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Clarence Valley News

Church clocks up 100 years



Outside of the 100 year old Uniting Church in Grafton

Church clocks up 100 years


By Tim Howard

For exactly 100 years the Uniting Church building at 126 Prince St, Grafton has provided a focal point for worshippers from its distinctly unchurch-like premises and last week decided to throw open its doors for a three-day bash to celebrate its centenary.

Chair of the Church Council Dennis Ford said for six months a dedicated team of the congregation, led by Chris Cormack and including his wife, Linda, have worked continually to put together the celebration of the church.

It culminated on Sunday’s service with around 100 in the church for the Sunday service, followed by a celebratory lunch.

“It’s about 40 more than we would normally get on a Sunday,” Mr Ford said.

From Friday the church was open to the public to explore a collection of antique furniture from its past, photographs and the highlight of the exhibition, a collection of wedding dresses from members of the congregation.

A elderly Lady standing next to an old wedding dress in the 100 year old uniting church in Grafton.

LInda Ford, who was married in the Uniting Church building to husband Dennis, was one of a number of the congregation who brought in their wedding dresses. Linda’s mother and sister’s dresses were also on display.

Mr Ford’s wife, Linda, brought in her wedding dress, worn when was married in 1971. In addition she brought in her mum’s dress as well as her wedding photograph.

“One of my two sisters brought in her wedding dress too,” she said.

The collection drew admiration from the community who provided a steady stream of patrons over the three days.

Mr Ford said the building, originally built by the Methodist Church and opened on July 14, 1923, provided an insight into the history of the Uniting Church in Australia.

“On the foundation stone it says the Minister at the time as Rev A E (Alfred Edgar) Walker,” Mr Ford said.

“He had this strong belief the church should be a part of the community and business life in the community and the building’s design should reflect this.”

The Rev A E Walker was the father of Sir Alan Walker, the founder of Lifeline and Superintendent of the Wesley Mission.

“They ran the Mission out of the old Lyceum Theatre in Sydney and you could see with the hall in Grafton where that idea came from,” Mr Ford said.

“Before the church was renovated in 1975 it had a long sloping floor down to the alter, much like a theatre.”

Sunday’s congregation were also given a treat when a popular former minister Noel Mansfield, minister from 1979 to late 1988, led the service.

“It was a great honour and it felt great to be back in Grafton,” he said.

“It brought back memories my time here when we had a great team of people who worked together to do the church’s work.

“The church played a significant part in the life of the community. We had the largest youth group in the community at that time.”

A group of elderly people standing at a collection of antiques at the 100 year old uniting church in Grafton.

Key people involved in the celebration of Uniting Church’s 100 years, chair of the Uniting Church Council Dennis Ford, Linda Ford, event organiser Chris Cormack, former minister Noel Mansfield and Ron Watson.

Mr Ford said the former minister was very fondly remembered by in the church.

“Getting him to lead the service encouraged a lot of people to come along today to be part of it,” he said.

While Mr Mansfield was delighted to attend, he has been cutting back his public appearances.

“Noel was leading a service down on the South Coast and told them that this was it, his last service,” Mr Ford said.

“Then three days later I rang and asked him to be come to Grafton and he said yes. But this might be the last time.”

Mr Ford said that while it had been a lot of fun celebrating the church building’s birthday, the church was really the people who gathered to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“That’s the biggest deal of all,” he said.

The modern building is still a hive of activity in the community, he said.

In addition to its function as the Uniting Church it’s become the headquarters for the local Salvation Army.

“They’ve operating from here since the floods damaged their building around in Oliver St,” he said.

“And the Fijian berry pickers that came here have asked if they can hold services here with their own minister, which of course we said yes to.

“They’ve been great and we’ve really enjoyed all their great music and singing.

“The building’s been put to a lot of good uses.”


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Clarence Valley News





Clarence Way



Work is well underway to ensure the Northern Rivers region is better prepared to withstand future severe weather events, with physical works now starting this week to improve a stretch of Clarence Way.

The only road connecting north to south in this area, Clarence Way provides a vital thoroughfare between Woodenbong and Grafton in the south.

The project is being funded through more than $27 million from the Albanese and New South Wales Governments and Kyogle Council. This includes;

  • A $10 million grant from the joint Federal-State Regional Roads and Transport Recovery Package to ensure the road is rebuilt stronger and is better able to withstand future weather events.
  • A further $9.09 million jointly-funded will fix damage from recent floods.
  • The significant roads project is also boosted by a $4 million election funding commitment from the NSW Government, and;
  • $4.26 million from Kyogle Council.

Kyogle Council will lead the rebuild of the road, which is severely potholed with many other pavement failures along this 22-kilometre stretch, as well as sections south of Sandilands and between Bonalbo and Urbenville.

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt:

“All three levels of Government have been working really hard behind the scenes to get this, and many other Northern Rivers projects to the point where they’re ready to start physical works, so it’s very exciting to see it hit this milestone.

“The Albanese Government is committed to building back better from natural disasters.

“When we make key roads like this one better able to withstand severe weather conditions, we improve evacuation and recovery efforts for communities right across the region.”

Quotes attributable to NSW Regional Transport and Roads Minister, Jenny Aitchison:

“The NSW Government is pleased to deliver its election commitment for Clarence Way.

“This additional $4 million in addition to the $5 million contributed to the RRTRP by the State Government will not only repair the damage caused by the natural disaster but ensure the road is more reliable in the future and safer for local residents and visitors.

The NSW Government is committed to building back better. We know for every $1 spent on resilience, we save $10 in disasters.”

Quotes attributable to NSW Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib:

“This is another example of all levels of Government coming together and getting on with recovery in the Northern Rivers.

“It is also important that we take these opportunities to build back better and this investment in Clarence Way will help ensure it will better withstand future weather events.

“It is great to see this project getting underway, showcasing how the NSW Reconstruction Authority can help coordinate across three levels of government to make priority improvements which will help boost resilience and assist communities recover from disasters.”

Quotes attributable to NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery and State Member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin:

“I’m proud to be delivering on one of my key election commitments to Kyogle Council –$4 million towards improving flood immunity of the Clarence Way at Tunglebung and Culmarran creeks between Sandilands and Bonalbo.

“This commitment is an integral part of a more significant betterment project for this section of the Clarence Way under Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements and is a win for local residents who campaigned for safety improvements and for all motorists who use the road.

“I worked closely with locals, including Kyogle councillors and staff to ensure that the community campaign to upgrade Clarence Way got real traction.”

Quotes attributable to Kyogle Council Mayor Cr Kylie Webster:

“We thank the Australian and NSW Governments for providing the betterment funding to make the Clarence Way more flood resilient.

“The Clarence Way is a vital transport link for residents in the west of our local government area.

“It was badly impacted in the 2022 floods and the RRTRP funding will allow Council to build it back better, ensuring residents of Bonalbo, Old Bonalbo and beyond have a safer, more reliable road including during times of heavy rainfall events.”

For more information on the Regional Roads and Transport Recovery Package, visit here.


For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Flood plain DA refusal “historic” and “monumental”




Flood plain DA refusal

Flood plain DA refusal “historic” and “monumental”


By Tim Howard

A planning panel decision to refuse a controversial DA for 284-lot development in West Yamba is “historic” and “monumental”, according to opponents of the plan.

Last Tuesday The Northern Region Planning Panel met last week to consider a DA for the development at 52-54 Miles St, Yamba. On Monday the panel determined with a 3-1 vote in favour of refusal.

The development, with an estimated value in excess of $46 million, has been controversial from the start.

It was withdrawn once because of a large number of non-compliances and was the subject of 330 submissions from the public, with all but two opposing the development.

Adding to the controversy was a resolution made at the last Clarence Valley Council meeting recommending the panel refuse the development, going against a council staff assessment recommending approval.

At the NRPP meeting last week 12 residents made submissions opposing the development.

The determination to refuse cited section 4.16 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

It gave four reasons for refusal:

  1. The proposed development relies upon significant additional filling of the subject site. There is some discrepancy between the assessment report and the submitted application documents in relation to the intended minimum finished surface levels. Insufficient information was evident as to the quantity of additional (not yet approved) fill material, an approved source for this and the required method of transport to the site. Accordingly, the Panel could not be satisfied as to the environmental and amenity impacts of this required filling activity as part of the project, having regard to the provisions of cls. 5.21(2)(e) and 7.2 of the Clarence Valley LEP 2011 and s.4.15(1)(b) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
  2. The site is in a high-risk flood catchment, where flood planning is in transition. The proposed residential subdivision would necessitate evacuation in major flood events and is not intended to provide a flood refuge for residents who may otherwise be isolated for significant periods of time. Some of these are likely to be vulnerable persons.
    Mindful of the need to apply a precautionary, risk-based approach to the determination of development applications in flood-affected locations, the Panel did not have evidence that there would be adequate capacity or facilities for additional evacuees in safe evacuation centres. Nor did the SES email response to the proposal provided to the Panel address this issue or its capacity to support an evacuation of this subdivision, only noting that the warning triggers for evacuation in the applicants’ Flood Evacuation Plan were consistent with those in the local Flood Emergency sub-Plan. Accordingly, the Panel was not sufficiently satisfied in relation to safe evacuation measures for the purposes of cls. 5.21 of the Clarence Valley LEP 2011 and having regard to s.4.15(1)(b), (c) and (e) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
  3. Having regard to s.4.15(1)(d)of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the Panel has also noted the level of community concern and anxiety about flooding issues and associated insurance costs, the complexities of riverine and stormwater flood impacts, as well as problems experienced with flood warning, evacuation and potential resident isolation in Yamba.
  4. ThePanel was not satisfied that an adequate Acid Sulphate Soils Management Plan for the development had been supplied to the Council, as required under cls. 7.1(3) of the Clarence Valley LEP 2011, noting that Council had required such a Plan to be submitted as a condition of any consent.

Accordingly, the panel was not satisfied that the granting of consent would be in the public interest, having regard to s.4.15(1)(e) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

One member, Penny Holloway, support approval of the development.

Ironically the decision came soon after one of the development’s major opponents, the Yamba Community Action Network, gave evidence to the NSW Parliament Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment.

YambaCAN secretary Lynne Cairns and member Helen Tyas Tungal had been invited to Sydney too give evidence of planning irregularities around developments in West Yamba to the committee.

Ms Cairns said the news of the refusal came through just after they had given their evidence.

“It’s a monumental decision,” Ms Cairns said. “In a way it was a shame it didn’t come through before we spoke, but overall it’s just the best news we could have had.”

Ms Cairns and Ms Tyas Tungal had both made submissions to the NRPP panel meeting last week.

Another prominent opponent of the DA, Cr Greg Clancy, described the decision was historic and should set a precedent for to planning laws.

Cr Clancy, who successfully moved for council to oppose approval for the DA at the May meeting, said it was likely DA would go to the Land and Environment Court, where hopefully it would be refused again.

“It was a shame this decision was made before the result of the Portfolio committee investigation were made public,” he said.

“The planning minister, Pau Scully, needs to define his view on development on the floodplain, because he’s already stopped some developments down south.”

But he said whatever happened next, a precedent has been set.

“There will be now an expectation in the community that these sort of developments are not sustainable,” he said.

“So even though the planning staff felt this DA ticked all the boxes there was something in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act that were factors other than just box ticking that were important.

Cr Clancy said he believed these were a section of the Act, s.4.15(1)(d), which said there had to be due consideration given to the concerns of the public.

He pointed out there had been 328 submissions from the public against approval of the DA.

“It’s good to see these submissions have been taken seriously, because sometimes planners tended to overlook them.”

In its determination the panel noted the concerns raised in submissions to it.

It noted issues included:

  • Stormwater drainage
  • Flooding and Flood evacuation
  • Impacts associated with climate change
  • Urban Design
  • Impacts to biodiversity and natural environment
  • Filling of land
  • Infrastructure and services
  • Environmental impacts associated with dredging
  • Impact on town amenity

The Panel considers that concerns raised by the community have been adequately addressed in the Assessment Report and that no new issues requiring assessment were raised during the public meeting.


