30 July 2021

Call for South Coast 'zombie developments' to meet current planning guidelines

| Katrina Condie
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Group of Coila Lake residents

Coila Lake residents are angry over the resurrection of a ‘zombie development’ that could see a new housing estate established on the edge of the NSW South Coast village’s waterway. Photo: Protect Coila Lake group.

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”.

'South Coast Bushland at Risk' map

NSW MP and South Coast resident Justin Field has created an interactive ‘South Coast Bushland at Risk’ map showing ‘zombie developments’. Image: Justin Field.

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.

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Laurie Patton11:09 am 11 Aug 22

Housing is one of the top political footballs right now. Time to stop kicking the ball around and make some decisions.

In the latest census most people said they’d prefer to live in a house than an apartment. That’s why so many are deserting overcrowded and expensive capital cities. A survey by the Regional Australia Institute revealed that half the people moving to the regions are millennials.

Approval for any new land releases (and any zombie developments) should require that 20% of properties are made available at a 50% discount via a ballot to low income earners living in the area.

It’s all very clever isn’t it. No development and no affordable houses

Chris Braham3:38 pm 06 Aug 21

I totally agree with the views expressed by Independent NSW MP and South Coast resident Justin Field, Eurobodalla Shire Councillor Anthony Mayne and Tuross Head resident Simon Cox and many other residents that these so called ‘zombie developments’, on the NSW South Coast need to be reassessed. Developers should not be able to legally bulldoze sensitive coastal bushland and ruin this unique heritage environmental asset.

I agree wholeheartedly with the residents and Justin’s disbelief that DA’s from 30 yrs ago are still valid. A complete review or ‘zombie’ DAs is required. This IS the 21st century.

Paddy Hodgman10:21 am 03 Aug 21

Its indefensible to allow 40 year old approvals to proceed without applying current requirements. Fair enough in a much shorter timeframe so as not to impose unfairness on the developer in executing a current proposal approved under contemporary requirements, but a 40 year old approval which allows, fro example, the removal of all trees is nothing short of scandalous.

christine Macauley5:32 pm 02 Aug 21

It seems to be a case of I have a house in this beautiful area and who cares about anyone else!

Anything new or different is shouted down by what is actually a minority, if a very vocal one.

There were protests against the shared pathway/cycle path built by volunteers Dalmeny to Narooma now it is a beloved path which many many locals and tourists use frequently.

The so called pristine forrest in the Dalmeny area is a dumping ground for locals trash and has to be cleaned up frequently by Council workers, it is obvious that some locals at least are not valuing the area.

Anke Ziergiebel12:01 pm 02 Aug 21

If it’s important land for nature conservation it should be bought back by council and the owners who bought the DA reimbursed.
It’s not their problem that the land was sold 20-30 years ago!
And just because landowners develop the land now, doesn’t mean people should resort to abuse (spitting, shouting, threatening) to make their concerns heard.
Humans should have the grace to stand up for the land they love with dignity and NOT by intimidating landowners or using it as a political platform to sway voters.

There needs to be a review of all DAs in excess of 5 years; with new environmental risk assessments, cultural reports, fire overlays and community consultation – developers need to be as accountable as current residents are in terms of compliance with current legislative guidelines. Our communities are not the ‘get rich, slop trough’ but are valued for coastal serenity and natural corridors.

Jane Robertson7:43 am 02 Aug 21

Dalmeny has not had any community engagement on this land use planning – not in 1980s -not now. Dalmeny has never had a Development Control Plan to guide decisions – all cities & towns have these – why not Dalmeny ? This must come first before further destruction of habitat & amenity & culture.

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