Wildlife corridor to RNP

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RNP's wildlife is caught between the Pacific Ocean,  F6 freeway & suburbia

Otford Valley DA 2012-1480 - Say no to this development

Over 350 ha of essential wildlife corridor bushland is currently on exhibit with Wollongong City Council and appeal lodged with Land Environment Court for subdivision and housing development by Ensile Pty Ltd. This acreage was originally intended to be procured for an extension of the Royal National Park, but due to government departmental changes at the time, slipped through the cracks and was purchased by a private company. Given that the land is the main connection between the Royal National Park, Garrawarra State Conservation Area and the lllawarra escarpment, it is essential that it remains unfragmented, forested and natural.

As classic '7d' land it is destined as per council recommendations to be zoned E2 - environmental (next highest to national park protection E1) however this development application has been quietly lodged prior to the new zoning taking place. Whilst the 40ha per dwellling allottments meets the minimum subdivision requirements, the proposed western subidivision of 1ha lots do not, nor does the repeative inclusion of 'Future Urban Area' for housing along Werrong, Undola and the back of Shannon Drive.

Independent Environmental studies have yet to be undertaken by Council, Dept of Environment or the EPA. There is no way that opinions for hire can be accepted as unbiased or entirely accurate. This DA must be not be approved nor assessed under any zoning other than E2.

Please take a minute to voice your objection by completing the submission letter below, and adding your personal comment, especially if you would be neighbour to the new development!

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The Royal National Park and Garrawarra State Conservation area border the proposed site. Due to the freeway, building & ocean, the Ensile -Otford Valley Farm land is the main and essential wildlife link to the Illawarra .

Att: Wollongong City Council

Re: DA 2012/1480 - Otford Valley - Helensburgh

I object to the proposed development and subdivision proposal for these reasons:

The formerly 7D zoned land is flagged to be E2 due to its high conservation - environment values and impact on the joining and downstream Royal National Park. The development/subdivision proposal must be judged under the E2 zoning criteria. The proposal 1ha lots do not remotely meet the E2 zoning criteria and from from the inclusion of 'Future Urban Areas' in each proposal that the developer is attempting to gain early acceptance for future housing in the Lady Carrington Estate North and HLP areas.

Any and all development will impact on the Hacking River catchment as the creeks and stormwater run directly downhill into it. Every excavator load of turned soil and old coal wash would invariably end up in the Hacking River downstream, the exponential effect could be disastrous to the waterway and Royal National Park.

No independent onsite studies have been undertaken by government agencies on water quality, erosion, run off etc
The land is the primary and essential wildlife corridor linking the Royal National Park and Garrawarra State Conservation Area to the Illawarra escarpment. Due to the Freeway, ocean, existing urban sprawl and high fencing along the railway, there is no other wide habitat corridor through. To subdivide and/or develop the land even with a few scattered houses will fragment it with further hazard reduction clearing, fencing, roadway, lighting, domestic pets and motor vehicles.

To add to the Flora and Fauna study submitted by the developer, there has been regular sightings of threatened fauna on the land, and rescues of such wildlife emerging onto neighbouring properties - including the Eastern Pygmy Possum, Powerful Owl, Sooty Owl, Black Cockatoo, Long Nose Bandicoot and gliders. The Greater Glider (believed extinct) has recently been rediscovered in the Royal National Park. Such marsupials need a connecting tree canopy and large forested areas to migrate for feeding and breeding, and during times of major bushfire the Ensile land becomes an essential refuge.

Ten years before the acreage was sold to Ensile Pty Ltd, the coal mine contracted geological surveys and indepth analysis of the land in question to assess suitability for urban development. The key results were that given the steep gradients and underlying Hawksbury sandstone with soft shale the land has a high potential for land slip, and vegetation above and below the cliffs must be retained as an undisturbed green belt.

In 2008 land clearing over the same site, without development approval was prosecuted by Wollongong City Council at the Land & Environment. It became a landmark test case for 'existing use rights' in agriculture, and the clearing of land for the grazing of cattle allowed due to previous years of approved cattle farming. With the lodgment of this DA, the cattle grazing appears to be cast aside, and the deliberate land clearing advantageous to development.

The land proposed for development were also the main paper subdivisions featured in the 1994 Commission of Enquiy. The Enquiry found that the 7D land was not only environmentally signifcant but greatly impacted on the Hacking River catchment, and could never be considered for any urban development without indepth independent onsite water, soil and air studies, none of which have occurred.

The 350 ha are a visual, noise and dust buffer to the surface workings and coal movement of the Peabody Metropolitan Colliery. Any further land clearing and development will erode that buffer

The impact on neighbouring homes and streets cannot be under-estimated, in particular as approval for 1ha lots would set a precedent in E2 or E3 zoning, and the flood gates would open for inappropriate development in the old paper subdivisions.

I ask instead of this DA, that Wollongong City Council investigate and approach the Office of Environment &Heritage and the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife in regards to a voluntary buy-out of this essential wildlife corridor. Similar has occurred in the Shoalhaven region "In 2009, a residential development proposal for Heritage Estates was rejected under the Federal governments Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This was due to the lands significant biodiversity values, wildlife corridor function, and the significant negative impacts its development would have on Booderee National Park." This statement also applies to the Otford Valley and its impact on the Royal National Park..

Yours sincerely,
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