Partial clearing of Rise development allowed

Published on 04 April 2023

Lot 2 DP1091323 Rise Projects

Partial clearing of Rise Development allowed as Council seeks to protect key ecological areas

Kempsey Shire Council is facing a delicate balancing act as it seeks to protect the environment while adhering to the requirements of the state government's regulatory framework.

At an appearance in the Land and Environment Court of NSW on Monday 3 April, the developer for the site known as Rise development agreed to provide an undertaking to the Land and Environment Court not to clear agreed areas of the site until 19 April 2023.

While Council issued the Construction Certificate in line with the court orders, Council is examining all available legal options to minimise the environmental impact of the development and protect the unique natural environment of the shire.

Council General Manager Craig Milburn said that Council was doing what it could to protect the environment in South West Rocks while operating within the state government’s regulatory framework.

"We understand that there is strong community frustration with the idea of this site being cleared on the strength of a 1993 ‘zombie’ development approval and subject to the environmental regulations of 1993,” said Mr Milburn.

“While we are required to comply with the court’s existing orders, Council will examine all practical legal options available to protect the environment, keeping in mind the cost to ratepayers of any further litigation."

On Monday Council made arguments in court that even if partial clearing was permitted, some areas must be protected.

These areas have been less disturbed than the degraded and exotic areas of the site and comprise mature and regenerating canopy tree and shrub species of the native plant communities of the site. They include large remnant trees, tree hollows, and ground layer habitats for fauna, provide potential habitat for several threatened species occurring on the site, provide habitat for other common non-threatened fauna species, and have low weed incursion.

"The retention of these areas will result in the least environmental impact in the short term," said Mr Milburn.

"On Thursday, Council will hold an extraordinary meeting to make a decision on whether to appeal the matter. If Council chooses to appeal, we will also seek an extension of the protection of these portions of the site until the matter is resolved in the NSW Court of Appeal. This is effectively a one-month holding pattern, but residents need to prepare themselves for some land to be cleared.”

“Council is committed to protecting our natural environment and the beauty of our shire," he added.

The orders issued by the court on Monday included an agreement that two defined sections within the site, as well as some koala feed trees, will be protected in the short term. The court agreed that the developer must hold off on clearing the protected zones on the site until the window for appeal closes on 19 April.

Council issued the construction certificate on Tuesday 4 April. The developer must then provide 48 hours' notice of any development works, including tree clearing, before commencing. As such, it is possible that bulldozers and other machinery may commence clearing the unprotected portions of the site in the coming days.

At 10am Thursday 6 April Council will hold an extraordinary meeting in Council Chambers dedicated to this issue.

Kempsey Shire Council will continue to work diligently to preserve the natural environment and protect the interests of its community. For more information, including contact details for Councillors, please see the Kempsey Shire Council website or call Council on 6566 3200.