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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Heritage Estates housing development, Jervis Bay

Interview with Nick Rheinberger, ABC Drive, Illawarra,
13 March 2009

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RHEINBERGER: Living on the south coast, you'd be aware it's a pretty amazing spot and more and more people are coming down here to take advantage of that beauty. But what happens when development impacts on the environment?

Shoalhaven Council have wanted to rezone a section of land near Vincentia to make way for Heritage Estates, which would mean there'd be up to 1200 lots on the site near Booderee National Park.

But the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has knocked back that proposal today.

He spoke to our news service a short time ago.

GARRETT: I've reached a decision on Heritage Estates, because my responsibility is to protect our precious environment and biodiversity, to look at the impact on listed and threatened species, under the environment legislation. And it's clear that the advice to me is that this proposal would have an unacceptable impact on matters of national environment significance, and so it can't go ahead under national environmental law.

The proposed development would have had an unacceptable impact on listed species such as the endangered eastern bristlebird, the vulnerable leafless Tongue Orchid. It also would have fragmented important wildlife corridors to Booderee National Park, where there are a range of commonwealth and state listed species as well.

These impacts were unacceptable under environmental law. I listened carefully to the advice that I received. I took note of what Shoalhaven Council put to me, and also the submissions of landowners. I understand, and I'm sympathetic, to the situation that these landowners find themselves. But this has been a thorough and an open process. I've taken account of all the material in front of me and on that basis I've made this decision.

When the Shoalhaven City Council commissioned its biodiversity survey and assessment in 2007, its consultant recommended that the land should not be developed. The advice that I've received from my department and the expert reports show very clearly that the environmental values of this land are very high. That it would be an unacceptable impact on matters of national environment significance, and as a consequence, I've made the decision on that basis.

I think the thing we need to be clear about is that when the land was purchased, it was not zoned for housing. And on that basis it's very clear that the proposal to have a significant rezoning needs to be looked at from the point of view of its environmental impacts, not on the basis, in this instance, of what people may or may not believed might have happened when they purchased their land.

Look, I do know that council had a number of sites which were erected around the perimeter of the estate, pointing out that it was unable to approve dwellings on individual lots that - there were tree preservation orders and so on and so forth, so I think the fact is that there was clearly a situation where the land was not zoned for housing when it was purchased. That remains the case.

And on that basis, whilst I certainly am sympathetic to this long history that landowners have been through here, it's absolutely clear to me that the correct and proper decision for me to make is the one that I've made today.

RHEINBERGER: It's an amazing world isn't it? Peter Garrett there, who spoke to our news service about his decision to knock back a proposal to rezone land for a housing estate in Vincentia. Amazing, because last night Peter Garrett was on stage with Midnight Oil.

Back to work tomorrow morning he said, and there he was.


Commonwealth of Australia