Crown Lands Bill impact on development

The proposed development which requires 615 hectares of Crown land to be rezoned, is inching forward.
The proposed development which requires 615 hectares of Crown land to be rezoned, is inching forward.

Almost two years after public meetings were held about a proposed 2100 lot residential development stretching north of Tuncurry to the tip, efforts to finalise the rezoning application are continuing.

The project relies on rezoning 615 hectares of Crown land from Great Lakes College to Tuncurry tip.

UrbanGrowth NSW briefed MidCoast Council as recently as last week on a number of outstanding issues and anticipates these matters will be resolved in early 2017.

“This will enable further community comment to be made before a final decision on the rezoning application is made,” a spokesperson for UrbanGrowth NSW said.

What effect, if any, the new legislation on Crown Lands, passed in the NSW Parliament this month, will have on the project is unclear, as the legislation will not come into effect until 2018.

Approximately 950 parcels of Crown land (6,052 hectares) lie within the former Great Lakes local government area. Of these, 329 parcels (5,089  hectares) have an Aboriginal Land Claim over them which are yet to be determined.

Assessed against a criteria including whether Crown land is lawfully used or occupied or needed for an essential public purpose, Minister for Lands and Water Niall Blair said the new legislation “directly acknowledges the spiritual, social, cultural and economic importance of Crown land to Aboriginal people and does not alter the Native Title Act or Aboriginal Land Rights Act.”

It is is reported to consolidate seven pieces of legislation into one, and formally requires community consultation.

Premier Mike Baird said the more consistent approach would deliver closer alignment with environmental and planning laws.

But Labor’s local spokesperson in the NSW Legislative Council, Courtney Houssos, is worried that there is now “nothing to prevent the selling off of Crown land.”

“The new Bill can simply transfer land across to other areas which have different processes and they can sell them off… Once you sell it off – it’s gone. Who’s to say there is no public use for that site in the future?”

The Crown Land Management Bill 2016 was initiated in 2012. Forty two per cent of NSW is classes as Crown land, and is worth around $11 billion. Within that are paper roads (unformed roads seen only on paper) which are slowly being closed and sold off by the Department of Primary Industries when identified as unnecessary. A spokesperson said there is no new focus to sell or dispose of Crown land, but decisions continue to be relative to the need for public infrastructure or economic development.