Queensland border bubble to incorporate Byron, Ballina from October 1


From 1am on October 1, the following shires will be added to the border zone: Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley, and Glen Innes.

Residents will be able to travel to Queensland and Queenslanders can freely travel into those additional NSW areas but will still need to apply for a border pass.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said there were 152,000 residents in the border zones who would now be able to travel into Queensland.

“These are people who might live in New South Wales but very often they feel a closer affinity to Queensland,” Mr Miles said.

“They live closer to Queensland than they do to Sydney.

“Many of us see these places like Byron and Ballina as local places and this means that we will be able to travel there.”

From this Friday, September 25, people will also be allowed to travel to and from the ACT via air.

The state government says it now considers there to have been nobody infectious in the Queensland community for the past 12 days.



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Plans for $45M ‘play haven’ at Ballina withdrawn


PLANS to build a $45 million private ‘play haven’ at Empire Vale have been withdrawn after a four-year battle to get approval.

The development application for the 219ha property – that included a caravan park, helipad, equestrian facility, shooting range and go kart track – was first lodged in 2016, and faced backlash from neighbours and a battle to for approval.

A letter, dated May 18, was sent to Ballina Shire Council from Brendan Menegazzo announcing the formal withdrawal of the development application by Ringtank Pty Ltd.

Facilities planned for the site were stated to be for private use only, and not for commercial use.

The four packages of land were purchased by the late Angela and Peter Menegazzo between April and September in 2005.

A Ringtank Pty Ltd spokeswoman told The Northern Star, the family have had strong ties to the Ballina Shire.

“The Menegazzo family has a long association with the region and is a proud supporter of the local surf lifesaving club and other community groups in the area,” she said.

gcb Artist impressions of a development planned by Debra, Brendan and David Menegazzo at South Ballina Artist impression of facilities at a proposed $40 million development at Empire Vale.

Slated for the site was three houses, a 10-site caravan park, equine facilities including stables, veterinary facility, quarantine stalls, horse float and equipment shelters and two equestrian exercise lawns, private outdoor recreation facilities including go-kart track, shooting range, associated buildings, roadworks, earthworks including dam and landscaping.

In early 2017, town planner Rod Willis said the council had never navigated such a complex, private development application – due to its “non-commercial elements” such as 10 caravan park sites.

gcb Artist impressions of a development planned by Debra, Brendan and David Menegazzo at South Ballina Artist impression of facilities at a proposed $40 million development at Empire Vale.

gcb Artist impressions of a development planned by Debra, Brendan and David Menegazzo at South Ballina Artist impression of facilities at a proposed $40 million development at Empire Vale.

On December 23, 2016, $124,130.98 was paid in council fees and levies to process the DA.

Among the 280 documents attached to proposal were more than 50 letters of concern regarding the project.

Some of those concerns related to increased noise from the helicopter, motorsport and shooting activities.

Joseph Goodwin who had lived on Empire Vale Rd in South Ballina for more than 43 years, claimed his house was 900m from the proposed helipad.

Mr Goodwin said the helicopter activity coupled with the other recreational facilities, such as the proposed go-kart track, don’t fit the South Ballina lifestyle.

“These activities are not welcome in a quiet rural setting,” Mr Goodwin said.

Another resident said the activities were “inconsistent and incompatible with a rural agricultural area”.

Residents also raised concerns about the impact of increased traffic on rural roads, the closure of a beach access road, and the possible overflow effect from a 18 megalitre dam.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel heard submissions from the community on the private development in 2018, but the matter was returned to Ballina Shire Council for more information.

A number of amendments were made to the DA, but it was withdrawn in May this year.

Ringtank has been contacted for comment.





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REVEALED: Ballina council’s skyrocketing legal costs



ONGOING battles with developers have seen Ballina Shire Council’s legal bills skyrocket over the past three years.

According to a report on the most recent legal matters, council staff acknowledged that costs had been “exceptionally high”.

In 2017-18 the council spent $967,000 on legal costs, followed by $503,000 in 2018-19 and just over $1 million in the last financial year.

Those figures do not include lease documentation, property matters, contracts or staff time.

The council’s planning and environmental health director, Matthew Wood, said staff always tried to work proactively with developers to overcome potential issues in an effort to avoid court proceedings.

“We would prefer not to go through a court process; the costs add up exponentially,” he said.

“The other disadvantage of the court process is that it can take a considerable amount of time to get to a resolution months or even years.”

According to a report to councillors, the major increase in costs has been “primarily due to council’s ongoing legal cases with Intrapac, with approximately $1.6 million in legal costs incurred in respect to their developments during the last four years”.

More than $750,000 has also been spent on a DA stoush with Palm Lake, but an order on costs in council’s favour has not yet been determined.

