Sally Christiansen - 1 March 2022
Sally Christiansen presented to Council at the Public Access Session on 1 March 2022.
We wrote to Councillors on January 28, to raise concerns about the sale of Council land in Dalmeny. We called for Council to halt the preparation of the Master Plan and Development Control Plan for the area as concerning information has come to light.
The community deserves greater clarity around why this sale has progressed at the pace and in the manner that has occurred. I hope you may already have had a chance to read through the document we have provided, and I will briefly speak about 4 of the issues we have raised.
Firstly: the property address
In all meetings and documents the land has been called 16 Tatiara Street, Dalmeny. NSW Planning and all other public information on the site used the address 16 Acacia Close Dalmeny. The community need to know how this mistake occurred, why it was not picked up by Council and whether this error makes the contract of sale invalid?
Secondly: The Land Disposal Policy has not been followed
The policy states the specific criteria that must be considered by Council when deciding to sell land.
It is very clear from the Minutes for the Meeting of July 13, that these criteria were not formally addressed, and that Councillors were not provided with sufficient information against which they could assess these points.
These include current usage of the land, facilities to meet the future needs of the community, the conservation value of the land which is demonstrably high and serious constraints including bush fire risk, slope, native vegetation, flood prone areas and drainage gullies.
Importantly, any ongoing maintenance issues that might become Council responsibility if the land is developed were also not detailed.
This was an opportunity for Council to consider the suitability of this land for development since zoning occurred over 30 years ago, and in light of the devastating impact of the fires. Why was this not done?
Furthermore, Section 4.2 of the policy states that the sale of land must be a resolution of Council. We are unable to find a resolution where the details of the sale were reported to Council and explicitly supported. If it was a confidential report, there should be a public document demonstrating that the policy was met on all relevant points.
How is it that Council policy was not followed in this matter and how will Council address this failure? What process do Council have to correct breaches of this nature?
Thirdly: The land value
Rather than selling this land at a premium price, Council seems to have agreed to a lower than expected rate, for example a roughly comparable 1ha block just down the road sold last year for 2.2 million.
Council have failed to optimize the value of the land by selling first, and doing planning work second.
To explain- The Master Plan and DCP will substantially increase the value of the land. As it stands, a buyer could on-sell to an experienced developer for a large profit once the DCP is made and the development potential is clear.
If the urgency behind this sale was to capitalize on high land prices, why has Council not made a better deal on this public asset, and furthermore:
Who does stand to profit from this transaction? What information have Councillors been given about the buyer? And can it be demonstrated that Council have acted according to best practice and that there is no evidence of corruption?
Regarding the consultants preparing the Master Plan and DCP
According to the information available, neither have demonstrated relevant experience in major coastal residential master planning and DCP preparation.
● Who recommended the consultants, were they appointed by competitive tender?
● Is a copy of the brief to consultants available? What is the value of the brief?
● Why is the timeframe given to prepare the master plan and DCP so short?
Again this speaks to the sale and development of this area being rushed through; what is the justification for this?
We are calling on Council to halt the planning process, determine whether the sale is legal, investigate this matter and provide answers to the community.
Dalmeny Matters would like to acknowledge that housing is a major issue for our community and personally affects many members. The community has been told that this land release is necessary to help the housing crisis.
However the Council’s recent submission to the NSW Government's Regional Housing Taskforce makes it clear that ‘Availability of appropriately zoned land is not an issue for the Eurobodalla.’
Rather the problems seem to be construction issues. The report talks about materials shortages, lack of skilled workers in the area, and how the ‘lack of suitably qualified development specialists in regional areas.. can result in poor quality subdivision’.
The major challenges for Eurobodalla, sited in the submission, are a serious need for more social housing, more housing diversity, a lack of rentals and locals being priced out of the market.
We are being asked to sacrifice the bush surroundings that make Dalmeny a lovely place to live, and to risk the health of Mummaga lake ecosystem, but it seems unlikely that there will be a significant benefit to the community in terms of housing affordability. Judging from Council’s own report, it seems that clearing the bushland is unnecessary, that the subdivision will be very expensive, may be of a poor standard and may face serious construction delays.
Council have argued that this land release will help to lower prices in the area generally, but this has certainly not been the case in other areas just up the coast where land releases have occurred.
When the Eurobodalla Settlement Strategy was drafted, the community asked Council “why can’t we do growth differently... ?”
The full quote reads: It was a consistent theme amongst workshops that Eurobodalla Shire has a chance to learn from many other inappropriately developed coastal areas, and they routinely
questioned; “why can’t we do growth differently... ?”
Given the community's concerns, how does Council justify this kind of development, sprawling out from the edge of a small village like Dalmeny. This seems to be exactly the scenario the community wished to avoid.
We would like to draw Council’s attention to the fact that there is currently no DCP for Dalmeny as a whole. This seems a more natural place to start when planning for the growth of the village.
We are asking Council to
● Investigate the issues we have raised
● Reconsider the appropriateness of our bushland for housing development
● Redirect Council budget currently allocated to planning this development towards housing strategies which would increase housing diversity and increase density close to services
● We would like an assurance that growth is being considered responsibly, with future community needs and services provided for. Any planning should be for Dalmeny as a whole.