Cessnock council is accused of ignoring its own expert advice after approving a new development at a controversial industrial estate near Kurri Kurri.
The steel fabricating business is to be built in the area known as the Hunter Employment Zone, or HEZ, but Greens Councillor James Ryan says it will destroy habitat for about 30 endangered species.
He says it was approved against a recommendation from council’s own ecologist and despite the proponent failing to explain how it would mitigate environment risks.
Councillor Ryan says it is a disgrace.
“It’s clearly going to harm the environment,” he said.
“Council had asked for a further detailed information on how the proponent was going to manage that.
“The proponent refused to supply that detailed information and the majority of councillors still voted for this development to proceed.”
Councillor Ryan is warning the council could be leaving itself open to legal action as a result of the approval.
He says species like the critically endangered Regent Honey Eater will be affected and says it is a return to the “bad old days” in Cessnock.
“Council officers do not believe it constituted a valid development application.
“So there are some very big questions there and it’s clearly acknowledged that council has exposed itself to legal action and any person or environment group taking that legal action has a fair argument.”
But, Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent says council is using the company’s ecological report and he is satisfied the proposal meets necessary standards.
“There’d been a number of studies, the proponent had an ecologist report, the council had one as well,” he said.
“The council voted in favour of the ecologist from the proponent.”
Councillor Pynsent says the development is relatively small and there is enough bushland in the Hunter Employment Zone for endangered species to thrive in.
“I can’t see a great impact on the environment.
“I mean, in development you’ve got to have a balance, otherwise nothing would happen and I feel that in the HEZ, there is a balance between the environment and development and that’s the way we need to move forward.”