How Central Coast Council uses biodiversity to stop economic growth.
It is well known that the Central Coast is not generating enough jobs to support the growing population, and this has been the case for over forty years.
Businesses in Sydney and elsewhere eye the region as an ideal location to operate from thereby creating employment opportunities.
To create a better lifestyle for the people of the region, business and investors need to be encouraged to locate their operations here thereby growing the regional economy.
However, in recent years it has become patently obvious that the Central Coast Council has an opposing policy to that of growing the economy.
There are numerous examples of how this is achieved, and Council uses all the levers, one of which is biodiversity.
Under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act anyone wishing to develop vacant land is required to have a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) prepared by a recognised flora and fauna Ecologists.
On the Central Coast this expensive report that will also take over twelve months to complete and cost from $25,000 for a small lot to over $100,000 for larger lots will identify all endangered and so-called endangered species of flora and fauna.
The developer is then faced with the cost of developing around the plants identified or buy Biodiversity Offset Credits for each plant that can run into the 100s of thousands of dollars.
While many of these endangered plants are cultivated by Wildlife nurseries for as low as $3.50 each, Credits are valued at $723 per Credit, Central Coast Council uses the Act and Regulations to insist on non-removal of the plants or insist on the developer buying Offset Credits.
This process and the time involved adds to the cost of development and in many cases, developers walk away or end up in the Land and Environment Court.
Central Coast Council is using the Biodiversity and Conservation Act as a tool to stop all development where they can.
However, where it suits them the Central Coast Council simply ignores these environmental issues as can be seen below.
Somersby Industrial subdivision – Piles Road extension
Currently the owner of a six-hectare lot on Wisemans Ferry Road who has plans to subdivide the site into 16 industrial lots has found that he has major biodiversity issues that is likely to see the development put on ice for years, unless they can be resolved.
While 16 industrial lots would generate substantial employment for the region, two so-called threatened species of plants plus a Pygmy Possum is putting the whole project in jeopardy, also this property has a Wildlife Corridor that runs along the edge of the property which is being preserved by the developer in its natural state, and also protecting a significant Aboriginal rock carving.
At the same time Council is carrying out works to link Pile Road to Wisemans Ferry Road, which is nearing completion, this link cuts across the Wildlife Corridor, however Council bulldozers have had no trouble clearing all the land including the threatened species, have they completed a BDAR?
While the property owner is looking at having to buy Biodiversity Offsets identified in the BDAR report that will cost over Five hundred thousand dollars, Central Coast Council’s Works Department thumbs their nose at environmental issues.
Somersby Industrial Park was zoned industrial over 50 years ago and comprises an area of 300 hectares.
Although only partially developed due to environmental and heritage constraints imposed on the area following the introduction of environmental legislation in the 1990s, and the Somersby Plan of Management in 2006, Somersby Industrial Park is a major contributor to the Central Coast economy and employment.
To the lay person ‘Industrial’ zone land means land that is exclusively used for industrial purposes and includes manufacturing, processing, fabricating, warehousing etc. The owner of an industrial zoned lot would expect to be able to build a factory or warehouse with surrounding concrete hard stand areas across the entire site.
Enter Gosford Council and now Central Coast Council and Somersby Industrial Park is expected to be a quasi-national park.
A landowner may own an industrial lot and pay rates and taxes thereon; however the reality is that he is also expected to maintain and nurture the flora and fauna that happens to on or around it.
Somersby Industrial Park is part of over 19,068 ha of similar Fauna & Flora community within the Gosford LGA mapped by Bell (2009) on the plateau, which is primarily natural landscape , Professional Reports from Property Research Companies are stating that with the expense and pressure in the Sydney area, companies want to expand to the Central Coast, primarily Somersby due to the excellent road system that now exists with the opening of the NorthConnex in November 2020, that services the Sydney CBD, plus access to the suburbs of Sydney and with direct access to Melbourne.
The expansion of these companies brings expertise, construction / development and more importantly Employment to the coast, with lifestyle that attracts owners of these companies.