Monday, 21 March 2022

As the local member representing a number of the sites covered by Aboriginal Lands SEPP amendment and Northern Beaches Aboriginal land Development Delivery Plan (DDP) and Explanation of Intended Effect, I make this submission on the proposal to develop various sites owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) in the Northern Beaches Local Government Area (LGA).

My position is that I do not support the current draft Development Delivery Plan being progressed.

I have encouraged constituents to participate in the public consultation process. In my speech in Parliament on 22 February 2022 I indicated that the current consultation was an early point in a lengthy process and that any development should be suitable and appropriate. The speech is appended to this submission.

Many constituents have contacted my electorate office with concerns that the land in the current SEPP amendment being considered for potential development is not at all suitable for proposed residential or industrial services development.

The submission by Northern Beaches Council to the public consultation along with correspondence and conversations with constituents, many with relevant engineering, town planning, environmental and emergency management experience and credentials, has significantly impacted my view.

I have various concerns, including:

Potential probity issues about the transparency and integrity of the process with the Department of Planning and Environment having two conflicting roles in this matter. The Department appears to act as both facilitator and approver, with a lack of process to manage perceived or real conflict of interest.  The Department have had a role in assisted the MLALC with the DDP and would now also have a role in approving the DDP and SEPP amendment.

  1. The importance of many of the sites for biodiversity and habitat of threatened and endangered flora and fauna and the importance of the sites as ecological communities connected to Garigal National Park. Consideration could be given to undevelopable areas being purchased by government for consolidation into the National Park - due to those issues and also to provide a contiguous wildlife corridor.
  2. The serious and persistent threat of bushfire at the sites proposed for possible residential or industrial service development.
  • Bushfire risk was explored and reported on at length during a long process between 2014 and 2019 which finally saw a plan for residential development at Ralston Ave refused multiple times including by Gateway and finally by the Independent Planning Commission in January 2019. The development was refused on a number of grounds:
  • The plateau is unique with a number of threatened and endangered species.
  • An extreme bushfire risk with fires likely to sweep quickly up the valley sides to the plateau proposed for development. The Rural Fire Service refused to sign off on any development at the location and stated at the time that a development would expose the RFS and other emergency services personnel to unacceptable danger and risk if they had to undertake firefighting or evacuation duties to safeguard people or property.
  • Evacuation issues are compounded by the presence of the large Transgrid substation which poses significant danger of arcing in bushfire conditions and impede any evacuation unless it is shut down. Shut down takes approximately four hours and would cut the electricity supply to Northern Sydney and beyond.
  • In the words of one constituent:  “With regard to Site 9 Ralston Ave, it is only 3 years since a previous Planning Proposal by the MLALC  was refused in January 2019  by the NSW state Government Independent Planning Commission. The current proposal (industrial) is on the same footprint as the previous proposal (residential).The constraints determined by the IPC in consultation with many relevant Government Departments, Consultants, and the proponent, will apply to any other development proposal on the proposed development area. The application for the previous Planning Proposal was made in 2014. Over this 5 year period the community was placed under stress with concerns and make many submissions to show that development of this site was not in the public interest. Why should the community be placed in the same situation only 3 years after a refusal by the highest State Government Planning decision authority?”

4.The Lizard Rock site and other sites included in this proposed SEPP Amendment and DDP are designated as Deferred Areas of Non-Urban Land. They should be considered in the new local Environmental Plan which Northern Beaches Council are developing and which will be available as a Draft LEP at the end of 2022.

5.The DDP claims to align with the Northern Beaches Council Local Housing Strategy. However, the council submission is clear that the Local Housing Strategy does not require any housing development outside of existing centres that are already well serviced with necessary infrastructure.

6.Constituents have expressed a range of concerns about the SEPP amendment and DPP for the potential impact it will have on sensitive, threatened and endangered flora and fauna.  The sites in the proposal link closely to Garigal National Park and are essentially part of the same ecosystem.

7.I generally agree with the concerns highlighted by the Northern Beaches Council submission. Their document highlight, in a considered and expert way, some important issues and concerns that warrant serious attention.

Appendix - Hansard excerpt

Legislative Assembly Hansard – 22 February 2022


Mr JONATHAN O'DEA (Davidson)—I acknowledge my local community for its willingness to engage in public consultation run by the Department of Planning regarding 900 hectares of land owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Lands Council on the Northern Beaches. Online briefings about the proposal to amend the Aboriginal Land State Environmental Planning Policies [SEPP] for the Northern Beaches have been well attended by local constituents, especially by residents of Frenchs Forest, Belrose and Oxford Falls. Those locations are where six Aboriginal land sites are being considered for their development potential, thus funding the Land Council to achieve economic, social and cultural prosperity for the Aboriginal community. Those goals fulfil the aims of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act under which the sites came to be owned by the Lands Council. The Department and the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Lands Council have run an informative consultation process. Locals have engaged enthusiastically, showing awareness of disadvantages and injustices for Aboriginal people. However, the community is concerned that planning decisions should not unduly impact existing residents, strain infrastructure or compromise local flora and fauna. Well done to all concerned on the ongoing process.