Mr KERR (Cronulla) [8.02 p.m.]: I want to speak tonight about development in the Sutherland shire. Over the past 10 years the degree of conflict between development within the Sutherland shire and the expectations of the community have accelerated. This is similar to the pattern experienced across the Sydney region overall during the same period. The environment and development issues in particular are now well and truly on the public agenda for the twenty-first century. While most people are legitimately concerned about environment and development issues, legislation and the process that provides the land management within New South Wales are becoming increasingly complex, effectively alienating the broader community. This constrains public participation at all levels of the planning process, which is provided for by the legislation.
People are ultimately concerned with the development outcome itself, but for the community to have a real say as to what development should occur, the community must first be involved in the plan-making process. The plan-making process set out in part 3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and consequent plans effectively provide the most important considerations for council when determining development applications. Last year council released for public comment Sutherland draft local environmental plan 2000. This plan came under substantial criticism from various directions.
Concerns raised included insufficient emphasis on the environment, lack of a sound strategic planning base and insufficient changes from the current planning controls to appropriately manage the extent and scale of inappropriate redevelopment that has occurred. Having regard to the controversy associated with the production of a new local environmental plan, council engaged Mr John T. Woodward to undertake a public inquiry into the preparation of the plan. The outcome of the Woodward inquiry was published in March. The inquiry was conducted through December 2000 and January 2001, normally a bad time for community involvement. Consequently, the Woodward inquiry was critical of its inability to achieve a cross-section of community views, stating:
The inquiry also summarised a number of issues raised by those making submissions to the inquiry. They include a need to protect the natural environment of the Kurnell Peninsula; a desire to use surplus government land for open space; a need for more walkways and cycleways; the obligation for further development in the Sutherland shire, having regard to the housing and development needs of the Sydney region as a whole; inadequate consideration of public transport and traffic planning; the need to retain industrial land and employment opportunities; development pressures within the Cronulla Centre; and the obligation to protect the ecological significance of the Taren Point-Shell Point wetlands.
The lack of a range of views from across a wide cross-section of the Shire community is disappointing and a matter for concern. The operation of a new LEP for the Shire requires a sense of ownership of the final plan if continuous conflict and undermining of plans is to be held in check.
The inquiry recommended against continuing to utilise existing local planning controls or proceeding with the draft local environmental plan in its exhibited or amended form. The alternative recommended by the Woodward inquiry is to pursue a new shire local environmental plan that draws on the just released New South Wales Government white paper. This new plan is to provide three distinct but linked aspects of local planning, being: five key planning strategies for the shire; land use and development and design controls focused on localities in the shire; and preparation of local action plans as supportive and complementary to the other two.
The five key strategies to be prepared are: a natural environment strategy; a revised housing strategy; an open space and recreation strategy; a transport and traffic strategy; and an employment, social and economic development strategy. The findings of the Woodward inquiry are extremely important and their review and understanding by the people of the Sutherland shire is encouraged. The strategies recommended by the Woodward inquiry must achieve broad-scale acceptance by all groups within the community if the ultimate outcome is to provide greater certainty. There is no one greater single problem arising out of the current planning framework in the Sutherland shire than certainty.
Purchasers of land have no certainty about what they may be able to develop. Residents have no certainty with regard to what may be developed in their neighbourhood. Applicants, including design consultants, have no certainty in regard to what form of development may be acceptable to council. Council planners often have limited certainty as to what the adopted policy context of council is in regard to different developments. Council itself is likely to be unclear as to what its policy context should be when considering development, particularly having regard to the complexity of the process and the overriding considerations of the State Government. I urge all members to become involved.