SAY NO: Residents express their concern at the development proposed for Sawtell Rd.
SAY NO: Residents express their concern at the development proposed for Sawtell Rd. Trevor Veale

Crunch time as Toormina DA goes to court

AN APPLICATION for a 57 lot subdivision in Toormina will go before the Land and Environment Court on October 22.

It was first submitted to Coffs Harbour City Council in April this year and nearby residents including Dave Wood have been lobbying against it.

The matter goes before the Land and Environment Court on October 22 as a 'deemed refusal' due to the length of time council has taken to consider the application.

The site includes approximately six hectares recognised and mapped as Primary Koala Habitat in the Coffs Harbour City Council Koala Plan of Management 1999. Another section has been mapped in the Coffs Harbour LEP as an Endangered Ecological Community (Coastal Paperbark and Sedgeland swamp habitat).

A petition against the development has attracted over 1500 signatures and a protest was recently held with people holding placards reading: 'Say no to unethical development'.

With some experts warning koalas could become extinct in our lifetime, and bypass construction likely to impact the population directly to the north, Mr Wood believes it's now or never for council to prove they're serious about upholding their own environmental policies.

"We've already lost so much land zoned as primary koala habitat so this is crunch time for council as far as making their environmental controls stick and saving face. This will be pivotal for council in maintaining any integrity at all in their koala plan of management."

Lot 2 Sawtell Road is an 'L' shaped block, fronting Sawtell Road opposite the Linden Avenue intersection, continuing through to the Hogbin Drive Industrial Estate. It is mostly timbered and often used by nearby residents taking a shortcut to Toormina schools or shops, walking the dog, bike riding or just enjoying the tree-scape.

"There are many local stories of encounters with its wildlife including wallabies, koala, quolls, and many species of birds and reptiles," Mr Wood said.

It has Marion Grove and Mater Christie Aged Care Facility to the south, HiTech Drive industrial estate to the east, and residential housing to the north and west.

In his submission urging council to reject the proposal Mr Wood described it as 'arrogant and cynical, with a thin veneer of pseudo environmental respectability, with ultimately short term financial gain as its end.'

The proponents, Regional Architects Pty Ltd (acting on behalf of landowner Regional Ethical Developments Coffs Coast) did not return the Advocate's calls but have outlined a number of measures to offset impacts including retaining a 50m wide flora and fauna corridor along the eastern boundary, eventually widening to 130m funnel at the southern end.

Housing lots will range in size from 450 to 886 metres with two of the larger lots identified potentially for seniors housing or a childcare centre.

Residents opposing the development claim any remaining wildlife corridor would be virtually ineffective given the increase in traffic speed, fencing, lighting, signage, and companion animals.

A number of possible offsets have been outlined by the proponent including the establishment of a wildlife hospital and accompanying eco-tourism development along Hogbin Drive at Toormina which is said to be in the 'advanced stages of planning'.

The irony of this isn't lost on residents, and when it comes to the idea of offsets in general, Mr Wood is sceptical.

"You're effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul and that's never a good thing when it comes to environmental issues."

To read more about the proposal go to council's DA tracker and use the code 0818/18DA.