The vast gated Old Bar Resort development approved years ago along the coast south of the Meridian at the end of Lewis Street has now been purchased by Palm Lake Resorts Holdings Pty Ltd. (a company with a sophisticated ownership structure) based in Queensland but has almost 40 developments in Australia.

The historic resort will now be vast, with homes stretching from beachfront, over the wetland and inland all the way to Bluehaven with Palm Lake Works P/L as the developer.

This project is unique, different from the many new developments springing up around Old Bar because it is beachfront and marshy. This will be up-market resort living for a privileged few.

Four major precincts have been rezoned to accommodate the future growth of Old Bar.  See (https://www.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/Development/Plans-policies-and-controls/Future-planning/Areas-for-future-development). Hundreds of new homes are planned for new and existing developments. While additions are currently being made to our sewage systems, what about other essential infrastructure, such as the hospital? The hospital is already overcrowded and the influx of over 55s will overburden the emergency services as medical practices are already closed to current residents. As the new over-55 owners age and their needs become serious, access to local medical services will be strained.

The new over 55s are not likely to bring much business to the local community. What will be their net contribution?

The PLW development has a significant, vital concern in addition to those of other new developments. The PLW will provide a select few with oceanfront views. These private luxury homes will be on land that should be accessible to everyone.

It is unwise that PLW be allowed to build near the beach considering its original grandfathered approval had no inkling of the current regional growth plan.

Several safety and environmental issues include the safety of children attending Old Bar primary school and senior activities at the VFW Memorial Hall. Rose Street has the only stairway beach access in Old Bar other than Main Beach and the neighborhood enjoys numerous walkers along the beach.

Allowing PLW to move heavy construction machinery and eventual development traffic through the tiny, pedestrian Rose Street neighbourhood could invariably result in personal injury and an accident. It is litigation and lawsuits just waiting to happen.

Palm Lake Works has three times assured the Rose Street Neighborhood Group that their intention is to make construction access via Forest Lane, and that PLW is currently in the process of preparing such an application to MidCoast Council.

However, Council’s intention is not clear. Council at the 13 Dec. meeting added a condition so that heavy vehicle movement during after-hours care at the school is restricted, except for heavy vehicles operating within Lewis and George Streets involved in public infrastructure works.

Council’s response to this expanding community safety issue is, “They are public streets.”  And, Cr Tickle’s blunt response to our concern was, “Traffic issues will be uncomfortable for those living there.”

When the next PLW Modifications come before Council, it is important that concerned and affected residents of the Old Bar community attend the meetings and submit comments.  Council notes the ratio of positive vs negative submissions to their projects.

Old Bar residents want to work together with Council, PLW and all our community for the best possible outcomes to this inherited “zombie” development. (The term refers to approvals made by past councils no matter how long ago. Approvals are passed along when property is sold, even if conditions such as fire, flood, erosions, etc.  have changed.) Many of these historical developments would not be approved under today’s requirements.

Only residents in an extremely limited immediate vicinity to the proposed development are given notices by Council. To learn in advance what is being considered and to be able to give input, the rest of us must keep an alert eye on the page: Have Your Say (https://haveyoursay.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/).

The most recent PLW modifications approved by Council are available on MCC’s website. See Council Minutes Agenda and Attachments for 13 December 2023, 15.3 Changes to the Configuration of Manufactured Housing Estate—Lewis Street, Old Bar (MOD2022/0253) (https://www.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/Your-Council/Council-meetings/Agendas-and-minutes).

In addition to safety, coastal erosion is a major issue.

By 18 February 2024 we must give our input into Council plans for the coast from south Crowdy Head to Wallabi Point (Have Your Say (https://haveyoursay.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/). 

Agenda item 15.10 discussed the Old Bar-Manning Point Coastal Erosion Hazard Mapping Update Report. The mapping ran simulations over various time periods and uses probabilistic, non-Bayesian statistical procedures that “smooth” information from Wallabi to Old Bar Beach. 

