Woodburn donga village like “third world country”

WOODBURN is split over a proposed 'donga' village development, with many in the local business community backing the project, while other residents are vehemently opposed.

The workers village on Richmond St Woodburn - not far behind the main shopping strip on the Pacific Highway - would consist of 278 single bedroom units with en suite bathrooms, but no kitchen facilities.

The workers expected to stay at the site would eat meals at the adjacent Woodburn Bowling Club, which the proponent Civeo - a "global workforce accommodation specialist" - is planning to manage for the duration of the lease.

Last week Richmond Valley Council received a 267-signature petition against the development by local residents.

The petition was one of 50 written submissions received against the proposal, alongside just 10 in favour.

Objectors have cited issues with parking, stormwater runoff from the site, the impact on local residents, and the cultural impact of increasing the town's population by "almost one third, predominantly male visitors with no vested interest in the town and limited recreational opportunities apart from licensed premises".

The proponent would provide just 79 on-site car parks for the 278 residents, with 58 pre-existing angle parks on Richmond St be used for "overflow" parking.

Objectors argue the potential permanent use of overflow parking would be "disruptive" for residents and make parking unavailable for others, including shoppers on the local strip.

Other concerns included the impact of an overnight spike in the number of Woodburn residents, also living in close quarters and departing to work en masse in the early hours of the morning in cars and minibuses.

One local resident also said in their submission they were concerned about the number of "concessions council is appearing to be prepared to make" and there was "no guarantee this is temporary".

"The only thing temporary would be the transient nature of the guests," they said.

"The structures, locations, and imposition themselves would be semi-permanent and one could even argue permanent if this is ongoing".

At the same time a Change petition has been launched by those in favour of the project with 44 supporters, which actively hopes the "temporary" village stays permanently.

The petition cited "increased local employment opportunities in the construction, maintenance and servicing of this facility... an economic injection for local businesses... and enhanced infrastructure, that will remain once the project is completed, to the advantage of the town."

Those residents against the project are asking Richmond Valley councillors to 'call up' the project to be debated at a formal council meeting.

A spokeswoman said two councillors would need to act on the request, or alternatively the proposal could be referred to a council meeting by staff if it was considered "significant or contentious".

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