “pokies king” Bruce Mathieson, who lives on the Gold Coast, and one of Australia's biggest thoroughbred breeders, Jonathon Muntz, bought the land tor $17 million in 2007.

They proceeded with the original plans, which have been fought against for more than 20 years by local residents, and are seeking a construction certificate from the council.

“They got me to come in because of the difficulties in both the management of people and the project,” said Mr Neff, who spent half the following six months in his new job on the site.

“I fell in love with the joint. That was the turning point for me. I said ‘what's your minimum payback dollar-wise. Give me some time; I will try to put together an alternative plan'.

“They have given me an undertaking, but they are not going to wait forever.”

Mr Neff said he was seeking consultation with the community, including those who had previously fought the plan and have told him they want more information on the alternative. He said the Tweed Byron Aboriginal Land Council had given him a letter supporting the alternative.

However at the same time the company, Wooyung Properties, is continuing to push ahead with work on the original concept, seeking a construction certificate.

Wooyung Defenders spokeswoman Chris Cherry said “on the face of it” 24 houses was a better alter- native, but she needed “much more information”.

Tweed councillor Warren Polglase said the alternative was “a far better outcome” and the issues could be addressed.

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