Submissions

Clare Region Environment Focus Group (CREFG) was established in early 2006 by a group of community members who were concerned about many environmental issues in the region. When the CMCC issue arose in 2006, the state of the long-neglected Council land used by CMCC was brought into focus. This land, being about 40 hectares in area, adjoins the town and yet it was (and is) idle for much of the year. The land was used almost exclusively by CMCC, and it became clear that an assessment of other uses has not been considered, apart from a prospective residential development concept in 1994. It is understood that no environmental rehabilitation work has ever been planned for the land. 

CREFG believed that it was time to focus community attention on the best use of that piece of public land and the environmental reparation that was greatly needed.

Described below are a number of communications with Council, and other information, about the use of the subject land for motorcycle racing.


PRESENTATION TO COUNCIL by CLARE REGION ENVIRONMENT FOCUS GROUP (CREFG) - 26 February 2007

Here is the Conclusion of the presentation.


"CONCLUSIONS

The proposal would not comply with the Natural Resources Management Act, Environment Protection Act, and Council’s Development Plan. These are the laws – and the rule of law must apply.

Having said this, we believe that the Club’s proposal and what they are aspiring to achieve has a good deal of merit – but it should be on an appropriate site, not in a sensitive catchment. On all substantive tests, there is no compatibility between motorbikes and the environment at the locality.

The Club should be assisted to find another site. We acknowledge the benefits that the Club can bring to its members, however having had 20 years use of the land, it is now time to reward the land with the hand of care, and to embrace it rather than to ignore its degraded plight.

Accordingly, CREG offers to help in preparing an overall plan for the property – one that embraces open access that includes a range of passive 

recreation pursuits and land rehabilitation.”


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EXCERPT FROM CREFG NEWSLETTER MARCH 2007

This is what I wrote in the newsletter in updating CREFG participants.

"Bennys Hill land ...

I spoke with John Barry (Clare Motorcycle Club President) after the (Council workshop) meeting (of 26 February 2007). He is very much aware of the environmental concerns and if suitable land was available elsewhere then CMC would examine the prospects of that new site. Council should assist the Club find a new site. I've suggested that there's plenty of vacant road reserve away from Clare - it only needs a question to be put to the Council about what's available.

Alternatively, as John Barry has acknowledged, a new site doesn't need to be on Council land and it doesn't need to be in the Council area.

There's a bit to run on this one, but the land at Benny's Hill is a community asset that needs a different approach - it really could do with extensive rehabilitation. This is where CREG can play a role. 

With all the talk of climate change today, it would be eminently suitable if this land was revegetated. 

Some ideals for the land are - urban forest, walking paths, biodiversity, carbon trading, social good, catchment protection, water resources management, community health, etc."

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CREFG FAX TO COUNCILLORS 17 MARCH 2007


"Dear Councillor

Following CREG’s meeting last Thursday (15 March 2007), there are two items we wish to bring to your attention prior to the Council Meeting on Monday.

Letter of Offer

We note that our letter has been included in the Council Agenda and we appreciate that. However, we consider that our offer to attend a workshop would be more appropriate, so that there could be an introduction of CREFG participants followed by a Q & A session. We suggest a resolution to this effect.

Benny’s Hill community land

We note that a Notice of Motion has been included in the Agenda for Monday’s meeting. We have a number of concerns with this Notice of Motion and we also reiterate our concerns with continued use of the property for motorcycle activities. Outlined below are our reasons.

Council has greater responsibilities than the “Statutory responsibilities” described in the Local Government Act.

In addition to the issues of compliance with legislation and the requirements of …

a.  “general statutory duty” (Natural Resources Management Act)

b.  “general environmental duty” and the necessity to avoid “environmental harm” (Environment Protection Act)

there are the necessary requirements under Objectives and Principles in Council’s Development Plan that must be observed.

There are two zones that straddle the land – Rural Horticulture and Landscape.

