South West Rocks residents say no to high rise development

Voices of South West Rocks memberJanelle Stirling manning an information booth at the South West Rocks markets.

THE Voices of South West Rocks Community Inc (VOSWR) has been working with Kempsey Shire Council to implement a two-story height limit outside the town’s CBD in the 2023 South West Rocks Structure Plan.

VOSWR and the community are outraged by a major development proposed on Phillip Drive, South West Rocks that they fear will spoil the natural beauty and vista of their coastal town.

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The developers, Rise Project, have submitted a development application (DA) for their ‘The Rocks’ project, which, if approved, would see the construction of nine, five to six storey apartment blocks on Phillip Drive, which runs along the South West Rocks coastline.

The two-storey (8.5m) height limits in the South West Rocks Structure Plan proposed to be added to the Kempsey Local Environmental Plan (KLEP) are still awaiting sign-off from the Planning Minister.

VOSWR maintains that the Rise proposal does not comply with the vision of South West Rocks outlined in the Kempsey Growth Management Plan, nor does it maintain the town’s picturesque coastal setting through the management of development height, scale and density or the protection of significant vegetation and key scenic view corridors.

Opponents of the development are concerned that approving the development would send a clear signal to developers that South West Rocks is open for Gold Coast-style business.

In an independent survey commissioned by Kempsey Shire Council, respondents voted 3:1 against high-rise medium density in favour of achieving that same density result horizontally.

“The South West Rocks (SWR) community has made it very clear that we don’t want high rise,” VOSWR spokesperson Larah Kennedy said.

“South West Rocks is a place of unspoilt natural beauty and this development will change the vista forever.”

As the development has a capital investment value of $128 million, after the public exhibition period, it will bypass the Kempsey Shire Council and go before the Northern Regional Planning Panel for decision-making.

“The DA has been on exhibition for 28 days, which is insufficient for the community to respond to a development of this scale and size.

“The impact this development will have on the environment, the community and the tourism-based economic future of the town is unacceptable,” said Larah.

VOSWR is urging residents, visitors and anyone who appreciates the natural beauty of South West Rocks to submit their objections to Kempsey Shire Council by Wednesday 20 December 2023.

“This can be done by emailing KSC at or calling 02 6566 3200 and quoting DA2300926 as a reference.

“These objections will be provided to the Northern Regional Planning Panel for decision-making, and a show of strong community dissent will be taken into account,” said Ms Kennedy.

The Phillip Drive development site has been marred by controversy in recent years.

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.

After an appeal, this decision was overturned in the Land and Environment Court.

“This development site was originally under a 30-year-old development approval, with the Council’s refusal to award a construction certificate overruled in the Land and Environment Court,” Larah said.

VOSWR is a community group of more than 2000 concerned residents, visitors and friends of South West Rocks dedicated to protecting our unique coastal environment and friendly community from inappropriate and unsustainable development.

Visit for more information.


Janelle explaining the proposed Rise development to concerned community members.

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