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Byron Shire
May 31, 2024

Not a ‘bonanza for developers and land bankers’ as local councils lose planning controls?

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The NSW Department of Planning and Environment were quick to respond to the article ‘A bonanza for developers and land bankers?’ published on 21 March 2023 on The Echo online ‘to correct the inaccuracies contained in your article’.

Ms Lindy Smith, President of the Tweed District Residents and Ratepayers Association (TDRRA), had highlighted that the state government had confirmed and launched the Rezoning Pathways Program (RPP) on 2 March, the day before the caretaker period started for the elections. This was following the NSW Premier and Minister for Planning announcing the Rezoning Pathways Program on 5 December 2022.

Amanda Fairley, Acting Deputy Secretary, Delivery, Coordination, Digital and Insights, Department of Planning and Environment responded to the article saying, ‘The Department of Planning and Environment’s Rezoning Pathways Program (RPP) was announced by the Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes on 5 December 2022, nearly three months before the caretaker period began.’

Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry.

Deferral and consultation sought

Responding to the 5 December, 2022 RPP announcement the Tweed Shire Council had been quick to write to ‘the Minister for Planning and Homes and the State Members for Tweed and Lismore seeking the urgent deferral of the recently announced Rezoning Pathways Program (RPP)’. The Council asked for a deferral so that councils and communities could be consulted on the fact that the state was intending to take over significant parts of the planning process. 

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry told the 15 December Council meeting that the motion ‘is asking to have a deferral of this program coming into effect until consultation has occurred with the NSW councils. And allow us to consult with our communities on it. Because the impacts could be quite intense. 

‘In our shire the proposal is that any developments that are 300 units or over will be dealt with by the state government – assessed and determined by the state. At the moment there is not a lot of information [as to] how much local planning controls will be consulted, how much our local community would be consulted. It is essentially really taking control out of our planning area. It is not a great thing for local democracy.

‘Although everyone wants affordable housing, and housing to be implemented as quickly as possible, we can’t do it at the expense of losing our local planning powers,’ said Cr Cherry. 

Tweed Shire Councillor Dr Nola Firth. Photo Aslan Shand

Councillors Dr Nola Firth and James Owen also spoke in favour of the motion.

I think it is really concerning that the state is doing this without any consultation with us. We have gone to an enormous amount of trouble to develop our own local controls, we are in the process of doing a growth management and housing strategy at the moment. I am very disappointed to find that something like this is happening. It doesn’t have to slow down the process of getting extra housing to consult with us,’ Cr Firth told the meeting.

Tweed Councillor James Owen.

We are very unique up here – planning has been very Sydney-centric. We need to have our own unique options up here. We know our community better than anyone,’ said Cr Owen. 

No changes to RPP

It has been confirmed today (23 March 2023) by Tweed Shire Council that the state government went ahead with the RPP with no changes. 

‘I understand the release [of the RPP] the day before caretaker period was a shock,’ Ms Smith told The Echo

‘Tweed alone has in the vicinity of 15,000 lots zoned for residential development which accommodates projected growth figures for this Shire.’

Tweed MP Geoff Provest meeting with the President of the Tumbulgum Community Association Jenny Kidd, President of the Chinderah Community Association Felicia Cecil and President of KRPA Peter Newton over floodplain development. Photo supplied

President of the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association (KRPA) Peter Newton agreed with Ms Smith telling The Echo that, ‘There is a genuine fear and concern in our community that we are under threat of unsustainable, inappropriate development under the guise of the demand for housing brought about from the devastating floods, lack of affordable housing, the rental crisis etc.

‘It is worth noting, that despite the current housing crisis, the Tweed is in an enviable position regarding the need to push forward with housing development. Three major developments (Kings Forest, Cobaki Lakes and Donloe Park) have the capacity to allow the Tweed to meet the housing growth targets outlined in the North Coast Regional Plan (2041) and beyond.  Any proposed housing development beyond this is welcome, but needs to be subject to current, local planning frameworks, certainly not developer-friendly, state-driven “initiatives” such as this.

‘Our community does need and expects state planning reform, particularly in relation to floodplain development, short-term rental accommodation laws and the so-called legacy (zombie) developments. What our community does not need is another state-sanctioned program, such as the “NSW Planning Rezoning Pathways Program”, which, at the stroke of a ministerial pen, potentially could provide developers with carte-blanche access to lands that should never be developed eg the protected State Significant Farmlands (SSF) of the Cudgen Plateau, flood-prone lowlands and floodplains,’ Mr Newton explained.

Tweed Valley Hospital is currently under construction on State Significant Farmland on the Cudgen Plateau. Photo supplied

Land banking

‘Our community is already hamstrung by state planning legislation which encourages developers to land-bank through so-called legacy (zombie) developments and programs such as this, which simply can override decades of thoughtfully constructed and highly consultative local planning frameworks, balancing the need for growth and development, while maintaining the fabric, amenity and liveability of the Shire.    

An artists impression of the Cudgen Connection development proposed on State Significant Farmland next to the Tweed Valley Hospital that is currently under construction.

Risk to SSF

‘There is an ongoing belief and uncertainty in our community that, regardless of legislation, the protected State Significant Farmlands of the Cudgen Plateau are simply at the mercy of the next major project to come along. Currently, we do not feel that we have the surety of the ongoing protection of this unique and valuable environment, particularly given the apparent rush to implement programs such as this. The “NSW Planning Rezoning Pathways Program” plays right into the hands of those land bankers, such as the so-called Cudgen Connection, who deliberately purchase land under one (protected) zoning and then wait it out and seek a zoning change for no more than commercial gain.

