The submission deadline on a proposed contentious rezoning at Kariong has been extended to February 12, following accusations of lack of transparency and fairness during the community consultation period.
Supporters advocating for the protection of Lots 512 and 513 on Woy Woy Rd from a proposed 50-lot housing development expressed “shock and dismay” over the way the consultation was handled.
Supporters expressed “grave concerns” about the democracy of the process of the community input stage regarding the rezoning proposal set to pave the way for the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council (DLALC) development by converting environmentally protected land (C2) to R2.
They say many had difficulty engaging with the process during the critical public consultation period over the Christmas holiday break closing on January 29.
Save Kariong Sacred Lands group spokesperson Lisa Bellamy said it was incongruous to schedule such a crucial phase during a time when community engagement is typically low, and local MP offices are closed.
“If true community consultation was encouraged during this public exhibition stage, it should be properly publicly advertised and set over a time when relevant authorities are available,” she said.
“Then the loss of thousands of public submissions raises questions about more sinister motives.”
Despite years of campaigning by groups like Coast Environmental Alliance (CEA) and Save Kariong Sacred Lands to protect the environmentally and culturally significant land, issues with the submission process have further escalated the situation, Bellamy said.
CEA spokesperson Jake Cassar said the battle to save the Woy Woy Rd site from development had been going for four years.
“We have been working to protect this environmentally and culturally sensitive area, holding many rallies, community actions and engaging with the wider community,” he said.
“For this process to go ahead after the absolute failure of the rezoning submission period would be obscene.”
Environmentalists and community advocates are opposing the project, highlighting the irreversible loss of biodiversity and endangerment of species, including the Eastern Pygmy Possum, large-eared pied bat, swift parrot and rare plant species.
They say the development’s impact would extend to the removal of threatened wetlands, an Area of Regional Koala Significance, and the potential degradation of the Brisbane Water Catchment.
Critics argue that the project disregards the ecological, cultural, and heritage significance of the land, emphasising the lack of proper evaluation of Aboriginal heritage sites and the disapproval from local Traditional Custodians.
The proposed rezoning also raises concerns about the strain on local infrastructure, lack of housing diversity and potential risks associated with urban sprawl.
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure said the Department is conscious of the strong level of community interest in the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council’s (LALC) proposal at Kariong.
“The Department has received feedback that some people may have experienced communication issues while making submissions on the Planning Portal,” they said.
“As a result, the deadline for submissions via email@example.com has been extended until Monday, February 12, at 5pm.
“The Department will ensure any submissions made by email which were unable to be lodged on the Planning Portal will be included as part of the normal process.
“The Independent Regional Planning Panel will then consider the proposal, including all submissions received during the initial public exhibition period and emails received up until Monday, February 12.
“A response to submissions is expected to be finalised by mid-2024.
“The Darkinjung LALC will still need to formally submit any potential development applications through Central Coast Council should the land be rezoned.
“This will be subject to a separate public exhibition process.”
A new submission period will see emails accepted until February 12 by Central Coast’s office of Department of Planning (firstname.lastname@example.org).