“Stop the fill, don’t drown our town” were the familiar chants of about 40 protesters who were joined by Greens MLC and environmental lawyer Sue Higginson to support Cr Greg Clancy’s motion to rezone land at West Yamba not already subject to development approval at Clarence Valley Council’s April meeting.
Joined by members of Yamba Community Action Network Yamba CAN, who were armed with a 3.01 metre pole to indicate the height of fill at Carrs Drive, Ms Higginson said Cr Clancy’s motion was trying to put the brakes on development on the floodplain for all the right reasons.
“His motion is in response to the floods that we saw, the enquiry and the recommendations of the enquiries, the Prime Minister coming to flood plain areas saying we’ve got to stop floodplain development and also the former Premier who said we’ve got to stop building houses on these coastal floodplains,” she said.
“We know that climate change is here, we know that we’re going to experience more extreme weather events more frequently, and we know that our coastal floodplains are specifically vulnerable because not only have we got high rainfall extreme events, we have also got sea level rise.
“In these circumstances it is now incumbent on our councils to take hold of the reins, pull them in a bit, and put a stop to any future development of houses in these unsafe areas.
“Today I came to lend my expertise and some of my weight in support of this incredible community that is standing up ringing the alarm bells saying, ‘no more fill’, we can’t engineer our way out of climate change on these coastal floodplains.
“Let’s do everything we can to adjust the settings in the planning system, at a local level and a state level, so that we’re not putting people and their homes in deadly situations.”
Ms Higginson said despite this being the first case of ‘downzoning’ attempted in NSW, council wouldn’t be setting a precedent if it decided to push forward with the rezoning proposal.
“It’s not really a precedent when we are talking about exercising our powers and our functions to adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in, in our local environment and our local community, we are simply asking council to do its job,” she said.
“We know that there has been incredible pressure on this council as on many local councils up and down the coast to deliver land for houses and housing stock to deal with the housing crisis.
“But the narrative has to change now, and it has changed, it changed after March 2022, that is no more houses where they’re dangerous.
“So, we need our state government to rise up, but that doesn’t mean we should wait while we do it.”
Following the meeting, Ms Higginson shared her views on social media about council’s refusal of Cr Clancy’s motion.
“I’m so sorry for what you had to hear,” she said.
“It was in no uncertain terms insulting.
“The debate actually became incoherent and very worrying on part of some.
“The lack of qualification and understanding of the planning system is concerning.
“The motion was such a sound, reasonable and proactive proposal.
“We will continue to work for what we know is right.”
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 26 April 2023.
Related story: West Yamba rezoning motion defeated