‘As a community, we feel as though we’ve been involved in a never-ending game of “Whack a Mole” in our attempts to stop non-agricultural development on the Cudgen SSF. We want to stop looking over our shoulder knowing that our precious SSF is, without exception, protected and not left to the mercy of land-banking developers or at the whim and stroke of a NSW Planning Minister’s pen. The community does not need a state-sanctioned program, which plays into a developers hands without due regard to hard fought for protections and planning frameworks.’

State assurances

In responding to the original article Ms Fairley stated that, ‘The Program (RPP) is aimed at increasing housing diversity and supply by rezoning land for up to 70,000 homes by 30 June 2024, and it operates within existing planning legislation.

‘Information on affordable housing is publicly available on our website. One of the four criteria that proposals will be considered against for inclusion in the Rezoning Pathways Program is their potential to contribute to new affordable and social housing.

‘Rezonings are a normal part of the planning process, and all proposals under this [RPP] program will be subject to the same strict assessment requirements as any other planning proposal, including assessment against state and local planning strategies, as well as consultation with councils and the community.’

Projects submitted?

Ms Smith of the TDRRA said I have no doubt this is all about developments such as the Cudgen Connection which has probably been submitted. Perhaps planning should release the projects that have been submitted.’

The red soils of the Cudgen plateau are too precious to be subdivided, say Labor and local opponents of the new Tweed Hospital site. Photo Tweed Shire Council

Developer gift

However, at the time of the announcement Local Government NSW (LGNSW) on 12 December 2022, responded to the RPP saying that, ‘Property developers have been gifted an early Christmas present after the NSW government announced it would sideline councils and communities from assessing new major housing developments.’

LGNSW President Darriea Turley AM said, ‘By removing council input and community consultation on these major developments, the government is essentially removing the safeguards that protect communities from inappropriate and ad hoc development.’

Cr Turley questioned whether the NSW government was being genuine when it badged the new program as a way of unlocking new homes faster.

‘This government is quick to blame delays on councils. Yet it is well established that the overwhelming cause of delays stem from infrastructure delivery issues and other hold ups from a multitude of government agencies,’ she said.

‘A few years ago, the NSW government took development application powers off Sydney councils and introduced mandatory local planning panels. The argument was that councillors should focus on strategic planning rather than on individual development applications.

‘Now with this latest announcement, the government is coming after the strategic planning as well.

‘Councils are best placed to make planning decisions in the interests of their community. Sidelining our sector from this critical role will only benefit developers and further degrades the community from having any say about what developments occur in their areas.’

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  1. Correct me if I’m wrong. Say a developer wishes to place in an application to structurally replace/amend/change/introduce/modify or even believe the Development Application [DA] doesn’t apply to what structually the owner believes is not necessary, yet council deems through inspection that changes to the property is so significant that it now requires a DA. In this case, Tweed Shire Council [TSC] deems that either approval/non approval is gazetted, and the owner informed of the decision. If the decision to the owner is hostile in that the DA is rejected under certain provisions by TSC, the said owner is then capable; “that the state government had confirmed and launched the Rezoning Pathways Program (RPP) on 2 March, the day before the caretaker period started for the elections. This was following the NSW Premier and Minister for Planning announcing the Rezoning Pathways Program on 5 December 2022.” to refuse councils decision and request for the RPP and the lack of; “Councils are best placed to make planning decisions in the interests of their community. Sidelining our sector from this critical role will only benefit developers and further degrades the community from having any say about what developments occur in their areas.”
    Does this reflect upon the Newcastle Sydney & Woolongong [N.S.W.] autonomy or a clean sweep for all that live in N.S.W.?
    I can only assume that if I’m correct, residents and community will have ‘no’ future rights in making a submission if in opposition to a DA?

  2. The red soil plateau of Cudgen is important farmland, but, hey, wanna develop more red soil plateau at Goonellabah and Alstonville – no problem.

    Good illustration of why so many of us have no trust in politicians/parties

  3. This dispute has wider implications than just our local concerns. Who actually believes we have a true democracy?
    Government of the people, by the people, for the people is a central pillar of credibility for our mainstream narrative and it’s lie. What we have is government of the people, by the money, for the money.
    We are ruled by unelected and largely unidentified oligarchs, an anonymous dictatorship of the wealthy, many of whom make mountains of money from division and conflict, whilst the vast majority of people everywhere would rather get on with each other. Not only are they removing any influence of local community, they are also leading us into nuclear holocaust which could well spell the end of human civilisation.
    It’s probably time we stopped giving credibility to the finest democracies money can buy.

    • The problem is that the population density is outpacing the capability of: Food, Shelter & Water and developers are making hay of the situation in the name support for the future needs of our growing population.
      Elon Musk may have this in mind to set-up in Mars, if only he would spend billions of his wealth on the need of the population density that is dying in thousands per day.

    • Not that simple John. What I understand from calling Geoff Provest office moments ago is that from his office all the way to the N.S.W. State Government will not go ahead of the ‘Artist Impression’ as identified; “Cudgen Connection development proposed on State Significant Farmland next to the Tweed Valley Hospital that is currently under construction [supposedly not true].” but will remain as State Significant Farmland unless a change of government may make changes to the policy.
      More concerning that scares the begeses out of me is once any developer[s] receives authority for the land use, the developer[s] may change their mind and use the development ‘with amendments’ to create whatever is in ‘the eye of the beholder’ later… like the King’s Development.
      Remember, this was all brought about by Eddie Obeid and a sway of other Labor followers, not that I’m condoning any party with the upcoming election.


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