Compulsory acquisition is only permitted for infrastructure projects

A Notice of Motion at Gosford Council’s July 8 meeting to call for the Minister for Office of Environment and Heritage to undertake the process of compulsory acquisition of any Bambara Rd lots which have not yet been purchased was rejected by the majority of councilors.

The motion, put forward by Greens Cr Hillary Morris, called for the compulsory acquisition of remaining Bambara Rd lots and the incorporation of them into the Brisbane Water National Park (BWNP).  The motion also called on council to reaffirm its commitment to provide funding of up to half the Valuer-General’s valuation of the lots when the voluntary acquisition offer was made in 2012 for each lot purchased under compulsory acquisition.

The motion was rejected by Crs Deanna Booking, Bob Ward, Chris Burke, Gabby Bowles, Jeff Strickson and Lawrie McKinna on the basis that the land could not be compulsorily acquired because it was not required for infrastructure projects with state legislature permitting compulsory acquisition only for such projects.

Bambara Rd properties comprise a total of about 74 hectares surrounded by Brisbane Water National Park on all sides. According to the report to council by Cr Morris, the unique environmental and heritage value of Bambara is evident by being home to at least 12 threatened species and a large number of sensitive and important Aboriginal cultural sites. Over 30 years ago in 1983, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) moved to acquire the land in question for Inclusion in BWNP, but because of financial constraints, was unable to go ahead.

In 1989, there was a proposal to rezone the land for development, which was opposed by both the Central Coast and Sydney branches of the National Parks Association. Council, in 1991, decided not to proceed with the rezoning. Throughout the next decade, the inclusion of the land into the BWNP continued to be supported by the National Parks Association and council made representations to NPWS and the then Minister for the Environment for the  purchase and inclusion into the BWNP. In 1998 the council again made representations to the NPWS and the State Government to have the land in question purchased for inclusion in the BWNP and the National Parks Association supported that request.

In 2001 the properties were rezoned by council which reduced the range of activities which could be conducted on the land to allowing only one single residential dwelling. In 2008 council received and declined a development application for residential dwellings on the lots in question. This was contested in the Land and Environment court and ultimately, in June 2010 the Court upheld council’s position and refused the development application largely because of the environmental disturbance that would be necessary for bush fire protection. A month later council began the process which ultimately resulted in council and the NPWS acquiring, by voluntary acquisition, the two smallest lots and having them transferred into the BWNP at the beginning of this year. Alongside and including that process, council reached an agreement in 2011 with National Parks and Wildlife for a 50/50 share of the costs of acquisition of all of the Bambara Rd properties and in 2012 offers of voluntary acquisition were made to all of the landowners in Bambara Rd.

In late 2012, negotiations on one of the larger lots were successful and council acquired that property, also for inclusion into BWNP. Offers remain open for the remaining four lots. One land-owner has made a counter-offer, without a professional valuation to justify the amount, and the other land-owner has not responded at all. “Council and the NPWS have gone to a lot of trouble to demonstrate to affected landowners that they are willing to undertake negotiations which reflect the true market value of their Properties,” said Cr Morris. ‘NWPS went further and engaged an independent mediator/negotiator to facilitate the negotiations.

“After decades of attempts, and over two years since the voluntary acquisition offers were first made, this council and the State Government should bring the process to an end before the next State election. The community has always been concerned that, as time passes, opportunities for the final acquisition of the Bambara properties and their inclusion into the National Park will slip away, regardless of the declared intentions of the State Government and Council,” said Cr Morris. Bambara activist Mr Jake Cassar said that “while the majority of Gosford councilors found a way to ensure that the motion to urgently protect this very sensitive place did not succeed, I feel privileged to have been amongst other staunch locals last night at

Gosford Council peacefully pushing our elected leaders to find a way to protect our beloved local bushland” Know many others would have liked to have supported in person and for whatever reason couldn’t. “But please know, that every single person who has ever supported this cause, be it in words, or in past actions, should be very, very proud of themselves, as I am proud to belong to a community that sticks up for their local area and defends the defenseless.

‘Respectful lobbying from this community and our supportive neighbours recently resulted in 48 acres of highly sensitive land, once tagged to be bulldozed at Bambara, becoming National Park. ‘We are winning, but there is still around 120 acres left and the battle is far from over. While the motion was defeated, with Lawrie McKinna, Gabby Bowles and the Liberals finding a way to vote against urgently protecting Bambara, I strongly believe that each and every time this community stands up for a fair go for our area and all its inhabitants, that we, as a community, are very successful indeed ‘Last time we tried to get Council to take meaningful action to protect Bambara, we got smashed in the vote 9/1, this time they only beat us by 6/4,” said Jake.

Gosford Council agenda
NM.12, 8 Jul 2014
Email, 9 Jul 2014
Jake Cassar, West