'We're not walking away': North Lismore Plateau developer
A CONTROVERSIAL development planned for the North Lismore Plateau has been stopped in its tracks after a decade of agitation.
Community-led protests may have fallen on deaf ears, but Bundjalung Elders Council chairman Mickey Ryan has emerged triumphant from a "David and Goliath" legal battle mounted in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The developers, Winten Property Group, failed to submit a species impact statement with the development application.
In court, Winten's ecologist argued it wasn't needed, but Mr Ryan's ecologist argued it was vital, due to the presence of threatened species on site.
As a result, the court ruled that the development consent issued for the 433-lot residential development was invalidly made, void and of no effect.
The decision brought tears to Mr Ryan's eyes.
"Through the whole journey I have felt positive," he said.
"I've been singing out to the old people to protect and look after us.
"What's been saved is our history. If we have no history, we have no future.
"What I do today, it's not for me, it's for our future generations."
He praised his legal adviser Al Oshlack who took the lead in the court case.
Mr Oshlack said he was honoured to be a part of the precedent case.
"Mickey won against all odds, and he never took one backwards step, like a goanna," he said.
"It's been a real honour."
All parties will meet to discuss costs, and prepare submissions for the court before the final determination is handed down.
Civil works on the site have been under way for some time now, and there is visible evidence of land clearing and earth moving.
Some of the property is being marketed to buyers.
Winten's development manager Jim Punch said the decision was a blow, but the company had no intention of backing down.
"The project is stalled, we've stopped work and it will stay that way until we resolve this," he said.
"We're taking advice from our barristers, but we probably will appeal the decision or go to a new DA consent.
"The land is still zoned as residential, we're not walking away from the site."
Mr Oshlack said the ruling would not only impact the developer, but Lismore City Council.
"When council cries poor you need to look at what they've done here, borrowing millions to put in the supporting infrastructure," Mr Oshlack said.
"Council has been irresponsible in the way they've behaved."
A council spokesman said that council would need to read over the 117-page judgment before commenting on the matter.
After a prolonged battle, Mr Ryan is holding out hope the court's decision will not be overturned in an appeal.
The land is of great significance to his ancestors and to the Bundjalung people.
"How do you keep something sacred? You leave it alone," he said.