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Deborah Lilly's Address at The Byron Shire Climate Change Rally 1st Feb 2009

Deborah Lilly's Address at The Byron Shire Climate Change Rally 1st Feb 2009

Deborah Lilly

A friend said to me: “Huh! If Woolworths goes ahead, the climate in Mullumbimby really is going to change!”

Well, Woolworths in Mullumbimby has been approved by the Department of Planning. Byron Shire Council is not happy with the approval by the Dept of Planning. They say the sewage situation won’t work; its “unacceptable”. And therefore, I presume, it must pose a risk to human and environmental health. With climate change, the risk gets bigger.


CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE MULLUMBIMBY WOOLWORTHS PROPOSAL.

A friend said to me: “Huh! If Woolworths goes ahead, the climate in Mullumbimby really is going to change!”

Well, Woolworths in Mullumbimby has been approved by the Department of Planning.

Byron Shire Council is not happy with the approval by the Dep't of Planning. They say the sewage situation won’t work; its “unacceptable”. And therefore, I presume, it must pose a risk to human and environmental health. With climate change, the risk gets bigger.

The soil on that site simply does not have the capacity to soak up all the wastewater from a big box development. The ground is already soggy. The water table is high. It’s a floodplain. Its 500m from the river, where the tide comes in and the tide goes out. A few weeks ago we had a King Tide which was half a metre higher than usual. Woolworths floor level is planned for just half a metre higher than the 1:100year flood.

Does that sound like a good place for on-site sewage disposal? Would any Mums and Dads get away with that?

The only way Woolworths can get away with this plan is if they have a great big sludge-gulper come along and pump out the effluent and wastewater. They will then transport it, in a great big truck, all the way to Tweed. What’s the carbon tyre print for that?

“Pumping out” is illegal in Byron Shire. It contravenes local government regulations. If Woolworths start doing this, then surely anyone can build anything, anywhere.


THE ASSESSMENT REPORT”  for the Woolworths development is written by The Dep't of Planning. There is a link to this document on our website. It is 25 pages of reasons why they have approved Woolworths despite 3115 letters of objection. That’s almost the whole population of Mullumbimby. In the same period they had 22 letters supporting Woolworths.

This document does not hold water. For instance, they calculate (according to Ray Darney, Byron Shire Council on NBN News 23.1.09) that only 25-30 people a day will use their toilets. Woolworths carpark has spaces for 125 cars and if shoppers spend an hour inside, then potentially that carpark has the capacity for about a thousand cars a day. Woolworths little green booklet, (presumptuously entitled “Woolworths in Mullumbimby) distributed to residents earlier this year, stated that the catchment area is for a population of 17,000. If they had proposed a more realistic number of people using the toilet; say 100 people a day, then the approval may not have happened.

WHAT DOES IT SAY IN THIS DOCUMENT ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE??

Nothing!

What climate change effects have been taken into account?

I have scanned and searched the Department of Planning website in relation to this DA for any mention of climate change. I have scanned the Dep't Environment and Climate Change website about this. I entered the following climate change catchphrases into the search engine for this DA:

  • Natural hazards
  • Sea level rise

  • Risk assessment

  • Avoidance of risks

  • Environmental sensitivity

  • Sensitivity analysis

  • Rain intensity

  • Rising water table

  • Floodplain Risk Management

  • mosquito assessment

  • floor or rain inundation


What did I find? Nothing.

There is however, a section on Flooding and Stormwater Management in the Assessment. There is a line that could have come straight out of the story of King Canute. King Canute was a Nordic King who was told by his courtiers that he was so powerful he could command the tide to stop rising. So he took his throne down to the beach and as the tide came in he said “I command you to stop”. The tide kept coming in.

The Dept of Planning have written this lovely line on page 12: “The sand filter for the treatment of wastewater from the development will be located at the flood planning level, ensuring that it will not be impacted by floodwaters”.

Firstly, they don’t say what the “flood planning level” is. Is it the 1:100 year flood, or is it the Mothers Day Flood of 1987 which rose to 4.64 AHD (local reading), just 18 cm below the height of the Woolworths shop floor at 4.82m AHD (which is 1.32m above natural ground level)? Or is “flood planning level” an oxymoron?


Secondly, how can they “…(ensure) that it will not be impacted by floodwaters”? How can they predict floodwater level? In these days of climate change we surely need to expect the unexpected, especially where flooding and sea level rise is concerned. Again, this site is 500m from the tidal Brunswick River.


The Dep't of Planning has apparently based their approval of Woolworths on an Environmental Consultants Review by Whitehead Associates. MCAN has not been allowed access to this Review, nor is the information available on any website. However, Byron Shire Council has quoted a line from this Review in their submission to The Dep't  of Planning about the proposal (8.12.08) which was: We stress the design stretches the land capability of this constrained site to its limits.”  Why don’t they just call a spade a spade and say: “It won’t work”, as did our Council? Have Whitehead and  Associates been completely professional in their assessment?  

In conclusion, it therefore seems to me that Woolworths and the Department of Planning have not taken climate change into consideration with this Mullumbimby proposal. The environment, our beautiful heritage town, Byron Shire Council, sewerage guidelines from The Department of Health and over 3000 letters from the community have been ignored.

Whatever next? I expect Woolworths will be selling carbon credits on special.



 

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