THE PROPONENTS: Riverview Developments' director David Maxwell and planning consultant Tony Adam at Shepherds Lookout, overlooking the Murrumbidgee River. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
After 11 years of consultation, Yass Valley Council has recommended approval of the Parkwood land rezoning that will eventually create about 5,000 new homes in the local government area.
It was approved by four of the nine councillors, with only five councillors present at their ordinary meeting on October 23.
Crs Rowena Abbey, Jasmin Jones, Mike Reid and Kim Turner voted in favour while Cr Nathan Furry voted against the planning proposal.
Parkwood is the New South Wales side of the cross-border development with the Australian Capital Territory, known as Ginninderry.
The Parkwood development is about 600 hectares in size and includes 213ha of conservation corridor next to the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Creek, downstream from Ginninderra Falls.
The land will be rezoned from RU1 Primary Production and E3 Environmental Management to R1 General Residential, E2 Environmental Conservation and E3 Environmental Management.
A significant amount of work on cross-border service delivery and governance was undertaken to get to this point in the development, Yass Valley Council's general manager Chris Berry said.
"This was a decision that required a large degree of input and co-operation between local, state and territory governments," he said.
"Comprehensive Aboriginal, ecological, bush fire, flooding, land and water assessments were undertaken over a period of five years. The final area available for urban development is based on extremely strong evidence," Mr Berry said.
A petition with 140 signatures, 54 other submissions and 12 postcards were received during the community consultation process.
The council recommended variations in response to the issues raised by the community and state agencies.
However, members of a packed gallery at the council's October 23 meeting said their concerns around bush fire and ecology had not changed.
Ginninderra Falls Association said the proposal had, "serious shortcomings when it comes to creating an eco-friendly conservation park along the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Creek river corridors."
"This is despite many submissions calling for a widening of the river/creek corridors and greater setbacks for the built environment," the group said.
The area the group is particularly concerned about is bounded to the north and west by the gorges of the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Creek, including the Ginninderra Falls.
"The steepness of the gorge walls have minimized intrusion by exotic animals and plants, thus creating an area where numerous native species of flora and fauna have survived," the group said.
"The planning proposal conservation corridor for this area is ill-designed, being narrow with an irregular border defying current internationally-recognized design principles for nature reserves."
Researcher and ecologist Dr David Wong said the proximity of the development to the nature reserve was a major bush fire threat.
He also said the development could majorly impact the reserve's rosenberg goanna monitor lizard habitat.
William Ginn, the secretary of the 5 Kilometre NSW ACT Border Zone Planning Group, said he was disappointed the decision was made by only four of the nine councillors.
"I believe today is one of the most important decisions the council will make on your behalf. But you'll see not all of the councillors are here," he said at the council meeting.
He also knocked the council's decision to pass a Local Strategic Planning Statement at the same meeting, which includes a five-kilometre no-development zone between NSW and the ACT but gave exception to the Parkwood Planning Proposal.
However, proponent Riverview Developments' managing director David Maxwell said there was confusion around this point.
"Yass Valley Council published its Settlement Strategy in 2016," he said.
"The 5km buffer zone has a twenty year moratorium through to 2036 and Parkwood's first residents are proposed to be moving in from 2034.
"The reason Parkwood was excluded was that the NSW minister for planning had issued a gateway determination for the rezoning of Parkwood in April 2015.
"The development application (DA) is a separate issue. Rezoning needs to be in place before any DA for the site can be considered and approved by Yass Valley Council. With development in NSW not proposed until 2034, the first DA for the NSW land will not be submitted to council for consideration until 2032."
Due to the size and staging of the Ginninderry development, the first subdivision in Parkwood is not expected to occur until 2032, with the project continuing for 35 to 40 years.
The Parkwood Planning Proposal will now be forwarded to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for review and finalisation.
Mr Maxwell said the company hoped to have a final decision from the state government by mid-2020.
The eventual population of Ginninderry is expected to be 30,000.