Mr Wood said Intrapac had also commenced a challenge on the developer contributions at the new Aureus estate at Skennars Head.

That is expected to cost at least another $250,000.





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Ballina horse trainer disqualified by Racing NSW



A BALLINA horse trainer has been disqualified by Racing NSW after a pre-race test found

trendione and epitrenbolone in the horse’s urine.

Julie Pratten’s horse Rahaan was found to have trendione and epitrenbolone pre-race as it presented for the Race 1 Showcase Country Maiden Plate at Ballina racecourse on January 17.

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According to the stewards’ report, Rahaan had been injected with Ovu-Mate two days from racing which led to the substances being present pre-race.

As a result, Ms Pratten was charged under AR240(2) for presenting Rahaan to the racetrack with the prohibited substance.

Ms Pratten pleaded guilty to the charge which lessened her disqualification period from 12 months to nine months.

Stewards also considered Ms Pratten’s eight-year record of good behaviour as well as personal and professional circumstances when considering the penalty.

Under AR240(1), stewards disqualified Rahaan from its sixth place result at Race 1 Showcase Country Maiden Plate at Ballina racecourse and amended the standings.

The severity of punishment is being appealed and the appeal will be heard on September 3.





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Ballina council to review controversial gallery change


BALLINA Shire Council is reviewing the controversial Northern Rivers Community Gallery exhibition timeframe after public pressure.

The timeframe was moved from four weeks to eight weeks in 2019 to allow for greater exposure to exhibiting artists, but the move has been criticised by the community.

A petition to revert the timeframe was created on Change.org in May and has received more than 400 signatures in support.

>>> SEE MORE: PUBLIC WANT TIMETABLE CHANGE AT NRCG

This has led to the item being placed on the agenda for the council’s facilities committee meeting on Monday, July 13.

The council is set to look at three options, including maintaining the current eight-week schedule, returning to the original four-week schedule or implementing a new six-week exhibition program.

The recommendation is for the NRCG to maintain the current eight week schedule for exhibitions. (CREDIT: Adam Daunt)

Maintaining the current timeframe is preferred as, according to the meeting’s agenda, it allows the gallery to offer an “expanded cultural program, operational efficiencies and consistency with industry standards”.

Earlier this year, petition co-founder Paul Button said the increased timeframe diminished much needed exhibition opportunities.

“It also means that all the general public, and it is a community gallery, … would have 50 per cent less art to go and see, which is not the way we thought it should go,” he said.

However, the council has maintained its stance that an eight-week time frame is the best available option and has nominated that as it’s recommendation ahead of the meeting.

The meeting takes place Monday, July 13 at the Ballina Shire Council Chambers, commencing at 4pm and can be lifestreamed on the council’s website.





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Ballina subdivision gets green light for next stage


AFTER a Land and Environment Court case and then a delay with construction certificates, progress at a Ballina subdivision has been slow.

But now Intrapac is pressing ahead with the development at Banyan Hill.

Equipment has now been mobilised and construction is under way, says chief operating officer Max Shifman.

Construction is under way following approval of construction certificates for Banyan Hill.

“We are excited to be back on site and getting on with the job,” he said.

“So many families are waiting anxiously for their new lots to be complete, and construction workers are looking forward to the work that will come from the new homes to be built.”

Construction of Stage 2 is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Stage 3 will follow closely behind in early 2021.

With seven display homes from Stroud Homes, Metricon, GJ Gardner, Coral Homes and Perry Homes, there is plenty on site to inspire would-be residents.





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‘LOW ACT’: Trail of destruction at Ballina cemetery



THE last thing Karley ever expected to see when she arrived at East Ballina Cemetery to honour her late grandfather was a trail of destruction across the graves.

Karley who asked for her surname to be withheld had made the journey to the cemetery over the weekend to mark the eighth anniversary of her grandfather’s death.

But when she got there, she found vases filled with flowers smashed and crosses honouring family and friends bent as if someone had gone through with no respect for the dead.

Karley said she was “mad” when she saw the vandalism and reported it to the police and Ballina Shire Council.

She said it took her two hours to clean up the mess.

East Ballina graves destroyed

“It is horrible for any family to visit their family members that are no longer here and see the mess that was made,” Karley said.

“There was crosses bent over and vases smashed, flowers thrown everywhere.”

Taking to social media, Karley said “the idiots” who vandalised the graves of “a war veteran, a mother, a father, a son or a daughter” should be “disgraced”.

One person, Donna Bogaard, thanked Karley for “taking the time to fix the damage”.

Faye Profke wrote: “What is this world coming to? When caught, they should be made to scrub headstones with supervision over them.”

