South West Rocks delegation puts Zombie DA petition to Parliament

Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann and the Coastal Residents United alliance.

ON Thursday, 24 August representatives of Voices of South West Rocks (VOSWRC) were invited to NSW Parliament to table a 1200-signature petition calling for a moratorium on ‘Zombie DAs’.

VOSWRC represent over 2,000 community members who advocate for the conservation of South West Rocks’ wildlife and nature after experiencing a surge in land clearing of coastal forests for housing developments.

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Zombie DA is the term given to projects approved years, sometimes decades prior, which have not been completed.

The VOSWRC and Coastal Residents United alliance congregated at NSW Parliament to table petitions calling for planning law reform to end decades-old and inappropriate Development Applications.

“We urge the state government to update NSW’s outdated environmental planning laws and listen to the thousands of community members calling for greater protection of our unique wildlife,” said Larah Kennedy, spokesperson for Voices of South West Rocks.

Zombie DAs have been the talk of the town in South West Rocks, with the Rise Projects development on Phillip Drive going before the Land and Environment Court.

In late 2021 the developer submitted an application to Kempsey Shire Council for a construction certificate to commence works on the site based on a DA approved in 1993.

Council did not issue a Construction Certificate on the basis that the developer did not adequately demonstrate they had substantially commenced work within the required five year timeframe of the 1993 development consent approval.

The developer filed an appeal against this deemed refusal in the Land and Environment Court and the case was heard in December 2021.

The Land and Environment Court ruling, published on 1 March 2022, found in Council’s favour, declaring that the consent had lapsed and the application for a construction certificate be refused.

The developers then appealed that decision in late March 2022.

This was heard in court in December 2022.

That court ruling published on Wednesday 22 March 2023 overturned the March 2022 ruling, requiring Council to now issue a construction certificate for the 2021 application.

The original 1993 DA was to build a mega accommodation complex, abutting sensitive coastal wetlands.

The site, originally home to koala food trees, was cleared by Rise Developments in May 2023.

Rise Projects has since submitted a new DA, which was approved by the Kempsey Shire Council on 15 August 2023.

Councillors voted to grant development consent for construction for multi-dwelling housing, neighbourhood shops, and takeaway food and drink premises.

“South West Rocks is bearing the brunt of state-driven growth targets, despite being constrained by the coastline, flooding, bushfire risk, wetlands, and landscape of high cultural, scenic and conservation value,” said Larah Kennedy, spokesperson for VOSWR.

“Overdevelopment is also increasing pressure on amenities, health services, sewage treatment and traffic congestion.

“Zombie DAs are popping up all over our coast, they are outdated developments that have no social licence, ignore current science, and endanger wildlife by clearing coastal habitat,” said Ms Kennedy.

VOSWR is part of the Coastal Residents United alliance of community groups along the NSW coastline fighting for planning law reforms and better protection of nature.

When presenting the petition to Parliament, Greens MLC Sue Higginson said “VOSWR are asking for a moratorium on all development applications older than five years old with a view to amend them bringing them in line with state planning policy, and to conduct an urgent investigation into the planning system.”

In addition to VOSWR’s presentation to the Upper House, Member for Oxley Michael Kemp tendered a Notice of Motion to the Lower House.

Mr Kemp noted in his motion that in March this year, the NSW Land and Environment Court overturned a decision by the Kempsey Shire Council to refuse site clearing works at Rise Development South West Rocks, and that subsequently the council was ordered to work with the developer to draft a forced Construction Certificate.

He noted that the community and Council were disappointed and frustrated by this decision and that the members for Oxley support and iterate the Council’s position that planning laws are in desperate need of change.

Mr Kemp called on the Minister for Planning to support the position that ‘zombie development applications’ are not acceptable, and for the Government to amend current planning laws and to define a substantive development start date or enforce completion of construction within five years.


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