Conflict over Iron Gates development
By Brett Jones
The Iron Gates housing development, under construction near Evans Head, in northern NSW, is a cause of conflict between developer Iron Gates Pty Ltd and the local Bundjalung people.
The site has been shown to contain endangered flora and fauna, and significant local Aboriginal remains. Mr Wilson, Bundjalung elder and traditional owner of the land, has brought to the government's attention a midden and eight scarred ceremonial trees on the property.
These trees, Wilson said, mark the massacre of eight local Aboriginal elders. During clearing for an access road, seven of the trees were bulldozed and destroyed, in total contravention of the agreement held between the developer and the Bundjalung people. The midden was also destroyed.
The NSW Land and Environment Court ruled on December 2 that Iron Gates Pty Ltd had deviated from the agreed plans by as much as 60% (over 7000 square metres).
Iron Gates Pty Ltd has since been restrained from further development of the site while the court considers the claim that the road was not built in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
Local activists believe the developer is destroying areas of environmental, historical and spiritual significance. Many people feel that this case shows how laws on environmental planning are flouted by big business.
Fifty-six people have been arrested for protests at the site.
If found guilty of destroying the habitat of endangered species, the developer could receive a $10,000 fine or a year's jail. This would come too late for the flora destroyed, the animals displaced or killed and the sacred history of the Bundjalung people.