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Why sell a beautiful coastal forest for housing development?

The future of a beautiful coastal forest located on the edge of Dalmeny now has a significant date looming, and local community action group Dalmeny Matters are urging swift action to help save the forest.

In their latest newsletter Dalmeny Matters say, “whilst Council may try to allay people’s concerns by saying that everything will be covered by the Development Control Plan, once the Council land is sold, preventing development will become much harder and no matter what environmental assessments uncover, it will be a matter of ‘trying to minimise impacts’ or buying bio-diversity credits.”

The closing date for expressions of interest for the sale of forty-one hectares of council owned land is 15 September. This block is next to a further 64 hectares of privately owned forest, also slated for development.

The decision to sell the land was rushed through council just before the election was originally due and if it were not for Clr Patrick McGinlay alerting the community, the residents of Dalmeny would never have known it was happening.

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The decision to sell the land was rushed through council just before the election was originally due and if it were not for Clr Patrick McGinlay alerting the community, the residents of Dalmeny would never have known it was happening.

Cr Anthony Mayne says, “The decision to push through the sale of the Dalmeny land is significant. This development and subsequent development will nearly double Dalmeny, yet council barely advised the community. “ 

Just prior to the vote, Clr Lindsay Brown made an argument in favour of the sale comparing clearing a coastal forest for housing, to killing a sheep in order to enjoy eating a lamb roast. Apparently, it is just the process we don’t like to think about.  But once the forest is gone, like Clr Browns dinner, it is gone forever.

The large forest in Dalmeny is in good condition, a refuge to bird and animal life and Dalmeny residents say they value the forest and say they want to keep it there for all to enjoy. 

Dalmeny Matters representative Sally Christiansen says, "Every time I take in a walk through that bushland I notice different things. There are tiny thornbills and wrens and more flowers are coming out now that spring is approaching, I even spotted two rainbow lorikeets coming out of their tree hollow a couple of days ago. 

“So many people are walking and riding bikes on the tracks with their kids, especially since lock-down. Strangely, lock-down may be making more people realise just how much they love and value that piece of bush, and how much they would miss it," Sally says.

If the sale goes ahead, the land is likely be completely clear felled just as happened in Broulee. Asset Protection Zones will have to be cleared and removing all existing vegetation also makes it cheaper for developers to put in roads and services and maximises the number of block they can sell.

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Sally says Council have not thought this through, “There are so many reasons why this bushland is unsuitable for development: steep slopes, creek lines, fire risk, pollution and sediment running off into Mummaga Lake plus the impact on threatened species like Glossy Black Cockatoos depending on the feed trees here,” Sally says. 

“To sell the land and conduct environmental assessments afterwards, that's putting the cart before the horse. Council's decision making should be considered and responsible, that's what we as a community have a right to."

 

Council have confirmed that they have started drafting a Development Control Plan for Lot 2 together with Lot 3 and Lot 54 but have not given any further information about exactly when the community will have input. 

 

Dalmeny Matters are assuming that the minimum requirement to exhibit the plan after it has been made will be all the ‘input’ residents will be asked for.

 

Dalmeny Matters say the Council policy documents only pay lip service to looking after the environment and do not offer real protection to habitat and ecosystems.

“We are going to do everything in our power to make sure Council decisions are carried out in compliance with legislation and its own policies. Anything that makes development of this land harder and more costly for the developer may help us to protect the bush,” the group says.

The questions that remain unanswered is why was the sale of bushland to be cleared for housing rushed through, and why can’t new housing be on cleared land in or near existing towns?

One suggestion, rather than selling the forest, Eurobodalla Shire Council could rezone the land to community use allowing Dalmeny residents continue to enjoy the bushland while the wildlife refuge and habitat remains.

Another possibility, the NSW government aquires the block and the adjacent private forest as part of the bushfire recovery program. It could even be incorporated into the Eurobodalla National Park.

This forest is worth fighting for on environmental grounds too. Having had 80% of our forests burnt, the unburnt forests are not only important habitat, but their retention could also be used as a carbon sink.

Climate change is already harming our country. We need to dramatically reduce emissions and draw down carbon from the atmosphere to return to a safe climate.

This forest is storing a considerable amount of carbon and will continue to draw down carbon from the atmosphere if it is allowed to remain.

Residents are reporting seeing drones flying over, people in high viz vests on site, members of the RFS, paint markers on dirt road entrances and marking where service connections exist, so work obviously continues despite lockdown. This a serious - the sale may be imminent.

The MAYNE Team remains opposed to the sale of this community land and supports Dalmeny Matters in their work to prevent the loss of this important forest.  

When elected, the The MAYNE Team will:

  

  1. make significant changes to Council’s tree policies and supporting processes (see here)

  2. ensure that proposed developments are properly advertised and that there is effective community consultation and engagement (see here and here)

  3. review and update Council’s approach to the preservation of natural habitats (see here and here)

  4. develop and implement plans for social housing development that are consistent with the protection and preservation of the natural environment (see here).

 

We will be posting further details of our environmental policies. Keep an eye on The MAYNE View.