Development in South West Rocks

South West Rocks satellite view of Settler's Ridge

The South West Rocks community will see new growth this summer, with Council aware of a number of sizeable residential developments taking big steps forward.

As demand for housing up and down the east coast of Australia skyrockets, many developers have started to work on sites that have pre-existing NSW Government approvals or Land & Environment Court decisions in their favour. In some cases, these approvals have been in place for many years.

The result of this is that Council anticipates significant tree clearing occurring in the coming months in a number of areas in South West Rocks.

At the same time, we are currently in the breeding season for koalas, which means koalas are frequently found outside their usual habitats, often in urban spaces like streets and home gardens.

The Kempsey Shire community are passionate lovers of the environment, including our native flora and fauna. Council is also committed to preserving our natural environment and biodiversity. 

Council recognises that development activities will be upsetting for some residents and is seeking to provide context and background.

Where are the current and potential land-clearing activities in and around South West Rocks?

There are a number of large developments that could start clearing trees in the coming months in South West Rocks. These include:

334-356 Gregory Street

Development Application Number: T6‐14‐333
Major Project Number: MP05_0058

An approval was granted by the NSW Government for 46 lots on Gregory Street in 2007. The developers have recently applied for a construction certificate to commence works.

Rosedale Avenue

Major Project Number: MP07_0129

An approval was granted by the NSW Government for 56 lots on Rosedale Avenue in 2007.

Shamrock Avenue

Development Application Number: 2009/LD-00312
Major Project Number: Part of MP08_0167

An approval was granted by the NSW Government for 16 lots on Shamrock Avenue in 2011.

Shamrock Avenue

Development Application Number: 2009/LD-00312
Major Project Number: Part of MP08_0167

An approval was granted by the NSW Government for 33 lots on Shamrock Avenue off the end of Waianbar Avenue in 2011.

Settlers Ridge

Development Application Number: T6‐20‐507, DA2100150, T6‐20‐211
Major Project Number: MP10_0103

Development Approvals have been submitted for the two next stages of the Settlers Ridge development, which received NSW Government approval in 2013.


Development Application Number: T6‐17‐446

A Development Approval was granted by the Land and Environment Court in 2019. All works on site were overseen by qualified ecologists, who provided certification that no threatened species were observed to be impacted and that vegetation-clearing operations and conditions of consent were met. 


You can find the details of each Major Project by searching using the Major Project Number on the NSW Government’s Major Projects page.

You can find the development applications and associated documentation through Council’s DA Tracker by a search using the development application (DA) number.

Who approved these developments (and when)?

In each case, the developers are activating developments that have already been approved by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment or the previous forms of that department.

As these developments were deemed Major Projects, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment assessed the developments and issued development consent. The developments were not approved by Council and did not go to a Council meeting.

It is the role of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to issue a determination which states whether a Major Project can proceed. It also identifies conditions of consent, which may include whether any additional studies will be required to support the proposal.

If a Major Project application is successful, a development application must still be lodged and approved by Council for consent to subdivide, develop or build on a site. However this is assessed under the conditions laid down by the Major Project approval.

Once Council approval is given, the developments are generally worked on in stages, and developers are required to seek construction certificates from Council for each stage.

This process does not permit Council to review the Major Project approval.

Can I see the approvals?

You can find the details of each Major Project by searching using the Major Project Number on the NSW Government’s Major Projects page:

You can find the development applications and associated documentation through Council’s DA Tracker by a search using the DA number.

Can I see details of any environmental offsets?

The requirements for offsets and any other conditions of approval are detailed in the development consent for the project.

If Council was the determining authority, then the approval documents can be found on Council’s DA Register.

If the project was approved by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment or the Land and Environment Court, then those organisations will have publicly available information which shows the conditions of approval for that project.

Projects that were approved before the commencement of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW) would not have conditions relating to the current planning schemes but may have alternative arrangements which would be detailed in the project approval.

The specific environmental offset requirements of each Major Project can be found in the determination documentation. You can search for these using the Major Project Number on the NSW Government’s Major Projects page:

For more information on biodiversity offsets, explore the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation site:


Why can land clearing take place so long after the date of determination?

Subdivision projects are often developed in stages, with lots released gradually as demand for housing makes the development commercially viable.

Once the initial stage of the development has been commenced, the approval is activated and remains in place for all of the land parcel(s) that the approval relates to. Once a development approval has been activated through the formal commencement of any stage of the project, it continues to apply to the rest of the land.

Sometimes, long periods of time can pass from the initial commencement of the project and further development of the rest of the site. 

How can I appeal the decision or seek further review?

These developments are not subject to appeal.

The developers are required to engage environmental protection officers who monitor the site for wildlife and other concerns.