A reading of the Objectives and Principles of both of these zones clearly indicates that development must be suitable and appropriate for the land. 

We encourage you all to examine the Development Plan likewise.

We stated at the recent Council workshop that we have sympathy for the Clare Motorcycle Club and that assistance should be provided to the Club to find a suitable site. Why do we say this?

Time and history have an ability to move things on. Look at Paines Crash Repair, Butch Bennett Crash Repair – both relocated - Woolworths Supermarket and the demolition of shops to conform to a corporate policy, the altered retail configuration in Clare’s business area, the sale of Clare Lawn Tennis Club land, the impending closure of part (or all?) of the effluent ponds, the impending relocation of Jim Best Ford, the relocation of emergency services … and so on. 

These recent examples reflect the fundamental principle about the most appropriate use of land justified by economic, environmental, or social needs. We consider the same principle needs to be applied to the Benny’s Hill community land.

What may have been appropriate at the site 20 years or so ago is, on balance, not appropriate today.


Is it acceptable to have a motorcycle racing activity on the doorstep of an urban area, and in a sensitive catchment that feeds into Clare township? We don’t believe it is.

Is it acceptable to grant a lease – for however long – over community land that sidesteps the requirements of the Local Government Act (Division 3 – Community Land) and Council’s Public Consultation Policy? We don’t think it is.

Is it appropriate not to apply the Objectives and Principles of Council’s Development Plan? Again, we don’t think it is.

Council has an opportunity to avoid potential future conflict. There is no compatibility between motorbike racing and the environment at this locality. The conflict has not just surfaced overnight – it has been there for years. Contemplate what may happen in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years from now with respect to activities on the property.


There is an alternative approach. 

Although the Club could be located to private land, Council is encouraged to examine its land bank to determine suitable land options for the Club. Has this happened? Has the Club been approached in relation to this? 

By way of example, there is a site that may be suitable and that is on Council land containing the old quarry adjacent to the Mintaro-Manoora Road about 1 km east of Martindale Hall. There may be other suitable sites.


The final part of the solution is what then happens to Council’s Benny’s Hill property.

Allow us to offer the following prospect.

a.  Develop a land rehabilitation plan (CREG has offered to do this)

b.  Introduce weed management strategies

c. Revegetate the land by a range of methods (e.g. direct seeding, natural revegetation, but most importantly involvement of the community in tree/shrub/groundcover planting)

d.  Participate in the “Carbon Neutral” program offered by Trees for Life and Men of the Trees (WA) – this initiative is a way that Council can offset its carbon dioxide emissions from all its sources


The benefits would be far-reaching – catchment repair, catchment water quality improvement, biodiversity enhancement, a place for the community to enjoy the fruits of their labour, carbon capture.

This community-based solution is one way that future generations can look back on the present-day Council and community and say that at least an effort was made to restore a natural balance to the local environment.

We sincerely hope that what we have provided assists you in arriving at a decision that is in the best interests of the whole community and the environment.

Sincerely

Des Menz

Facilitator (CREFG)"


Postscript - This letter was largely ignored by Council. 

A correction to the reference in this letter to "Community Land". It was discovered a year or so later that the subject land's categorisatrion of "Community Land" was removed several years prior to 2007. The question is - why?

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THE MARCH OF TIME


During 2007 Council obtained two separate legal opinions about whether the land could be used by CMCC. Both opinions concluded that continued use of the land for motorcycle racing would be "unlawful".

During 2008 and 2009 the Council resolved to allow continued use of the land by CMCC. This action was highly risky and only inflamed the whole situation.

During all this time a number of aggrieved citizens who live near the subject land, and who were affected by noise emanating from race days, had been appealing to the Council to not allow further use of the site and to assist the CMCC to find another suitable site. This is the nub of the whole matter.

However, the battlelines had been drawn, and it came down to ... aggrieved citizens vs CMCC and Council.

CMCC was eventually requested to submit an Application for Development Approval in early 2008, but it took CMCC almost one year to finalise its application.


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