Cross border environmental committee for West Belconnen development

Andrew Barr
ACT Chief Minister
ACT Leglislative Assembly
G.P.O. BOX 1020
ACT 2610.

19-Jan-2016

Dear Mr Barr,

Cross border environmental committee for West Belconnen development.

We are writing to you to point out the need for an independent cross border committee to be convened to consider environmental issues in relation to the proposed West Belconnen urban development.

To date neither the ACT or NSW governments have shown any interest in the establishment of such a committee. We think this is a grave dereliction of responsibility on the part of both governments. Given that this development is the first cross border development of its kind it will set a precedent for all future such developments so a rigorous legislative framework needs to be put in place. While we commend the current developer Riverview Pty Ltd on the amount of public consultation they have undertaken regarding environmental issues it is nevertheless a very poor precedent for future cross border developments that environmental issues are left solely to the developer with both ACT and NSW governments effectively washing their hands of environmental issues.

The responses to our calls for a cross border environmental issue have fallen on deaf ears. Both the ACT and NSW Planning departments seem well able to cooperate in detail as regards servicing arrangements for the proposed development but are keen to side step environmental issues. The ACT Minister for Planning , Mick Gentleman has said and I quote:

“the arrangements for cross border service delivery does not form part of this variation (DV351) and is an ongoing issue that requires in-depth discussions between the ACT and NSW”

and “this includes the requirement for a Cross Border Government Servicing Report that addresses service delivery and recovery of costs. Work on the Servicing Report has commenced and will continue in the coming months” .

Similarily the NSW Dept of planning in issuing a Gateway Determination for the proposed urban development in NSW has issued stringent conditions for servicing. Mandating the setting up of a forum of experts to draw up binding recommendations< in regard to servicing the proposed development. However the Gateway determination contains no requirements for environmental issue to be examined and for these to be also binding on the developer. In response to our letter to the NSW Dept of Planning and Environment requesting an independent environmental review their response was “The planning proposal does however contain information and strategies for addressing environmental issues” thus effectively leaving environmental issues at the sole discretion of the developer. A very bad precedent.

In that situation we would like the NSW Gateway Determination to be withdrawn and reissued with requirements for environmental issues to be subject to a committee of independent experts and the recommendations of such a forum be made binding conditions of the development.

We look forward to your response and hope you can give your support to the establishment of an independent cross border environmental committee. The setting up of a rigorous legislative framework for this and future cross border urban proposals has evident long term benefit.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Chris Watson
President, Ginninderra Falls Association

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