I am writing to urge you to take action to prevent a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance as a result of the proposal to develop up to 330 residential lots on Inyadda Drive at Manyana by the Trustee for the Manyana Property Trust.
In the first instance I urge you to declare the proposal to be clearly unacceptable given the acknowledgement by the developer of the significant impact of the proposal on matters of national environmental significance (MNES), and in particular threatened ecological communities and threatened species.
Should you not take that action, I ask that you declare the proposal a controlled action and ensure that the public have additional opportunity to more fully judge and comment on the impacts of the proposal through the requirement for a full Environmental Impact Statement or the establishment of a public inquiry.
Given the developer has indicated they intend to pursue a biodiversity certification process through the NSW Government as it “provides for a streamlined biodiversity assessment process for strategic or large developments”, a thorough assessment under the EPBC is essential should you not deem this proposal to be clearly unacceptable in the first instance.
I am a Member of the NSW Legislative Council and live on the NSW South Coast. I have an interest in both the South Coast community and our unique, but significantly fire impacted, environment. I also declare that I own a residential block adjacent to the land in question and was directly involved in community opposition to a rezoning application for the land by a previous owner as the former President of the local Community Consultative Body.
The majority of the proposed development footprint was unburnt in the 2019/20 fires. This is in stark contrast to surrounding land, including large tracts of the Conjola National Park. Much of this area suffered severe fire impacts and is a constant reminder to the community of what has been lost and why it is important to protect what is left.
The value of this site as a refuge for native animals, including federally listed threatened species, must be fully tested through a formal assessment process under the EPBC Act.
The developer has identified in their own Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report (BCAR) that two threatened ecological communities listed under the EPBC will be impacted by the proposed development including:
- Illawarra and south coast lowland forest and woodland - critically endangered
- Coastal Swamp Oak Forest of NSW - endangered
The developer has assessed that the project is “likely to have a significant impact on the occurrence of Illawarra and south coast lowland forest and woodland.”
The proponents' own maps show (shown below) these two threatened ecological communities make up a substantial portion of the total development footprint. Much of the remainder is a NSW listed endangered ecological community under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The proponent has argued that their:
…project has aimed to avoid impacts to native vegetation and habitat values by amending the original subdivision layout for the development and keeping Lot sizes to a minimum size. Various iterations of the subdivision layout have been developed and then amended in response to detailed understanding of the site’s biodiversity values and offsets requirements.
While this subdivision layout may have less of an impact on native vegetation and habitat values compared to the current zoning over the land, noting however that no development approval has been granted, it is clear from the proponent’s own map that the impact on threatened ecological communities will be significant. Their arguments that they have sought to minimise the impacts through the location of the development footprint only serves to demonstrate the substantial ecological value of the entire property, including to the North and East of the proposed development footprint.
The fragmentation of this substantial area of threatened ecological communities warrants significant consideration in a full assessment.
Claims by the developer they have sought to limit the footprint to areas of “previous disturbance” should hold little weight given successive owners of the land have allowed this disturbance to occur on the site (motorbike riding and 4WDing) despite the significant environmental values of the land.
Threatened Species Impacts
I also note that eight species listed under the EPBC Act have been either been recorded or are likely to occur in the are of the proposed development including:
- Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) - critically endangered
- Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia) - critically endangered
- Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) - endangered
- White-throated Needletail (Hirundapus caudacutus) - vulnerable
- Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) - vulnerable
- Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons) - migratory species
- Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis) - migratory species
- Satin Flycatcher (Myiagra cyanoleuca) - migratory species
The developer has claimed that the project is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Swift Parrot, Regent Honeyeater, White-throated Needletail, Grey-headed Flying-fox or Spotted-tailed Quoll.
I hold the view that that claim should be tested through a full assessment, particularly in regards to the Grey-headed Flying Fox.
In your decisions of 16 August 2020 in relation to a nearby development proposal by Manyana Coast Pty Ltd, your statement of reasons noted that the site (less than 1km from this proposed development) contains known foraging habitat for the Grey-headed Flying-fox.
Specifically you noted that:
The Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel has identified the Grey-headed Flying-fox as a priority species requiring urgent management intervention based on the extent to which their range has potentially been burnt by the 2019/2020 bushfires and their vulnerability to fire. In relation to the Grey-headed Flying-fox, in the Mammals Species Analysis it was calculated that the 2019/2020 bushfires coincided with approximately 17% of known and likely habitat for the Grey-headed Flying-fox.
Due to the presence of important winter and spring foraging habitat onsite, the proximity of the proposed action area to a nationally important flying-fox camp and the significant reduction in winter and spring foraging habitat arising from the 2019/2020 bushfires, I considered that the proposed action would result in the clearance of 17 .18 ha of habitat critical to the survival of the GHFF.
You specifically found in determining that project a ‘controlled action’ that:
...the taking of the proposed action is likely to have a significant impact on a listed threatened species, namely the Grey-headed Flying-fox, a listed vulnerable species. I therefore considered that the taking of the proposed action by the proponent would be prohibited by section 18 and section 18A of the EPBC Act, which are provisions of Part 3 of the EPBC Act.
The proponent in this instance notes that:
17.18 hectares of potential foraging habitat for nectarivorous species such as the Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia), Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) and Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus).
Coincidentally, the potential loss of foraging habitat for the Grey-headed Flying-fox in this referral is exactly the same size, 17.18 hectares, as it was for the previous referral at the other Manyana site, which you have declared a controlled action.
The 2019/20 fires were significant in terms of the total area of vegetation impacted in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development site and the wider region. For this reason, the loss of unburnt foraging habitat, particularly in the short term, is of critical importance and requires further assessment.
It seems inconceivable that this proposed development not be considered a controlled action or require further assessment given your previous decisions.
Hollow bearing trees
The BCAR identifies 48 hollows in the development footprint, the majority of which are small or medium, in large part because much of the vegetation on the site is regrowth. The proponent acknowledges the potential for these hollows to be used for roosting, refuge and breeding habitat for a number of species.
The importance of these hollows, particularly in light of the 2019/20 fires and the impact on neighbouring forested areas is not addressed significantly in the assessment. This may be in part before the majority of the ecological survey work which underpins the assessment was conducted before the 2019/20 fires.
I think further analysis of the value of these hollows is required in making an assessment in regards to their value to MNES.
The Manyana and surrounding community have been through a lot in the last couple of years as a result of the fires and the subsequent push by developers to progress various proposals. This has put significant strain on the community to have to engage and respond to these processes. This has come at the expense of time to pause and reflect on the fires and their impacts and to reset expectations for the future.
We’ve never seen fires to the extent of the 2019/20 fires before and the impact of those fires on the plants and animals that make the South Coast so special will not be fully understood for some time. A precautionary approach is warranted.
I urge you to declare this proposed development clearly unacceptable in the first instance. Should you declare it a controlled action, I ask that you ensure the community has sufficient opportunity to consider the detail of the proposal in full through an EIS or public inquiry process.
Thank you for your consideration.
Justin Field MLC