Locals fear Harwood land rezoning
RESIDENTS near the Harwood Slipway are taking the fight up to the council and the developer over a proposal to rezone 40ha of prime sugar cane land for industrial use.
Five of them addressed yesterday's Clarence Valley Council environment, planning and works committee at Maclean, detailing their objections to the proposal.
Landowners Harwood Marine are looking to rezone two parcels of land next to their current industrial site at the intersection of River Road East and Careys Lane in readiness for possible expansion of the business.
But the plans have received an angry response from residents and earned the ire of the NSW Canegrowers, which is reluctant to give up 40ha of prime agricultural land.
The speakers, Carol Bastian, Kristina Parsons, Brian Roberts, Roz Ryan and Paul Saunders outlined their objection to the proposal.
Ms Bastian talked about the danger increased heavy vehicle traffic posed for River Rd East, which has a chequered history.
She pointed out it fell into the river 60 years ago and said it could again if an increase in truck traffic further destabilised the road base.
Careys Lane resident Kristina Parsons said the proposal disappointed her as it ignored the human face of local residents.
"When we moved here we knew the sugar mill was there and we knew the slipway was there, but we didn't expect this sort of impact on our home and lifestyle," Mrs Parsons said.
Other speakers aired concerns about the effect of the increased activity on aquaculture and water quality in the river.
Another objector was concerned Harwood Marine's recent breaches of environmental regulations made them unfit to oversee future expansion.
Prior to the meeting the committee and council staff met with residents, farmers and Harwood Marine employees near the site.
NSW Canegrowers representative Ross Farlow was at the meeting.
He said NSW Canegrowers opposed the rezoning because it transferred prime agricultural land to industrial use.
"We oppose the rezoning of agricultural land where ever it is happening," he said. "This is just the equivalent of a small cane farm, but already the area is losing too much cane land."
Long-time Harwood cane farmer Ken Ryan said the slipway had been operating on and off at its current site since the 1960s and worked with the cane industry.
But he said the proposed expansion made if hard for the farmers to continue living with their neighbour.
Despite hearing the objections the committee voted to recommend the rezoning to next week's full meeting of council.
Mayor Richie Williamson said the objections raised were too early for this stage in the process.
He said if and when a development application came before council, that was the time to consider most of the issues the residents raised.
He also said the most favoured option proposed routed traffic away from River Rd East, which the council recognised as being unfit for the purpose.
Yesterday a spokesman from Harwood Marine said the reason behind the rezoning proposal was to expand the marine precinct at Harwood, hoping to attract other businesses to the area.
"It offers potential for other companies to come here, bringing employment and other economic benefits associated with it."