Northbank Community Garden: statements from council and Dominic Bertucci

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Bellingen Shire Council:

The Northbank Community Garden is located on privately owned land which means that the operation of the community garden in this location is a matter for the community garden committee and the property owner to resolve.

The request to rezone the property on the corner of North Bank Road and Jordan Road, among others, was reviewed as part of Council's Draft Local Housing Strategy. The proposal involved a request to rezone the land from rural to residential to facilitate residential development on the land. Council does not support the request for a number of reasons including inconsistency with the North Coast Regional Plan and potential future impacts relating to a critical piece of Council infrastructure (Sewer Treatment Plan).

Council has received further submissions in relation to this request as part of the public exhibition of the Draft LHS and these are currently being reviewed.

Housing affordability is one of the eight strategies outlined within the Draft LHS. The Draft LHS outlines several actions Council is seeking to implement to assist in addressing housing affordability in the Shire. Council understands the importance of housing affordability to the Community and has been working collaboratively with the Nambucca Bellingen Affordable Housing Action Group to address this issue.

The notion of 'bargaining' through the planning process does not exist, is unlawful and completely inappropriate. Council undertakes its planning processes in accordance with the relevant NSW planning legislation, considering each application on merit.

Council acknowledges the benefit of community gardens around health and wellbeing, environmental sustainability, learning and building communities and is happy to engage with the NCG Committee around provision of a garden for the community.

Dominic Bertucci:

I refer to the "Keeping our Community Informed" release and the paragraph which states "The notion of 'bargaining' through the planning process does not exist, is unlawful and completely inappropriate."

A proposal has been given setting aside walking tracks and a parcel of land by the river to comply with Council's DCP 17.6.13 Open space network which is a requirement for new subdivisions. The Community Gardens land was never offered as a bargaining tool for Council to consider in this or any other proposal.

This statement, if you are referring to an idea I have regarding affordable housing, has not been put to Council nor a DA or a rezoning application been submitted. I take exception to this statement as it suggests I am trying to do something illegal and dishonest. This is not my intention.

I just want to make one thing very clear to everyone that this proposal or the affordable housing village idea would have not proceeded if the site fell within the odour buffer of the STP. For any proposal I was required to have an odour and noise modelling assessment carried out similar to the land release area on North Bank Road. Under Section 1.6.2 of the NSW Best Practice Odour Guidelines 2010 which states "As land use is dynamic, the best practice recommended for STPs is to reduce existing odour contours". The results were that the site is outside the de-rated buffer zone and this is what inspired me to go ahead with the affordable housing idea.

The Community Gardens Committee has asked if they could lease the property they use and my answer has been from the word go I don't know. Later when I came up with the idea of affordable housing I said why lease it if you can have it for nothing. If we are able to obtain a rezoning this would enable me to subdivide this piece of land so they can have it. The discussion of leasing I felt was premature as I did not want to be committed to an agreement that I may not be able to adhere to in the future.

I have no problem with the gardens continuing to exist with the way it is provided, as John Lavis and I wish, that the gardens are kept clean, neat and reverts back to the way it was when it first started.

I used the term that "they can use the gardens at my pleasure" which has been misunderstood. What I should have said was "they can use the gardens but I do not want to commit to any agreement at present".

It has also been my intention to unite the Community Gardens and the affordable housing project as one unit with cycling and walking tracks to the river. My statement at last week's meeting "It's your gardens, fight for it" has worked as a big show of people came to the meeting including the Shire Mayor and Deputy Mayor. The Deputy Mayor showed guidance as she was a past President of the Community Gardens and took a copy of my affordable housing proposal as it was not in the process of a DA nor has it been submitted to Council for review at any stage. I await her comments.

There are two projects, one that has been submitted to be included in the GMS and the other still at the idea stage seeking community support. Unfortunately some of my comments relating to these two projects have been confused and people have misunderstood what I was trying to achieve. Please accept my apologies for any confusion caused as I am not a public speaker and have never been given the full opportunity to explain the proposals properly and in the manner in which they warrant.