Mayor hasn’t ruled out an appeal

An appeal against a Land and Environment Court decision that will allow Woolworths to build a supermarket at Mullumbimby is ‘not out of the question’, according to Byron Mayor Cr Jan Barham.

Cr Barham said a report on whether an appeal would be viable was expected to go before councillors at the February 11 meeting of the council.

The court’s decision to allow an on-site treatment plant to overcome the long-standing moratorium on any new connections to the overloaded sewerage system gives the supermarket giant the green light to start building a supermarket on its Station Street site.

Treated effluent from the on-site system will be put into the Ocean Shores sewerage system.

Cr Barham said the decision last week by Commissioner Robert Hussey in favour of Woolworths’ appeal against the council’s refusal of its plans for an on-site sewerage system was a ‘real concern’.

“It’s definitely a precedent in relation to the moratorium – all those years we have denied locals the right to develop because of the moratorium,” she said.

“Now the big corporate manages to get through. They are pumping out, which nobody else has been able to.

“We have had a position where it has been the same rules for everyone.

“Now the big guys have come to town and set their own rules.

“It’s a shame the court has done that.”

The council’s executive manager of environment and land use, Ray Darney, said the approval was valid for five years and subject to conditions granted by the court.

“One of the conditions included is that installation cannot commence until the approval issued by the minister has been modified to incorporate the redesigned on-site system,” he said.

The council rejected Woolworths’ Section 68 application for any on-site sewerage system in August last year.

Mr Darney said the application was refused because Woolworths had failed to demonstrate that appropriate arrangements could be made for the management of sewage generated by the development.

He said Woolworths lodged an appeal against the council’s decision in the Land and Environment Court and was allowed to submit revised proposals for the on-site system.

In a short statement, Woolworths said it was very pleased with the Land and Environment Court’s decision to approve the on-site waste water treatment facility. “We look forward to commencing construction of the store as soon as possible and bringing jobs, choice and low prices to Mullumbimby,” a spokesman said.

Opponents were disappointed and depressed at the news, though in the main not surprised.

“With the approval of a highly constrained sewage system located on a flood-prone and often waterlogged horse paddock in the middle of our town,” said Mullumbimby local Garry Scott, “the NSW Land and Environment Court has set a new precedent for on-site waste water systems, disregarding local policy and guidelines.

“Although refused by the Byron Shire Council, they are now the ones holding the baby.

“Our council must now oversee the building and the monitoring of Woolworths ‘sewer on a bog’.”

But there are those who rejoice at the news, and one of those is Mallams supermarket manager John Waterhouse.

“It’s great news because the town needs it,” he said, “though some would not agree.

“We’re still extremely disappointed that council didn’t allow us to do it, then the whole thing of Woolworths wouldn’t have come up.

“We will stay open until Woolworths is built, then my staff can move over to have continuity of employment.”

But while Mallams staff may have guarantee of employment, there are others in the community who will lose their jobs, according to social planner Tricia Shantz.

“People will start buying their newspaper at Woolworths and then their meat, so the newsagent and the butcher have to put off a staff member,” she said.

“Local businesses use local lawyers and accountants, but Woolworths won’t be employing locals.

“There is job loss when a major chain comes into a community – this has been proved in the UK and the US.”

Others in Mullumbimby who will suffer are nearby residents, bracing to be subjected to a constant barrage of noise as well as all the unsavoury elements of development.

 “I feel sorry for the people in Prince Street,” said Mullumbimby estate agent Mark Cochrane, “facing a big blank wall that will undoubtedly be graffitied.

“Not only will there be massive amounts of traffic noise and deliveries day and night, there will be the constant roaring of the air-conditioners and refrigeration plant, and the beep-beep-beep of backing trucks.”

Caught right in the middle are the residents of Railway Cottage, Mullumbimby’s oldest and prettiest residence.

Lyn McLean has lived there for 50 years, and quite apart from the fact that her family will be subjected to unwelcome noise, will find exiting the property into increased traffic difficult, and may be adversely affected at times of heavy rainfall, she is unhappy at the way it has been foisted on an unwilling community.

“We’re the ones who live here,” she said, “so we’re the ones who should have a say in what goes on in our town.

“When you look at the overall size of the town, I don’t see why we need a whopping big supermarket – I personally prefer to shop at the small businesses, where you get to know the people.”

“As the news of the court ruling in favour of Woolworths sewer-on-a-bog sinks in, I feel very sad,” said Mullumbimby Community Action Network co-ordinator Deborah Lilly.

“For me it’s like losing a loved one, and even though it’s expected, it’s a shock.

“Mullumbimby will never be the same.

“I feel blessed to have lived here for 25 years, shared the neighbourly warmth and strong sense of community that is unique to Mullumbimby – we will have to work hard to hang on to that in the face of what is to come.”

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