Northern Beaches Council has confirmed its opposition to the controversial proposals to redevelop native bushland around Belrose and Frenchs Forest.
The NSW Govt draft Northern Beaches Aboriginal Land Development Delivery Plan, involves six proposed redevelopment schemes in the Belrose/Frenchs Forest and Oxford Falls area.
The land, predominantly forested, is owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) and faces multiple rezoning and clearance applications for a mixture of housing development, industrial sites and other facilities, including sports fields.
Following a 22 March meeting (after the previous day’s deadline for public comments on the proposed redevelopment schemes expired), Northern Beaches Council released its submission that the Aboriginal lands proposal is “inappropriate”.
A council statement said: “The Northern Beaches Council is calling for the Development Delivery Plan proposed for land owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council to be reconsidered in light of numerous and significant environmental and bushfire issues.
“Council’s submission to the Department of Planning and Environment’s proposed Development Delivery Plan details a number of serious concerns relating to the process and review of work so far, environmental impacts on threatened species, wetlands, waterways and core habitat, and, bushfire risk and infrastructure issues.”
The council’s opposition aligns with multiple objections raised by a coalition of opponents to the redevelopment schemes, including community groups Belrose, Davidson, French’s Forest & Forestville Community Page, Save Manly Dam Bushland, Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment, Save Oxford Falls Valley, Save Northern Beaches Bushland, and Northern Beaches Aboriginal Land Community Discussion Group.
Principle objections include: bushfire risks; threats to wildlife; damage to native habitat; limited infrastructure to cater to the thousands of new residents; loss of bush trails; and the vulnerability of nearby Aboriginal heritage sites.
Mayor’s urge to revisit proposals
MLALC, an incorporated body constituted under the 1983 Aboriginal Lands Right Act (ALRA – which grants low-priority Crown land to Aboriginal people as partial compensation for British colonisation), own nine sites totalling 912 hectares in the Northern Beaches Local Government Area.
Of these, six sites (three in Belrose, two in Frenchs Forest, one in Oxford Falls) have been identified by MLALC, in conjunction with the NSW Dept Planning, Industry and the Environment, as ideal for development.
They are: Forest Way, Belrose; Morgan Avenue, Belrose (Lizard Rock); Ralston Avenue, Belrose; Aquatic Drive, Frenchs Forest; Paxton Street, Frenchs Forest; and Corymbia Circuit, Oxford Falls.
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan, Councillor for Frenchs Forest ward, urged the NSW Govt to revisit the six development schemes in their entirety.
“This proposal does not effectively address the potential destruction to bushland, waterways and threatened species or the inherent bushfire risk,” he declared.
“There must be alternative ways the NSW Government can support Aboriginal self-determination than facilitating inappropriate development,” he added.
“And we’d like some clarity about how the conflict of roles the Department of Planning and Environment has will be managed, in relation to their work in both preparing the Development Delivery Plan and also being the determining authority for the plan.
“We look forward to working with the state government to ensure a better outcome for these lands than the one currently proposed.”
Mayor Regan also pointed out that the Development Delivery Plan conflicts with many of the priorities and actions in important state planning strategies, such as the Greater Sydney Region Plan and the North District Plan, as well as Council’s Local Strategic Planning Statement – Towards 2040 and Local Housing Strategy.
Nevertheless, opponents of the development proposals suspect the NSW Minister for Planning and Homes, Lane Cove MP Anthony Roberts, a former Minister for Counter-Terrorism and Corrections, will approve the unpopular scheme.
MLALC CEO Nathan Moran told Manly Observer, “The NSW Government’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is leading the delivery of this Development Delivery Plan …
“We are pleased to be working closely with Minister Roberts and the Department of Planning. This is an extremely positive step towards utilising our land to deliver economic outcomes for our community as envisaged by the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.”
Map of the six sites
Summary of the NSW Govt’s proposals
Further information on the land redevelopment proposals