Monday, 28 September 2009

The fight to save Mansfield Street

It was a fight of David and Goliath proportions.

On one side was Roy Lavis, the CEC property and development magnate. Lavis is a stalwart of the Cairns business community, and also a generous philanthropist, over the years supporting different community groups and sporting clubs from his construction empire.

On the other side of this battle, are around 100 residents of Mansfield Street, Earlville, and neighbouring streets. They formed an action group to fight Lavis' plans to develop his massive 30-hectare hillslope land, high above their idyllic suburb.

Mark Buttrose, of Save our Slopes fame, who has long campaigned against False Cape and other inappropriate hillslope development, supported the folk of Mansfield street to set up the Cairns Hill and Habitat Protection Incorporated, and fight the proposed sub-division.

The application by Lavis to subdivide his property at the top end of Mansfield Street, went before Cairns Regional Council's Environment and Planning meeting last week. Roy Lavis had earlier taken Councilors up to his property for an inspection, however it did little to dismiss the objections or fears of locals.

It was a close vote, 5/6. Councillor Lesina moved the motion recommended by officers. Councillors Bonneau, Cochrane, Blake, Lanskey and Gregory supported Lavis' application and voting against the motion, ignoring the substantial local campaign for protection of their neighbourhood.

Council officers cited that the proposed development was contrary to the "desired development outcomes for the Conservation Planning Area. They said it was in conflict with the purpose of the Conservation Planning Area Code, which specifies land in private ownership is not further developed.

Furthermore, it was said the development would be incompatible with the surrounding natural environment, and contrary to the desired development outcomes and performance criteria of the Hillslopes (Urban Category 2) Code as it fails to retain land in its natural state.

"The site visit actually pointed out that the proposed construction of one resident under the current Council construction guidelines, would be highly visible and would be much higher than any other construction," Ben Price said.

"It would therefore reduce the vista due its close elevation to World Heritage listed rainforest."

The site inspection showed the substantial easement that was constructed without Council approval, yet it is in the impact assessable zone.

"We found the lack of any subsequent interest in this particular offence by the Council disturbing and conflicting," Ben Price said. "They expect normal residents to abide by such polices."

Photos taken during the site visit showed the extent of unapproved works, resulting land slippage and erosion. This area is deemed to be high risk, under the Cairns land slippage risk assessment.

The campaign against the sub-division of Lavis' property exposed contradictions in hillslope codes.

On Thursday, I popped up to Mansfield Street to chat with those that made it all happen. There was Ben Price and John Martin, including their local Councillor, Kirsten Lesina. I also met Yvonne Lockyer, a neighbour across the road who came over to thank Kirsten for her help.

They tell the story in their own words, how a community can get together and make a difference.


nocturnal congress said...

Well done citizens of Mansfield Street. You have restored my belief in democracy and sent out a strong message to the citizenry of Cairns. Yes, we can! We can fulfil our role as citizens.

Thaddeus said...

Is this the first time ordinary citizens have had a win against a developer in Cairns, for some years?

Steven Nowakowski said...

Well done to the residents and neighbours of Mansfield Street. Power to the people.!!

Northern Beaches Warrior said...

Yes, I congratulate all involved in this positive outcome and that a Conservation area, can still remain a conservation area in the Cairns area.

Back in 2007, the newly elected Council voted against a similar hillslope conservation area at the back of the Paradise Palms Club House. In that case there were 105 submissions against the proposal but it was not enough to beat off the Vision and Hedley conglomerate in that instance.

This was particularly similar to Mansfield street as Hedley had only recently been fined in the P & E Court over $100,000 for polluting Deep Creek with sediment runoff from his hillslope housing project. Naturally Sno Bonneau voted in favour of the change in zoning as he would have done with the Mansfield street proposal.

That Conservation area along with others at Paradise Palms are now lost forever.

I would like to think that perhaps we have turned the corner on the issue of Conservation areas remaining Conservation areas and the importance of protecting natural creek systems.

nocturnal congress said...

Northern Beaches Warrior, I too, would like to think we have "turned the corner", however doesn't Lavis now have rights of Appeal? Or is it all over now, game, set and match?

Northern Beaches Warrior said...

Nocturnal congress,

The Lavis's have right of appeal via the Planning and Environment Court

nocturnal congress said...

Thanks for that info Northern Beaches Warrior. I will be watching this issue with interest.