Ahead of their upcoming information kiosk at the Tuross Head Easter Fair the "Friends of Coila" presented to the monthly Tuross Head progress Association membership an overview of why they wish to stop the proposed subdivision adjacent to Coila Lake.
The development, approved by Council in 1984 is one of several along the NSW coast referred to as a "zombie', in that it was approved decades ago and has laid dormant waiting for the right market. That market has now arrived and with the recent purchase of property from past owner to present the approved development application is handed like a baton.
The local "Friends of Coila" have identified that the subdivision that is proposed, inclusive of modifications, is able to progress under the original environmental constraints and is not required to be reassessed under more recent conditions.
Citing the presence of three birds that might frequent the adjacent wetland along with sea level rise, the likelihood of flash flooding due to climate change, the alleged bogginess of some of the land proposed and the projection of land sales this felt would not assist in providing much needed affordable housing the group is currently attempting to raise funds in a "fighting campaign" by way of a GoFund me site.
The group's social media pages says"Every cent raised for 'Friends of Coila' goes to fund our campaign or pay for expert advice. Donate now to help us protect Tuross Heads, Coila Wetlands from this damaging subdivision".
Their campaign page says:
"We need to protect our beautiful Coila Lake, Coila Wetlands and the Spirit of the Culturally Significant Bingi (meaning full belly) Dreaming Track from these 72 1 million dollar homes starting in 2023.
"This ‘Zombie’ development was approved in 1983 and involves clearing 10 hectares of land bordering Coila Wetlands and the Lake’s foreshore. No environmental impact assessment or biodiversity study will apply because it was approved so long ago.
"This development will wreak devastation and destruction on the wetlands and surrounding areas with a ripple effect to the Endangered Ecosystems on its borders. The destructive environmental impact on the land will flow into the waters, flora and fauna including the spiritual integrity and cultural significance of the area as this is all so closely connected.
"The Bingi Dreaming Walking Track begins on this land and is of great Cultural and Spiritual Significance to the Yuin people spanning from Tuross Head (in the south) to Congo (in the north). Coila Lake is of great abundance in food, wildlife and plant life, a great starting point for walking a journey of “full belly”.
"Coila Lake and Wetlands are also home to many local, internationally endangered and critically endangered species including the Far Eastern Curlew, Bar-Tailed Godwits and Greater Glider. This is acknowledged by Eurobodalla Council. Sadly their protection was overlooked when signing the approval for this development.
"We appreciate your donations to assist us with legal advice, scientific advice and any publicity we need to stop this destruction. We’re also grateful if you can offer your valued time and expertise".
The group has been advised (Feb 9th, 2023) by Council that it has no legal means of requiring any further environmental assessment, nor does it have the ability to request any further environmental assessments.
The group's claim that there are endangered ecological communities and vulnerable and endangered species has been countered by Council saying that it has formerly advised that there is no record, based on Council information, of Coastal Saltmarsh Endangered Ecological Communities (EEC) or Littoral Rainforests EEC on the site.
Council has also advised that there are records indicating that there is Coastal Saltmarsh adjacent to the shoreline of Coila Lake and Swamp Oak Forest EEC on part of the site but there is no evidence of Littoral Rainforest on or adjacent to the site, though they do advise that Council records indicate that there is evidence of Littoral Rainforests on the south-western side of Hector McWilliam Drive; approximately 400m away from the development site.
Council offers, in their response to "Friends of Coila" that, in regard to the Swamp Oak Forest EEC, Council contends that the development footprint has reduced from what was originally approved in that the road connecting the eastern and western precincts is now a shared pathway rather than a full width road.
They also offer that additional water quality processes such as bio-retention basins and Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) measures have been put in place to protect Coila Lake and the Coastal Saltmarsh/Swamp Oak Forest EEC.
In regards to the claims by the group of aboriginal artefacts that are to be found in the area Council has informed them that it does not administer the heritage requirements under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act saying "Heritage NSW is the responsible authority. Council must consider the impacts on cultural heritage and, for this reason, required a condition of consent be imposed on the development approval requiring an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit be obtained prior to the commencement of work. Council then advises "Although no specific study was provided with the recent alipplication, Council records indicate that there has been several heritage studies and that General Terms of Approval (GTA's) were issued by the (previously) NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for the subdivision of the same land". Council then advised in their Feb 9th 2023 letter "This provided confidence to Council that the matter of cultural heritage was known, and had been assessed". In more recent correspondence received (April 3rd 2023) by the group Anthony Roberts MP, Minister for Planning has advised:
"Councils in NSW. including Eurobodalla Shire Council, are the primary planning authority responsible for identifying land for housing in its strategic land use plans and for assessing the environmental impact of development applications for urban development. In developing local strategic plans, and in the assessment of development applications, councils seek to balance the need to provide housing for a growing population and protection of the unique environmental values of the South Coast.
"Some sites may have been zoned for residential development some time ago. but not yet developed. The Department is aware that some sites along the South Coast have old development approvals that have only now been activated. These approvals can continue to be valid despite time passing since consent was granted. Council. as the consent authority, is responsible for investigating and determining whether or not the proposal has physically commenced in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and therefore whether the consent remains active: and for ensuring compliance with any conditions of development consent.
"The Department has contacted Council on your behalf and Council has advised that it conditioned the modification for the Tuross Heads approval to require an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP) to be obtained prior to works commencing. The AHIP process would consider impacts on Aboriginal heritage and how these can be avoided or mitigated.
"There is also a range of State legislation and planning policies and strategies in place that aim to balance protecting the environment and providing places for people to live and work.
"I suggest that you continue to liaise with Eurobodalla Shire Council to raise your concerns on the environmental impacts of development within your local area".
That might be difficult for the group however given that Council have formally advised the group that "any further correspondence about the issues already reviewed will be read, and filed, but not responded to."
The intent of the Friends Of Coila group is to call "on all those who support protecting Coila Lake foreshore and Wetlands from this 'Real Estate Plan' "
Image: source "Driftwood Shores will be the ultimate in residential living on the peninsula, with homesites offering unobscured water views, privacy, and an abundance of natural beauty. It is proposed the new neighbourhood will offer an exclusive 72 residential homesites to the market mid 2023" McCloy Group.