'It was totally out of the blue': objectors remain unconvinced on airport

NOT CONVINCED: Spring Hill and Surrounds Consultative Committee members Robert Sanders, Bill Fennell, Geoff Howarth, Sally Playfair and Des Redmond. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
NOT CONVINCED: Spring Hill and Surrounds Consultative Committee members Robert Sanders, Bill Fennell, Geoff Howarth, Sally Playfair and Des Redmond. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

ZONING changes to pave the way for an industrial business park at Orange Airport are still set to receive the green light despite 133 submissions and opposition from two neighbouring councils.

Orange City Council will consider a proposal on Thursday to rezone 114 hectares of rural production and environmental management land to a mix of IN2 light industrial and B7 business park.

Following public exhibition, the council elected to replace the proposed IN1 general industrial zoning with IN2 due to concerns heavier industrial uses could be allowed.

“A move to IN2 ... has been offered to more accurately reflect the type of industry that might be located at the airport,” the report said.

Rural industries, agricultural produce facilities and freight handling facilities would be requested as additional uses if the IN2 zoning proceeded.

OUR SAY: Rezoning should be judged on own merits

However, Spring Hill and Surrounding Districts Community Consultative Committee spokeswoman Sally Playfair said the issue remained problematic.

“Until we get what those definitions are, we don’t know whether it’s an improvement,” she said.

“[The IN2] was unexpected, we haven’t been consulted, it was totally out of the blue.”

Ms Playfair said because IN1 was originally proposed, residents did not have the opportunity to comment on IN2.

“People need to be consulted,” she said.

The council has recommended not to re-exhibit the proposal because changes were made to address community submissions. 

If the additional uses are not supported by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DoP), the proposal could revert back to IN1.

One submission supported the proposal and a second believed water issues could be managed. 

One hundred and nineteen submissions opposed the rezoning, 16 said the amenity of Spring Hill would be affected and 45 believed there was already enough industrial land zoned in Orange, Blayney and Cabonne to fulfil the need.

The report to the council said maintaining 15-20 years’ supply was responsible and while Leewood, Edward Street, Narrambla and Clergate had 95.2 hectares of land available, only 37 hectares were unconstrained by slope, topography, drainage issues or infrastructure. 

“The supply within the Orange LGA has minimal ability to provide larger sized parcels, which in turn limits the ability for Orange to attract major employment generators,” the report said.

“Based on historical development of industrial land in Orange over the past 25 years, it is estimated that around 5.5 years of supply of this unconstrained industrial land exists, with only one parcel capable of accommodating a large scale development in excess of five hectares.” 

Staff said businesses did not necessary view land between Orange, Blayney and Cabonne as interchangeable.

Forty-five submissions were concerned agricultural land would be lost, however, the staff report argued the separate lots were too small to be commercially viable.

“The loss of an equivalent of one commercially viable farm needs to be balanced against the potential benefits that the creation of an employment precinct can generate,” the report said.

Ninety-one submissions were concerned about the impact on the drinking water catchment.

The staff report said there were contamination risks, including from herbicides and pesticides through farm use and along the rail corridor, abandoned/disused bores, road and rail accidents, storage and handling of fluids and soluble solids, reduction of aquifer recharge due to more paved surfaces, but they could be managed and all wastewater would be removed from the site.

Letters to the Central Western Daily questioning the nature of confidential discussions between the council and a company seeking to create 600 jobs, with general manager Garry Styles, mayor John Davis and economic development committee chairman Jeff Whitton subjected to a non-disclosure agreement.

Cr Whitton said he had only been briefed and did not know who the company was, but councillors should make their decision on Thursday independently of any possible future development.

“Initially the whole concept came up prior to anybody wanting to be there,” he said.

The final decision will rest with the Parliamentary Counsel Office and the DoP.