24 March 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (15:31): I speak on behalf of numerous concerned constituents who have contacted my office about crazy development applications in the Blue Mountains. My community is angry at the short‑sightedness of this Government's management of the State significant development planning process—specifically, the fact that it allows developers to completely bypass the local environmental plan [LEP] that exists to protect our unique ecosystems and preserve the character of our communities. My electorate of Blue Mountains stretches across a narrow ridge that runs through the middle of pristine, World Heritage listed national park. As a community in such a unique natural environment, we consider our environmental heritage to be of great importance, not only culturally but also economically.

The Blue Mountains' local economy is heavily reliant on tourism that can only exist due to the unique character of our towns and villages, and the unique blend of those settlements into our natural environment. It is a travesty that one of the most reckless proposals that I have seen submitted to the planning process in my time as a member not only breaches the conditions of our LEP but also claims to do so in aid of our tourism sector. I refer to the plans for a large hotel and zoo complex at Bodington Hill in Wentworth Falls, known as "the crocodarium zombie DA". The concept plans include five hotel buildings, a car park, a theatre, a vet, a gift shop and several other facilities set among a sprawling wildlife centre. Not only does the plan pose significant environmental risks but also it sets a precedent for irreversible destruction.

An integral part of the Blue Mountains local environmental plan is the concept of "land between towns", which exists to ensure that each of our towns and villages maintains its unique bushland setting and to prevent dangerous levels of overdevelopment. If approved, the development would set a precedent for land clearing and construction in protected areas of bushland that run the length of the Great Western Highway. Several local business owners have expressed their grave concerns about the level of overdevelopment in the mountains. They worry that pushing too far to squeeze in too many buildings will damage the character of our communities. Operators of existing wildlife ventures are also concerned that the proposal will direct tourists away from the excellent existing opportunities that visitors have to see wildlife in their native habitats.

After a year of devastating bushfires, floods and a global pandemic, our local tourism operators need all the support they can get to drive customers their way. They should not be further disadvantaged for the benefit of some anonymous, rich developer. Local firefighting experts and local transport engineers believe aspects of the development to be next to insane—an example being the lack of access and egress off the Great Western Highway for traffic travelling at 80 kilometres per hour. The proposal contravenes numerous environmental protection measures within our LEP. In the Blue Mountains hotels, major recreation facilities, extensive fencing and car parks are prohibited in E2 Environmental Conservation zones. Yet the land proposed for development mostly lies within a designated E2 zone.

Building on a designated slope constraint protection area also presents significant risks for the nearby hanging swamps. Based on the developer's plans, significant excavation work is required, which would disrupt the flow of surface water and groundwater essential for the longevity of those swamps. Blue Mountains Swamps are already listed as habitat of threatened species under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This also has impacts on our local waterways, as swamps act as a purifying filter for ground and surface water before the water is released into nearby creeks. Hurting this swampland will in turn jeopardise our creek network and could cause lasting damage across a much wider area than just the land being considered for development.

The site of the proposed development is also in the middle of a wildlife corridor and sits immediately opposite the exit of a wildlife tunnel that passes under the highway. The developer proposes surrounding the property with fencing, which would block the southern exit of the wildlife tunnel and render it useless. This would undo years of hard work on behalf of Roads and Maritime Services, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the local council to reduce wildlife deaths as well as hazards to motorists. Approving the proposed development would set a dangerous precedent not only for the Blue Mountains community but also the whole State: If enough money is thrown at a project, then environmental conservation and protection no longer matter.

This Government must review its flawed planning processes, which have taken accountability for those projects out of the hands of local communities, and it must do everything in its power to reject this dangerous experiment in conservational vandalism. I especially thank the Blue Mountains Conservation Society for its relentless and meticulous attention to research on the matter. Together we will continue to oppose this development application.