Parks and bushland reserves on Sydney’s north shore that give the area its reputation as a leafy haven are under threat because of changes to planning laws in NSW, according to the state’s peak environment group.
“Places like Gore Creek and the Lane Cove Bushland Park were protected decades ago in response to environmental campaigns in the 1960s and 70s. Now these pockets of urban bushland that used to be protected are being opened up for development like roads restaurants,’ Cate Faehrmann, executive director of the Nature Conservation Council said today.
“Across all of Sydney’s inner north shore, all areas currently zoned environmental conservation will be re-zoned for public recreation activities under the draft Inner North Subregional Plan. This rezoning removes the protections that have been in place for decades,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“Open space for public recreation is critical for urban communities, but developers should be required to set aside the land, not encroach on protected bushland.
“Roads, restaurants and playing fields are not compatible with achieving environmental protection for these precious remnant bushland areas.
“Rezoning bushland as public recreation areas is alarming because the push for higher suburban residential densities has escalated and the expanding population will increase impacts on our bushland reserves.
“All planning for housing development should incorporate new open space and not convert existing bushland remnants to recreational parks. The Department appears to be abandoning the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act’s fundamental requirement to consider biodiversity conservation in planning.
“The primary purpose of these reserves continues to be bushland conservation and this should be reflected in the draft Inner North Subregional Plan.
“After years of campaigning to save our rare patches of bushland, this is a giant step backwards. The new planning instrument will fail to protect significant bushland areas from the threat of development. It must continue to be zoned to facilitate its management values for wildlife and habitat into the future,” Ms Faehrmann said.
The NSW Department of Planning’s proposed amended planning instrument imposes a new zoning for Council-owned bushland which contains no specific environmental objectives to protect these natural ecosystems from development and provide healthy high quality bushland environments.
The previous safeguards under the State Environment Planning Policy 19 for bushland areas - and for that which is currently zoned as open space - will be removed. This allows free reign to developers of Crown Land or private land to build without considering the impact on the adjoining community owned bushland.
Previously, bushland identified under Section 36-A-N of the Local Government Act 1993 was required to be conserved and managed by protecting its natural and cultural values, including native vegetation corridors, fauna habitat and waterways, as well as sites of aboriginal heritage.
Most bushland other than national parks and nature reserves is currently zoned as E2 (Environmental Conservation) or E3 (Environmental Management). However, the Government proposes to change these categories to Public Recreation (RE1) zoning which would fail to give priority to bushland conservation. Activities damaging to bushland would be permitted such as earthworks, roads and carparks, restaurants and other infrastructure.