Council staff monitor the development sites closely to ensure that they are adhering to all the requirements outlined in the development approval.

How do Council and the government make these planning decisions?

There is a cascading series of legislation, policies, procedures and strategies that influence how planning decisions are made.

At the state level, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act) and associated regulation sit at the top. The Act establishes the system of planning and environmental assessment for the state of New South Wales. It establishes the legislative framework for the bulk of the planning system.

This is further regulated through environmental protection instruments and state environmental planning policies (SEPPs), which establish planning controls for specific areas or types of development – for example, the Rural Lands SEPP, Affordable Rental Housing SEPP and so on.

At the local government level, councils prepare both a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and a Development Control Plan (DCP) to regulate development and land use in their shire. The LEP is then published as state legislation.

The LEP and DCP documents are reviewed in the context of the Local Strategic Planning Statement and the Local Growth Management Strategy. The Local Strategic Planning Statement considers our community’s economic, social, cultural and environmental land use needs over the next 20 years and is the key document informing the strategic direction of land use planning at the local level.

A variety of other policies then influence determinations made under the state and local government documents, including any relevant master plans and heritage conservation. 

What is Council doing to keep koalas safe across the shire?

Council has a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management, which is a consideration in all development applications in the eastern portion of the shire, including South West Rocks.

The ultimate purpose of the Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPoM) is to provide a strategic and consistent approach to koala management and planning throughout the eastern portion of the Kempsey Shire at a landscape scale.

The CKPoM for the eastern portion of the Kempsey Shire seeks to manage threats to koalas and conserve their natural habitat by incorporating koala conservation and management into local government planning processes.

What is Council doing to keep koalas safe on individual development sites?

In assessing development applications, Council applies all legislation that is in force for the protection of native animals, plants and vegetation communities, including koalas. Relevant legislation includes the:

  • Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW)
  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth)
  • State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2020 and 2021 (Koala SEPPs).

Council also has local planning controls and management plans (such as the CKPoM) to consider. Council’s assessment officers ensure that each development application which involves the removal of native vegetation and threatened species habitat goes through a comprehensive assessment process to satisfy the requirements of the legislative framework above. This ensures the proposed development is lawful and will avoid, minimise or mitigate the potential impact on our native species.

This process starts with a very comprehensive ecological assessment, reported in a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report. This is undertaken by licensed ecological consultants, who do field surveys, desktop analysis of historical species sightings, and targeted threatened species searches on site. The procedure for how to perform these investigations is highly prescribed by legislation and the process is regulated by state agencies through independent audit and peer review.

For larger developments, Council enlists the support of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation division to provide independent specialist review of the ecological assessments provided for these projects.

The ecological Biodiversity Development Assessment Report includes recommendations for how the proposal can best minimise the impact on any threatened species likely to occur on site.

These recommendations often involve identifying high-quality habitat areas to avoid, measures to minimise impact during construction and the necessary biodiversity offsets that would apply for any proposed vegetation removal.

If the project has been determined to satisfy all the requirements and is to be approved, Council imposes conditions of approval as part of the development consent which ensure that the best-practice recommendations of the ecological report are followed through.

These may include defining protected areas within the development site, ensuring a supervising ecologist is on site during all clearing activities and ensuring that all the necessary biodiversity offset credits are paid off or secured before any works begin.

Why are there koalas walking on the streets?

It is koala breeding season. The breeding season for koalas usually runs from around August to February each year.

It can be a stressful time for koalas as they find themselves on the move in search of a mate and new habitat.

Often, young male koalas will be driven off by older males. To survive, they must find a suitable area which is not already occupied by other dominant male koalas.

During the breeding season, you are more likely to see koalas crossing our roads or moving through our neighbourhoods.

To keep our koalas safe, be vigilant in looking out for them on the road while you are driving. especially between dusk and dawn. Drive slowly and carefully at night. 

What should I do if I see a koala in town?

During the August to February breeding season, koalas are particularly vulnerable, spending more time on the ground to find a mate.

If you see wildlife on the road at night, slow down, sound your horn and dim your lights.

You can also help by keeping your dogs on leads and inside at night. Young koalas are particularly vulnerable to attack, as they leave their mothers during this time.

If you see any injured wildlife, please contact FAWNA on 02 6581 4141 or Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on 02 6584 1522.

You can report sightings or evidence of koalas through the I Spy Koala app. Recording koala sightings is crucial to helping better understand and protect this vulnerable species. You can download the I Spy Koala app for free on the Apple or Google App stores.

Who can I speak to at Council about this?

Various aspects of this process are managed by different departments at Council.

You can contact Council’s Customer Service team on 6566 3200, who will direct you to the relevant officer.