Council wants ‘inappropriate’ Aboriginal land plan scrapped

A Sydney Council has branded a proposed development by an Aboriginal land council ‘inappropriate’ and is calling for the state government to scrap it.

Michael Regan

The Northern Beaches Aboriginal land Development Delivery Plan (DDP) contains a framework for the development of six sites owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) in the Northern Beaches LGA.

One of the sites, Lizard Rock in Belrose, has been identified as suitable for development within two years, with the 71 hectare parcel of land endorsed by the MLALC to be “actively investigated for land dealing”.

A planning proposal being prepared for the site contains about 450 low to medium-density homes, a cultural community centre and protection of Aboriginal carvings and other heritage sites, DPIE says. 

MLALC says Lizard Rock has the best potential for “innovative, culturally and environmentally sensitive development” and would generate “an economic return that will benefit members and the broader community”.

Development would deliver community benefits as well as preserving and showcasing Aboriginal cultural heritage, it says in its DDP.

But in a submission to DPIE, Northern Beaches Council identifies ‘numerous and  significant’ environmental and bushfire issues in the Lizard Rock plan.

It details a number of serious concerns relating to the process and review of work to date, environmental impacts on threatened species, wetlands, waterways and core habitat, and, bushfire risk and infrastructure issues.

“This land is bushfire-prone, this is not near infrastructure and its not even remotely part of our housing targets, it’s not part of council’s plans,” Mayor Michael Regan told Government News.

He said council supported self-determination for the MLALC, but not at the expense of native bushland and habitat.

“I don’t believe we need to further encroach on our bushland no matter who the developer is, whether it’s Meriton or the MLALC,” he said.

“In my view the state and federal governments need to adopt a model that allows MLALC to reap the financial benefits of their land in other ways.”

This could include a one-off payment from the state government to preserve the land, or an ongoing lease to turn it into a national park, he said.

Government News has sought comment from MLALC.

‘Inappropriate development’

In its submission, Council says the proposals will result in “an intensification of development, inappropriate development and incompatible land uses in areas exposed to high risk of bush fire,” as well as impacting habitat and waterways that are important to various threatened species.

“All six sites are almost entirely represented by native vegetation or bushland of which approx. 73 ha is proposed for future development,” the submission says.

The submission cites a lack of infrastructure to support the proposed Lizard Rock development and a lack of commitment to improved building standards and low carbon initiatives.

Northern Beaches also says the draft DDP “inaccurately and selectively suggests compliance with councils local strategic planning statement and local housing strategy”.

Aboriginal land rights

DPIE says the draft DDP will help Aboriginal people “fulfill potential economic benefits” of their Northern Beaches land and responds to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which created Aboriginal land councils to buy and manage land as compensation for historic dispossession.

“All feedback … will be carefully considered by the Department of Planning and Environment to inform their finalisation later this year,” DPIE says. 

Once the DDP is finalised, planning proposals and DAs can be lodged for the sites.

The planning proposal for the Lizard Rock site could be exhibited for public comment later this year and the remaining five sites could have planning proposals or DAs submitted in the next two to five years.

“These sites require further investigation, but future land uses could include residential, industrial, employment and environmental conservation depending on the site,” DPIE says.

Cr Regan says the plan conflicts with many of the priorities and actions in key state planning strategies, such as the Greater Sydney Region Plan and the North District Plan, as well as Council’s Local Strategic Planning Statement.

He also says DPIE has a conflict of interest in both preparing the plan and being the determining authority.

Lizard Rock will be the first test case for the new Aboriginal Land SEPP, which enables certain projects to sidestep council approval if they are deemed to be regionally significant, and provides for the creation of DDPs, such as the one submitted by MLALC.

MLALC is a significant owner of land across 25 metropolitan Sydney LGAs.



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