DECISION STINKS: Palmers Island residents Kay Cottee, her partner Peter Sutton and a neighbour of the proposed development, Bronnie Lees, on the site where Mrs Lees and her husband Graeme have a DA approved to build a house. The eight-metre-high acoustic barrier will dominate the southern side of their property.
DECISION STINKS: Palmers Island residents Kay Cottee, her partner Peter Sutton and a neighbour of the proposed development, Bronnie Lees, on the site where Mrs Lees and her husband Graeme have a DA approved to build a house. The eight-metre-high acoustic barrier will dominate the southern side of their property. Tim Howard

Industrial plan meets noisy opposition

THE NEED for a 300m long, eight-metre-high sound barrier towering over the over the fields, farmhouses and businesses is proof a marine engineering business proposed for Palmers Island is unsuitable says a planning expert.

Former Clarence Valley Council planner Clem Rhoden is one of more than 400 residents of the island alarmed at a NSW Government planning about-face that could have the rezoning of a parcel of waterfront land to allow a marine industrial site.

The proposal shows the site would need up to three metres of fill to elevate it above the 1-100-year flood height and the acoustic wall to protect residents from the noise of the shipbuilding activities.

Mr Rhoden said the proposal from Yamba Welding and Engineering to expand its shipyard to the island was totally out of character for the area and until last year Clarence Valley Council and State Government planners agreed with him.

"Just the fact they need an acoustic barrier of that size shows the development is out of character with the neighbourhood," he said.

He said the business owner, Bill Collingburn, bought the land in 2006 and had made attempts to have the land rezoned from agricultural purposes to allow marine engineering.

In 2014 and 2017 the council sent his proposals to the State Government's planning Gateway and each time they were knocked back.

But in April last year, an appeal to the Joint Regional Planning Panel gave Mr Collingburn's proposal some hope.

It overturned the Gateway determination and recommended the proposal come back to the council for consideration.

The panel's decision and particularly some of the reasons behind it have infuriated residents.

Round-the-world yachtswoman Kay Cottee and her partner Peter Sutton run the Yamba Marina, which neighbours Mr Collingburn's current location in Yamba.

They have led the residents' opposition to the rezoning proposal and cannot understand why Mr Collingburn has persisted with Palmers Island for his business expansion when there is a marine precinct about 2.5km up the river on Harwood Island, calling out businesses to move in.

Ms Cottee said one reason he put forward infuriated her.

"He's coming up with arguments that have been debunked and using them again in his latest submission that you can't build aluminium and steel boats together," she said.

"I have spoken to the highest qualified surveyor and this surveyor goes around inspecting ship-building and boat-building yards across Austraia and he said that's just bulls---."

"He said they could operate in the same shed, if there's a wall between them."

Mr Sutton said a highly respected marine engineering regulator who lived on the island has prepared a submission refuting this proposal.

She said the Gateway planners had noted this argument had been debunked and was annoyed it had resurfaced in the JRPP ruling.

Mr Rhoden said the panel's ruling that this development fitted in with the council's Marine Cluster strategy, which required marine businesses to be adjacent to each other, mystified him.

"Bill's already come up with a term for it, a 'disbursed cluster'," he said.

"It's meaningless. One word means the opposite of the other."

Mr Sutton said the residents had until June 11 to put together submissions opposing the proposal, although they had asked the council for an extension of the exhibition period.

"We believe we need a bit more time to rebutt everyone of the proposals," he said.

The Daily Examiner has allowed residents of Palmers Island to respond to a news article and advertising feature about Yamba Welding and Engineering published last week.