The “MCC Items of Interest” summarises the Report that North of Wallabi Point to approximately south of Old Bar Public School will continue to recede and be vulnerable to coastal erosion with significant impacts on private properties, Council assets and essential services like telecommunications, water and sever.

We would like to be assured that the Hazard Mapping numerical model specifically includes points along the proposed development area. An important issue is that earlier conservation reports had forecast heavy erosion due to previous Rutile Sand Mining specifically in the proposed PLW development area.

The Land Will Go Underwater

Councillor Peter Epov spoke warningly about the findings; “This Report has very serious implications. It gives scientific evidence that significant portions of our coastline will be inundated with water by the year 2100. Grave consequences will happen before that time, within 20 or 30 years; damage is happening now.”

Regarding this Palm Lake development, Epov spoke emphatically saying it is reprehensible and hypocritical to knowingly allow people to build and sell in an area that will be covered with water by 2100 or most likely much sooner.

A lawsuit by another Council (Ballina) against Palm Lake Works called out many of the same safety, flooding and ecology issues; and to which PLW had to submit numerous (5) re-Applications, none approved by Ballina Council (Palm Lake Works Pty Ltd v Ballina Shire Council [2019] NSWLEC 1479  (https://jade.io/article/670168).

Palm Lake Resort Pty Ltd only owns the land. When there is inevitable inundation, it will be the responsibility of the house owner to remove his/ her house.  To where? At what cost? Moving the ‘relocatable’ homes will have nothing to do with PLW. It is not a responsibility for Council either, apparently.

Class actions are underway in Sydney’s Northwest against Councils that allowed development in historically known flood prone land.  The marshy land of the proposed PLW development is a natural absorption region for the entire area. Paving it over could very plausibly lead to overflooding of Racecourse Creek and nearby homes. We encourage Council to work with PLW, the State Government, environmental groups and the local community.

It is time to consider environmental impacts noted in other PLW developments, as in the lawsuit cited above: the stormwater discharges from the site; net deterioration of estuarine water quality; insufficient measures to protect ecological integrity of the wetland, including whether the extent of the saltmarsh community on the site has been correctly or underassessed; and post-development impacts to downstream ecology and groundwater.  It must be clarified whether PLW Modification Applications have satisfactorily addressed these development safety, ecological or watershed issues.

The land on which PLW plan to build is now rich in plants, insects and birds. Many nights we see wallabies, echidnas, bandicoots, brush turkeys and other wildlife visit the front and back yards of Lewis and George Street residents. The area is home to a wide variety of birds, some of which may be on the International Migratory Bird Route.  PLW must be required to provide wildlife corridors along the ocean (Council land), along both sides of Racecourse Creek or other areas of significant biodiversity concern. Pretty but isolated pockets of trees on a golf course are not the same as a wildlife corridor. 

The PLW plan includes a private golf course, only for PLW residents (cane toads love golf courses and are steadily moving south in NSW). Artificial turf laid over sand dunes is injurious to human and animal health. The pesticides and fertilisers keeping a golf course green will be detrimental not only to land animals, birds and plants, but to surfers and ocean life. Street/garage lighting is also a pollutant to bats and birds and other animals.

Council must check that the latest, most current environmental requirements are met. The PLW plan includes no discussion of cane toads.

We must do more than shed a tear for our fragile, doomed sand dunes. We must keep an eye on future PLW Modification Applications (Have Your Say https://haveyoursay.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/) to ensure that PLW applies for proper ocean access across Crown Land to the beach.

While Council has responsibility to verify that all developments comply with the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) which requires homes to be built to be more energy and water efficient, we encourage Council to do more. In addition to the mandatory water tanks, Council could require solar panels and perhaps even community energy storage batteries, for example.

Our Council can be a leader in showing the rest of Australia and the world how we conserve biodiversity, protect ecosystems, and reverse pollution.  We say we are committed to principles such as Save the wetlands! Protect the animals! Nobody wants to come to Australia to see what they could have seen in a zoo at home.

Let’s get our neighbors together and be a physical presence at the Council Meetings! We voted for them. We can make a difference in their service to us and future residents.

Frances Rosamond, Old Bar

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