A growing number of new housing estates, labelled ‘zombie developments’, on the NSW South Coast look set to be given the green light after being approved as far back as the 1980s.
With the growing demand for vacant land driving many developers to resurrect old approvals in coastal villages such as Manyana, Broulee and Tuross Head, Independent NSW MP and South Coast resident Justin Field is calling for NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes to intervene.
“He should instigate a review to look at these ‘zombie developments’ and use his planning powers to run a modern ruler over these plans,” said Mr Field.
“We need a planning system that can adapt and change to ensure development is appropriate in these sensitive coastal areas.”
Mr Field said some of the developments – approved 30 or 40 years ago – are “clearly inappropriate” and to allow them to proceed with no new scrutiny is “absurd”.
“Times have changed, those communities have changed, and our knowledge of climate change and the impact of development on sensitive coastal environments has grown.”
Dalmeny is confronting the activation of a 30-year-old urban growth plan, with Eurobodalla Shire Council approving the sale of 40 hectares of bushland for future residential development.
This land adjoins another 60 hectares of already privately owned, residentially zoned, mature bushland, and Mr Field said all of it is “unburnt and critical refuge and foraging grounds for local birds and animals”.
“This sort of thing is happening up and down the coast,” he added.
Mr Field has launched a South Coast Bushland at Risk map to show the collective impact of these proposals to help build understanding within the community and to bring together the communities working to protect these areas from what he labelled “unsustainable development”.
Eurobodalla Shire Councillor Anthony Mayne said the community needs to stand up and write to Minister Stokes calling for a review of ‘zombie developments’.
“The community can’t keep being caught off guard on these developments,” said Mr Mayne.
He said residential developments at Broulee and Coila Lake were “rushed through council” with “no community engagement and barely any consultation”.
Mr Mayne said developments approved “when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister” do not stand up to the current development approval (DA) guidelines that include the creation of green spaces, urban design elements, and take into account remnant forests following the Black Summer bushfires.
“There needs to be an open and transparent process on this,” he said.
“The community has changed a lot. We have many new residents and council can’t hide behind consultation carried out in the 1980s.”
Tuross Head resident Simon Cox, who has been fighting a ‘zombie housing development’ in his village, said a review of the planning system would ensure old developments across NSW are reviewed to meet current social, cultural and environmental standards.
“I think all Australians would be stunned that a DA approved in 1984 can stand up in 2021 knowing what we know now,” he said.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment said under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, a development consent lapses after five years unless work has ‘physically commenced’.
“Last year, we amended planning regulations to set out the types of things that don’t count as physical commencement, including soil, water and acoustic testing, survey works and land marking,” said the spokesperson.
“This helps to put a halt to so-called ‘zombie development applications’ that may no longer fit in with the existing development controls or character of a place.”
Mr Field said the steps “don’t go far enough”.
“There are 10, 20 or 30-year-old approvals, which have not in any meaningful way commenced, now being reactivated and legally able to bulldoze sensitive coastal bushland, including the last unburnt habitat in the local area,” he said.
“When circumstances change, we need to be able to change and adapt.
“Some of these approvals and proposals just simply don’t make sense in the current circumstances.”
You can view Mr Field’s interactive ‘South Coast Bushland at Risk’ map here.