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Byron Shire
March 4, 2021

NSW govt’s ‘open slather on development’

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Backstreet boy – Country Labor candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh with shadow minister for planning Tania Mihailuk in Suffolk Park last week.

Do you have the right to object to the possibility of four apartments being built next door to you? Most people would think they do if a development has an impact on their light, amenity and the value of their property. However, under the controversial Medium Density Housing Code (MDHC) introduced by the Liberal/National party (LNP) coalition in July last year, you could well soon lose that right.

Meeting the shadow minister for planning in the back streets of Suffolk Park where he grew up, Country Labor candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh said, ‘This means that the first a neighbour might know about a “manor house” consisting of four apartments being built on a 600 square metre block next to them is when the concrete truck arrives to pour a slab. It will have a bigger impact on our town than West Byron.’

Pugh believes it could quadruple the amount of housing in areas like Suffolk Park. 

‘This “code” was forced on local councils and… it would mean a massive increase in density with no say for our local community or even a neighbour. It is an outrageous attack on our community and demonstrates the total inability of the Nationals to stand up for regional towns like ours,’ said Mr Pugh.

Scrapping the code

State shadow minister for planning Tania Mihailuk joined Mr Pugh in Byron Bay last week to announce Labor would scrap the controversial MDHC introduced by the Liberal/National party coalition if Labor wins the upcoming state election. 

The MDHC was introduced in July last year and immediately drew the ire of many Sydney and regionally based councils, leading to a 12 month exemption for around 50 councils (including Byron and Ballina shire councils) from the code. This was ostensibly to allow councils time to assess their Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) to determine where the medium density housing zoning would apply. 

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith. Photo Tree Faerie.

Development free for all

Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith supports Labor’s call to scrap the proposed law and says, ‘The real horror with the manor house medium density plan is that there is no link to local infrastructure. We see this in places like Coolangatta where the housing boom was not matched with schools or preschools or parks.’

‘What the LNP are delivering for our community with these planning laws is open slather Gold Coast/ Casuarina style property development. Coupled with the holiday let uncertainty it’s a carve up of what is too precious to lose – our essential Byron nature.

‘We are not against sustainable growth, but we need our infrastructure to catch up and we need homes that members of the community can rent – not more property development for outside investors.

‘This is a cash cow for the LNP, because overnight it potentially multiplies stamp duty alone by a factor of three in all areas of the state zoned for medium density housing.

‘With Byron Shire contributing more stamp duty per capita than Bondi – without any of the benefits of public transport or funding from large numbers of ratepayers – it’s no wonder the local LNP are sneaking this in 100 days after the election.’

Stealth development

While Ms Mihailuk emphasised that she wanted to hand power back to councils to decide how their communities developed, she was unwilling to commit to the possibility – if elected – of reassessing the role of regional planning bodies like the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) and state-significant development assessment structures.

However, she said Labor were committed to removing the pre-gateway or rezoning reviews that allow developers to seek spot rezoning of land if they are not happy with the local council’s zoning.

The option was introduced by the NLP in 2012 as a ‘developer-friendly backdoor’ said Ms Mihailuk emphasising that they (spot rezonings) have allowed ‘non-conforming development proposals to proceed after they have been rejected by a council’. 

But Ms Smith said, ‘Labor have a shocking record on planning laws and we will never forget that it was their premier Kristina Keneally who rammed through the West Byron rezoning. The Greens need to be there in parliament to keep Labor on track because their default setting is appalling when it comes to planning and links to property developers.’

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