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Clarence Valley News

Councillors and staff at odds over flood plain development




Flooding in Shores Dr, Yamba flood plain development.

Councillors and staff at odds over flood plain development


By Tim Howard

Clarence Valley Council has found itself offering conflicting information to a State Government planning body meeting this week to deal with a 284-dwelling development in West Yamba.

A combination of red tape and delays in providing information to the Northern Region Planning Panel has meant council staff have provided a recommendation to the panel to approve the development.

But at the May 28 ordinary council meeting councillors voted 5-2 to not approve the development because of serious non-compliance issues detailed in an attachment to the report in the council business paper.

At the council meeting council’s director environment and planning Adam Cameron revealed council staff were required to submit the staff recommendation to the planning panel before councillors could see it.

This had led to the councillors seeing a staff assessment made 18 months ago, which included a long list of non-compliances.

Mr Cameron said the staff had only submitted the most up to date assessment to the NRPP on the morning of the council meeting.

He said there was nothing to stop the council staff and councillors making differing submissions to the NRPP.

“An elected council may make a submission on a development application to be determined by the panel up to seven days before the panel meeting and may speak to the to the submission at the public determination meeting,” Mr Cameron said.

The unusual regulations around planning panel operation created this situation.

When a development of regional significance comes to a planning panel, effectively council staff work for the planning panel and its rules forbid sharing that work, even with the councillors who effectively are their employers.

Mr Cameron confirmed this to the meeting.

“The council resolution and the officer assessment report are two different things,” he said.

“The officer assessment report is undertaken independent of the elected body in accordance with the planning panel operating procedures.”

Cr Greg Clancy moved the council make a submission to the NRPP when it met on June 11 to not support the 284-lot sub-division.

The applicant for the development is Garrard Building Pty Ltd acting for the owner, Kahuna No.1 Pty Ltd.

Cr Clancy said the submission to not approve was a “no brainer” due to the number and seriousness of the non-compliance issues raised in the staff’s preliminary assessment.

“These are serious non-compliances and omissions,” Cr Clancy said.

“And I think the assessment briefing report which is available to us is what we have to take as our view of the planning issues in relation to this.

“We can’t see the report to the planning panel till after the planning panel.”

Cr Clancy then presented an extensive list of non-compliance issues, which were listed in Attachment A to the report to council.

The motion’s seconder, Cr Bill Day, said his concerns were the impacts on roads, parking and infrastructure and dramatic increases in population and numbers of motor vehicles using local roads.

Cr Karen Toms agreed the list looked damning, but said the staff report to the panel could well contain measure the developer had taken to fix them.

“I feel that without actually knowing what the assessment is from our professional staff, that we are not prepared to support a motion without actually seeing how they’ve addressed those issues,” she said.

“And we can’t do that yet because that’s how it works with the planning panel.”

Cr Steve Pickering spoke in support of not approving the development.

He has been a critic of the NRPP “taking over” from council in planning matters and has put up a notice of motion calling for the NRPP structure to change to allow councillors to comment on matters before it.

After the meeting Cr Pickering said the current structure disempowered councillors and made them feel like they weren’t in a position to make a decision on these sort of developments.

Outside of council other groups were also preparing submission against the development, which has attracted 330 submission from the public.

Yamba Community Action Network was one of the groups making a submission, with its secretary Lynne Cairns addressing the panel.

Ahead of the June 11 hearing she said one of YambaCAN’s key concerns was providing adequate evacuation for residents during floods.

“Evacuation plans rely on using Yamba Rd to get to the evacuation centre in Yamba Bolo and we know the road was cut for long periods during the February March 2022 flooding,” she said.

“And to get to Yamba Rd people would have to use Carrs Dr, Golding St and other roads that were also flooded for long periods.”

She said the amount of fill, up to three metres in some instances, meant homes built on these mounds became islands.

“People who get caught there or decide to stay will need to be supplied and it will mean extra work for SES and other emergency service carrying food or medical supplies or evacuating people.”

Greens MLC Sue Higginson will also make a submission to the panel and Dr Greg Clancy, will address the panel for the Clarence Environment Centre.


For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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