Firstly, I thank the more than 12,000 residents who signed the petition. They want this Chamber to hear a clear message. Precious bushland on the northern beaches should be protected for future generations and, in fact, everywhere—let us be honest. The petition before the House calls on the New South Wales Government to repeal the development delivery plan for the northern beaches that was developed in the previous term of government.
The plan puts over 200 hectares of local bushland on a trajectory towards being cleared for housing and industrial use. The two largest sites proposed for development are the 135-hectare site at Ralston Avenue in Belrose and the 71-hectare site at Morgan Road in Belrose, which is affectionately known by locals as "Lizard Rock" because of the large rock that looks like a lizard's head. Lizard Rock is the first cab off the rank slated for development.
In recent weeks, a planning proposal to rezone the Lizard Rock site for a subdivision of at least 450 dwellings passed through the gateway stage at the Department of Planning and Environment. The next stage is a more detailed assessment and a public exhibition period. That consultation has not yet started, but I can tell you now that the development of the site does not have the support of the local community or its local council—and for good reason. The proposal for a massive housing subdivision, clearing over 45 football fields worth of native vegetation in this location, is completely inappropriate. I briefly outline some of the reasons why.
The first reason is the biodiversity value of the site. The Lizard Rock site adjoins the Garigal National Park and Narrabeen Lagoon State Park, and forms part of a wildlife corridor across private and public land. It provides habitat for iconic species of Australian wildlife—from powerful owls and red-crowned toadlets to spotted-tailed quolls and bandicoots. It is a place where observant locals have spotted a male lyrebird dancing his mating dance and a mother wallaby unloading joeys from her punch for their first bounces. It is home to black cockatoos, which I spotted with Dr Sophie Scamps when we were there one morning.
Australia has committed to reversing biodiversity loss and conserving 30 per cent of Australia's land areas by 2030. How can we achieve those goals if we continue to clear bushland at this scale as though it were worthless? The second reason is the bushfire risk of developing the site. Surrounded by bushland and with constrained evacuation routes, the Northern Beaches Council states, "In its current form, the proposed development presents an unacceptable and, in some cases, a catastrophic risk to future residents." Have we learnt nothing from the 2019 bushfires and the subsequent inquiry and royal commission? We must stop building homes where we know lives will be exposed to danger and where the lives of RFS and SES volunteers will be put in danger protecting them.
The third reason is the inconsistency with strategic planning. The Lizard Rock proposal and development delivery plan are disconnected from the agreed strategic planning currently being undertaken to deliver more housing in Frenchs Forest and Brookvale. The Lizard Rock proposal would create a car-centric enclave that is not serviced by public transport. The cities and towns we need to create must be connected to social infrastructure and public transport and make effective use of our urban land rather than sprawling into new greenfield areas. That is entirely consistent with the Government's own messaging in recent weeks about moving away from low‑density greenfield housing development.
A member of the Sydney North Planning Panel, Annelise Tuor, recognised the compelling reasons that rezoning should not proceed. When she opposed the planning proposal, she cited her concerns that it did not demonstrate site-specific merit about the extent and nature of the proposed R2 zoning area and that the proposal did not adequately respond to environmental and other constraints on the site. I want to be clear that I support the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 and appreciate the importance of enabling First Nations people to achieve economic self-determination through developing land, but we should consider all proposals on their merits, regardless of the landowner. This proposal does not stack up.
The community recognises that the land was granted by the State Government to the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council in recognition of past wrongs committed against First Nations people by governments of the past. The community does not criticise the desire of the land council to want to improve the economic circumstances of its members given the structural disadvantage faced by Indigenous people as a consequence of colonisation. However, the community is concerned that we are now committing wrongs against wrongs and trying to fix past wrongs against First Nations people by committing new wrongs against nature. We must work harder and smarter to find solutions that are a win-win for both nature and society. This petition calls for that balance to be struck.
The community has ideas for finding a win-win solution that both delivers the land council a fair and timely income from its land holdings and retains the bushland. The State Government could lease the landowners a new national park, could compensate the land council for the loss of development potential or offer a land swap for a development site elsewhere. The petition does not dictate a particular solution, as we recognise that the land council has to be part of any new decision-making through this petition. The community is asking the State Government to be an active partner in finding the solution. I thank the Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians, who have spent months collecting signatures and informing the community. Finally, the bushland guardians are Dr Conny Harris, Councillor Kristyn Glanville, Rachael Leah Jackson, Sarah Baker, Pamela Dawes, Deb Harris, Marion Kiss and Sue Denton. I thank the many groups and individuals in our community that have worked hard to build momentum to conserve the local bushland. I love your work.