A Greens MP says the recent ‘rubber stamping’ by the state’s Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) of the controversial resort development plan for Crown beachfront land known as Lot 490, south of Kingscliff, highlights the need for an independent planning body.
MLC David Shoebridge said the ‘developer-friendly’ PAC again outraged locals and environmentalists by approving the project for 127 villas and associated facilities on the site, which has a long history of controversy.
The PAC has been ridiculed by its critics as the ‘Pass Anything Commission’. In the northern rivers this year, the PAC has approved three highly controversial developments: the North Byron Parklands events site at Yelgun, the Lot 490 resort, and this week’s approval of a massive extension of Champion’s quarry near Lismore.
Mr Shoebridge said the Lot 490 decision was ‘a squandered opportunity’ by the state government to protect some of the last remaining coastal vegetation in the region.
‘When I visited the site earlier this year, it was clear that it had immense ecological value. Over 60 species of native vegetation have been recorded in the area and it provides crucial habitat for many native species including endangered Glossy Black Cockatoos,’ he said.
‘This decision by the PAC is part of an ongoing pattern that sees this body approving the overwhelming majority of developments that come before it.
‘The PAC’s approval rate is a staggering 94 per cent and it agrees with the government’s planning bureaucrats in more than 96 per cent of cases. No wonder the community feels locked out of planning decisions under this government.
‘Minor amendments made by the PAC in its approval may look like a concession but do little more than pull back some of the most extravagant parts of the developer’s proposal.
‘This development will have a disastrous impact on not only the immediate site, but it will also cut straight across a rare wildlife corridor linking the coast and the Tweed hinterland.
‘This decision highlights exactly why a truly independent and community focused state planning body must urgently be implemented in NSW.’
After analysing 461 major project planning decisions, including 127 decisions by the Planning Assessment Commission, that have been made since the O’Farrell government came into office in 2011 the following facts emerge:
- in 97.6 per cent of cases major projects are approved by the O’Farrell government
- the PAC agrees with the assessment of the planning bureaucrats in 96 per cent of cases
- the PAC approves 94 per cent of all development matters it considers
- the PAC has approved every single application for a new or expanded mine or coal-seam gas project that it has considered.