Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address Council regarding three items on today’s agenda, these being :
QON21/010 & PSR21/057 – Both dealing with the Dalmeny Land Release; and
QON21/009 – 96 Lot Subdivision on Turnbulls Lane (DA0632/20)
I am presenting as Co-Convenor of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum dedicated to having open and inclusive government in our region. ABE expects that before governments, at any level, make decisions that will impact their communities, they will undertake broad and meaningful consultation, listen to and share expert advice, and proceed using a transparent decision-making process so that the community understands who makes decisions, when and why.
ABE has applied these principles to both the Dalmeny Land Release and the Turnbulls Lane subdivision, which both have significant implications for the effective management of public assets and implementation of good governance in the Eurobodalla. I will now outline ABE’s recommendations for each of these issues.
Dalmeny Land Release
This sale of 40 hectares of Council land adjoining an area of 60 hectares already slated for residential development is a significant step warranting detailed collection and consideration of current information together with extensive community consultation and input. The combined impact of this additional residential land will nearly double the current size of Dalmeny, yet no systemic analysis has been provided of how all this new housing can be adequately serviced. The primary driver seems to be maximising the number of development lots, with other important considerations either being ignored or given only lip service.
The Dalmeny Land Release area is not an issue which should just rubber-stamp decades-old arbitrary zoning decisions. We need to apply contemporary standards and knowledge to make an informed decision which refects contemporary knowledge and current standards, as well as supporting the local community.
The Dalmeny site is a forested area with high biodiversity values which is part of the catchment of Mummaga Lake. ABE notes that the 2016 South East & Tablelands Regional Plan indicates that estuaries such as Mummaga Lake and their catchments “are particularly susceptible to the effect of land use development and are not suitable for intense uses such as housing subdivision.” Council’s decision is inconsistent with this advice.
The land is also highly valued by the local community for its aesthetic, recreational and environmental values, which are under threat from over development. These values are even more important now in the wake of the catastrophic 2019-20 fire season. In spite of this importance to the community, there has only been one hastily convened public information session after the sale process was first announced. This one-off consultation was the result of Councillor McGinlay advocating on behalf of Dalmeny residents, and was not part of any systematic Council process.
In addition to these significant concerns over the biophysical and community impacts of the sale of this community asset, the fact that this process was initiated without Councillors being advised of the estimated value of the asset is also of concern. The fact that the community has still not been informed of the purchase price even after contracts have been exchanged is of further concern.
There has been no cogent explanation about why the land needed to be sold so hastily, particularly given that the transaction will not be completed until 2022. The reason given for not advising the community of the sale price for the land is that the title needs to be amended and registered. However, this task should have already been completed if a systematic and thorough approach had been adopted from the outset. Why the hurry for this sale to occur right now?
ABE also notes that PSR21/057 refers to a “Real Estate Development Fund” with a current balance of $4.2 million as the source for $100,000 to pay the cost of developing a Masterplan and DCP for the Dalmeny Land Release. ABE has searched both Council’s website and Google, and has not been able to find any information regarding the Eurobodalla Council “Real Estate Development Fund”. We have written to the GM in order to find out how and where this fund fits into Council’s governance structure, and what functions it is supposed to perform. This is an issue that Councillors may also want to clarify before voting to withdraw $100,000 from this fund.
A decision of the magnitude and complexity of the Dalmeny Land Release should not have been taken in the dying days of a Council term extended twice because of the COVID pandemic. This was a process and decision which should have been undertaken by the next Council, which will have to deal with the longer term impacts of this sell-off.
96 Lot Subdivision on Turnbulls Lane
The Turnbull Lane Subdivision is another example of a significant development which needs to have the proactive engagement of Eurobodalla Council. The development block contains parcels of an Endangered Ecological Community (EEC), the Lowland Grassy Box woodland, which is even more valuable now in the wake of the impacts the Black Summer bushfires on the environment of the Eurobodalla.
ABE considers that the Council staff response to Councillor Mayne’s Question on Notice is unsatisfactory, in that it largely seeks to devolve responsibility for the future development and fate of the EEC to the BDAR (Biodiversity Development Assessment Report) process. However, Council has the authority and agency to actively engage with the developer to seek an improved outcome offering environmental and community benefits through informed and creative engagement with the development process based on contemporary knowledge and circumstances, which should be driven by more than just maximising the number of development lots.
The Turnbulls Lane subdivision is of sufficient importance for Councillors to be engaged with the process, instead of turning it into another routine staff decision.
The Dalmeny Land Release constitutes a large parcel of Council land being sold off hurriedly for an undisclosed amount without any contemporary evaluation of its environmental and community values, and without any genuine community consultation. No systemic analyses of the servicing requirements or associated impacts have been produced. This process reflects poor governance across all aspects of the ABE checklist of transparency, meaningful consultation and informed decision making based on current expert advice.
The Turnbull’s Lane subdivision provides an opportunity for Council to exercise informed and creative engagement reflecting contemporary knowledge and circumstances for a significant development project.
ABE considers that Council can and must do better in future planning and development decisions.
Thank you for your attention.
A Better Eurobodalla