Mick Greco questioned “why would anyone do such a low act” and he hoped they were caught.

Marie Clayton said it was “absolutely disgusting”.

“Just no respect these days,” she wrote on a Ballina crime Facebook page.

“They should bow their heads in shame.

“Imagine if someone did it to one of their family graves, they would carry on for sure.”

Earlier this month, vandals also destroyed about 40 headstones and other items such as vases at Grafton Cemetery on Villiers St.

Ballina Shire Council has been contacted for comment.





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Airline confirms its return to Ballina



THINGS are looking up at Ballina Airport, with the return of a number of airlines which pulled their services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virgin Australia is looking to reintroduce services between Sydney and Ballina in mid to late July.

The expansion comes as demand for travel has increased by almost 20 per cent across Virgin’s network in comparison to the same period last week.

“Demand for air travel is slowly beginning to return and while we are operating a reduced schedule, we’ll continue to add more services and frequencies as demand increases and restrictions ease,” a Virgin Australia Group spokesman said.

Before the pandemic hit, Virgin made up 20 per cent of air traffic from Ballina airport.

Cr Wright said he was amazed at how quickly business through the airport was rebuilding at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were told the airport would be running 18 flights per week by the school holidays, instead we’ll have 42 flights per week,” Cr Wright said.

“Ballina is growing, and the airport is a vital part of that.”





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Post-mortem delays in Ballina murder case



DELAYS in the “post-mortem” of an East Lismore man who died from “catastrophic head injuries” has resulted in the adjournment of court proceedings for the two men allegedly involved of his death.

Bryson Larsen-Tai, 18, remains in custody after he was charged with the murder of 24-year-old Jesse Vilkelis-Curas.

Police allege Mr Larsen-Tai was responsible for delivering the fatal injuries to Mr Vilkelis-Curas during a fight near Hill and Parks streets, East Ballina on December 23.

Mr Vilkelis-Curas later died in Gold Coast University Hospital after suffering, what were described by police at the time, as “catastrophic head injuries” and was taken off life-support on Boxing Day.

Mr Larsen-Tai is also facing an assault occasioning death, affray and aggravated robbery with wounding causing grievous bodily harm.

Both Mr Larsen-Tai and his co-accused, Tyrese Hickling, 19, who was also allegedly involved in the fatal fight, had their matters briefly mentioned at Lismore Local Court on Wednesday.

Mr Hickling is facing charges of affray, assault occasioning actual bodily harm in the company of others and common assault.

However, the police prosecutor told the court an adjournment in both matters was required because the post-mortem hadn’t been completed.

She said police were “unable to expect a timeframe” but expected the delays were caused by COVID-19 restrictions.

Magistrate Jeff Linden adjourned both matters to July 15 for further mention.





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Hundreds sign petition on changes to Ballina art gallery



LOCAL Ballina residents and the Northern Rivers Community Gallery are at odds over changes to the gallery’s exhibition time frame.

Previously, Northern Rivers Community Gallery changed artist exhibits monthly, however, exhibits are now shown for two months following the change in 2019.

In response, local residents from the community rallied together to express their dismay via a petition over the exhibiting opportunities diminishing for local artists.

“It also means that all the general public, and it is a community gallery, … would have 50 per cent less art to go and see, which is not the way we thought it should go,” Paul Button, co-organiser of the petition, said.

However, the NRCG said that from their feedback, artists are relishing the chance at longer exposure.

“NRCG has received positive feedback from exhibiting artists who receive more exposure as a result of the longer exhibition period.”

Mr Button said that the gallery appears to be drifting away from it’s community focus in recent times.

“What we think is they may have lost their way in terms of trying to be more of a regional gallery, a Sydney gallery or whatever they’re endeavouring to do we don’t know,” Mr Button said.

The NRCG said the changes which created this issue were meant to benefit the community in other ways.

“Council has identified that maintaining the monthly exhibition program would reduce the resourcing and staff capacity to deliver these complementary creative programs that NRCG has built a reputation for, and, which have unique cultural and educational value for the entire community,” a spokesperson said.

The petition has recorded over 400 signatures and Mr Button said he hoped the council and the gallery would be flexible.

“There are two situations, maybe a compromise … there are five exhibition areas, maybe some of the areas (could change) every two weeks or every month to ensure there is still variety … but what we would like to do is go back to monthly,” Mr Button said.

The gallery said that the changes simply bring the organisation in-line with other galleries around the country.

“Current gallery programming time frames are based on professional industry standards across similar public regional and community gallery spaces across Australia,” a spokesperson said.

The gallery is an important part of the Ballina community, last year it supported 226 artists made up of 94 artists exhibited, 74 artist shop suppliers, 52 artists employed, six visiting artists.





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