A rally, held yesterday 8 January, calling for a halt to the proposed 450+ housing development around Lizard Rock, Belrose, was joined by three Aboriginal elders, who spoke of the importance of retaining the region as native bushland.
The rally follows an announcement, two days before Christmas, that the Sydney North Planning Panel had approved further consideration of construction of 450 homes at Lizard Rock, giving Northern Beaches Council 42 days to either accept the role of planning proposal authority or else the panel will assume the role.
Northern Beaches Council is vehemently against the proposal as representing an unacceptable bushfire risk, among other concerns.
A Council spokesperson said they had not yet determined if it will accept the role of planning proposal authority given it would not give them the authority to veto it or influence other stakeholders to amend their submissions.
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan, added, “Council is carefully reviewing the Department’s decision on Lizard Rock. The community was only given 28 days to comment on this fast-tracked proposal prior to a Gateway decision being made.
“We opposed the planning proposal to develop land at ‘Lizard Rock’ along Morgan Road in Belrose for its complete destruction of natural bushland for over 400 homes and putting them in direct threat of bushfires.
“This is 400 plus homes in the middle of the bush, not connected to any services, surplus to any housing targets set by the State, that will exacerbate existing shortfalls in the provision of community floorspace for libraries and active open space for sports fields, and destroy around 45 football size fields of bushland. Not to mention, it puts future inhabitants in an extreme bushfire risk.”
Mayor Regan continued: “It is inconsistent with local and regional planning strategies and should be reconsidered in light of significant planning, environmental and hazard issues.
“We have repeatedly called for the NSW Government to find alternative ways to support Aboriginal self-determination instead of allowing inappropriate development on bushfire prone land.
“Council one hundred percent supports the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and appreciates the importance of enabling Aboriginal people to achieve economic self-determination through developing land. But we are required to consider all proposals on their merits, regardless of the landowner, and this proposal does not stack up.”
Joeline Hackman, recently-announced ‘teal’ independent challenger for the electorate of Manly, currently held by Environment and Heritage Minister James Griffin, told Manly Observer, “This development represents a dangerous bushfire risk in land that is not zoned for development. It’s a State planning issue – not a cultural one – and the Environment and Heritage Minister needs to demonstrate his protection and value for this site in our community.
“This proposal, developed by MLALC and DPIE, has a conflict of interest in that DPIE is also the deciding body. Environmental decision-making should not be subsumed by Planning priorities. The proposal should also weigh up all infrastructure and safety responsibilities, regardless of who the applicant is.
“The SES clearly state that this development presents a severe bushfire risk and it is surplus to [Council’s] housing targets, so the MLALC should be compensated to achieve their goals in an urban zoned area.”
A bit of background
The Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC), which was given custody of the previously Crown-owned land around Lizard Rock, are those proposing the land clearance and housing development scheme.
MLALC resubmitted their proposal for the Lizard Rock scheme, which is currently under consideration by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPIE), at the start of 2022, which was open for public comments until a 22 March 2022 deadline.
MLALC’s proposal involves clearing land equivalent in size to approximately 45 football fields, which opponents assert will disperse or kill countless native species, isolate wildlife in small oases of bushland surrounded by suburbia, and introduce hundreds more vehicles to surrounding roads.
Lizard Rock is among six primary redevelopment schemes MLALC have in the pipeline for the Northern Beaches Local Government Area (LGA).
The remaining five sites, some of which may be considered for recreation or sporting facilities as well as residential dwellings, are situated at Forest Way, Belrose; Ralston Avenue, Belrose; Aquatic Drive, Frenchs Forest; Paxton Street, Frenchs Forest; and Corymbia Circuit, Oxford Falls.
A walk through Lizard Rock
Elders Uncle Neil Evers, Aunty Clair Jackson and Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth joined rally organiser Nicole Romain and an estimated 30 campaigners yesterday to walk the proposed site, which extends over 71 hectares on either side of Morgan Rd, Belrose.
The campaigners examined ancient Aboriginal engravings and reasserted their reasons for opposing the housing scheme.
Those present included representatives from Northern Beaches groups Frenchs Forest, Belrose, Davidson & Forestville Community Group, Save the Northern Beaches Bushlands, Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee and the Aboriginal Support Group Manly Warringah Pittwater.
An unidentified man in a silver SUV drove up to the 8 January Lizard Rock rally and called those present ‘racists’, and demanded that MLALC be given free rein to proceed with their proposed multi-million-dollar housing development schemes.
Aboriginal elder Neil Evers approached him and tried explaining the purpose of the protest gathering. Evers stated that he is of the Indigenous Garigal people, the original custodians of the land targeted for development, whose direct descendants should be consulted and involved in determining its future.
However, the man was not appeased and drove away, still shouting.
At the heart of the Lizard Rock bushland is an ancient wallaby engraved into a rock plateau, with a series of mundoes (carved footprints) leading up to it.
Aunt Clair explained this may have been an historic Aboriginal boys’ initiation site, or a training place where young hunters were taught how to pursue their agile, jumping quarry.
There may be other Indigenous engravings in the Lizard Rock vicinity, the region has not been extensively surveyed by experts.
Only 2km away, the Moon Rock engravings site in Ingleside, also accessible from Morgan Rd via the Slippery Dip walking trail, features 86 motifs including birds, eels, fish, weapons, a whale, a dolphin and 40 mundoes.
Slightly further afield, at the Bantry Bay Aboriginal Site 7km away, there are over 100 carvings including fish, sea creatures, a wallaby, boomerangs, shields, a whale shark and a man on an exposed sandstone rock plateau.
These engravings are situated less than 100 metres from the Bayview Close housing development in Frenchs Forest, a former MLALC-owned property that was sold to developers for up-market housing (where, less than five years later, the surrounding infrastructure of drains and kerbs are collapsing from what appears to be sub-standard concrete).
A recent visit to the site by this reporter discovered the fencing around the ancient engravings has been torn down and the fading artworks covered in motorcycle tracks and broken glass.
A Northern Beaches Council spokesperson confirmed to Manly Observer that more extensive surveying for Indigenous engravings needs to be done around Lizard Rock.
“In regards to Aboriginal heritage, the [MLALC housing development ] proposal provides only basic information about the known Aboriginal sites and potential for unrecorded sites at Lizard Rock. There is insufficient information provided about the survey work, the current sites in their context, best management options for the site and steps for further investigation.
“Site mapping of the rock engravings is of a very general nature and likely to be inaccurate and the report fails to demonstrate the significance of the rock engraving sites and how the proposal can safeguard them from current and future impacts as part of a managed visitor experience.”
Meanwhile, on a 16 December Facebook post, MLALC invited First Nations people from the Northern Beaches to join an Indigenous forum to discuss their land development proposals.
Date: 12 January 2023
Address: The Sebel, 8-13 South Steyne, Manly
Time: from 3.00-4.30pm
RSVP: email email@example.com by 5pm, 10 January 2023
Lizard Rock development planning proposal
DPIE ‘Gateway’ determination process explained
Manly Observer’s previous coverage of the Lizard Rock housing scheme and MLALC’s other development proposals in the area: