Ku-ring-gai’s Urban Forest Strategy needs stronger action

The Ku-ring-gai Draft Urban Forest Strategy lacks support for improving Biodiversity. There is no discussion on how current forests will be protected from dieback, tree death and cumulative impacts, nothing about fines for destruction of rare forest trees, their hollows and food for bees, possums, or the powerful owl. These are all an essential and urgent part of a strategy for urban forest, especially in an environmentally sensitive area like Ku-ring-gai.

FOKE’s concerns raised in our submission were that there is inadequate recognition for the protection and replenishing of the threatened endangered ecological communities namely Blue Gum High Forest, Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest and Duffy’s Forest.

There is inadequate recognition in the strategy of the main policies driving the considerable loss of trees within Ku-ring-gai, specifically, State Government Urban Consolidation polices driving new housing development in Ku-ring-gai. The lack of adequate protection of Ku-ring-gai’s environment and Council’s own policies within Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) that allow unsustainable development within areas containing remnant threatened ecological communities.

Gardens and trees continue to be replaced with hard surfaces and concrete and this will continue unless Council challenges State government dwelling targets and mitigates the actions of the 10/50 Code in Ku-ring-gai. 

A stricter requirement for applicant’s landscape plans to make provision for locally endemic species within new developments and to ensure they are planted is required. The increased canopy target of 49% remains too low. 

Importantly, delays in forest management have critical consequences. FOKE has been calling for a recovery plan for the BGHF as an urgent issue for many years.

Crucially, there is no recommendation to support increased protection for environmentally sensitive areas and improving biodiversity as part of the Urban Forest Strategy. The plan lacks detailed steps to conserve biodiversity, such as implementing fauna management plans, state tree removal deterrents, crucial wildlife rehabilitation, hollow replenishment and a rewilding programme.

If adopted It will be the green flag for a lot of biodiversity loss and bushland alteration.

Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion Study a Major Step Forward

As highlighted previously, in 2018 FOKE initiated a project to add extra protections to, and increase awareness of, Ku-ring-gai’s natural heritage focusing originally on Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

This has since developed into a much broader area as we have advanced the proposal of a GeoRegion with Ku-ring-gai Chase as its centre, but extending from Berowra Valley, from the Hawkesbury River to northern Lane Cove National Park, east to the coast from Barrenjoey to Dee Why. 

This large area, of approximately 44,000 ha, across northern Sydney showcases exceptional characteristics, with over 50 national and internationally significant geological environments of the Triassic sandstone landscapes of the Sydney Basin, unique and rare flora and fauna, and a density of Aboriginal sites that reflects the length of habitation in this area, with 1,424 sites currently recorded. A short video can be seen here Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion video

The proposal has been endorsed in principle by the Geological Survey of NSW and is supported by three local Councils (Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, and Northern Beaches) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and local MPs. ‘ Geotrails’ identifying a network of key sites are being developed with appropriate interpretation, with the first of these expected to open in early 2023.

The Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion is also referenced and recognised in the Australian Government’s THRIVE 2030 Visitor Economy Strategy as having the potential to be one of three GeoRegions to be nominated as an Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark for Australia.

On 17th November, the GeoRegion Steering Committee presented at the Linnean Society Sydney Symposium, highlighting the outstanding Natural and Cultural History of the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion.  A major co-authored technical study underpinned the presentations and is published in the current Linnean Society Proceedings journal.

The project Steering Committee believes that the contents of this study will form a solid basis for any proposed nomination submitted to UNESCO assessors. Here is the link to the GeoRegion Study.

It remains FOKE’s focus to ensure that our natural and cultural heritage is valued by the next generation as well as our growing number of residents. Only when areas are valued will communities fight for their conservation and protection.

North Turramurra Residents disillusioned

When council, in 2010, proposed redesigning the North Turramurra Golf Course to include soccer fields and changeroom facilities, council promised to incorporate a park with children’s playground and BBQ facilities in addition to walking tracks to adjacent bushland for the enjoyment of the wider community. The North Turramurra Recreation Area (NTRA) project was partly funded with a 3.15% surcharge on ratepayers for 6 years to deliver a multi-use facility. Although the site is the only open green space (other than a designated dog park) for the northern extremity of the peninsular, the non-sporting recreational uses have never been delivered.

In 2021, the Northern Suburbs Football Association (NSFA) lodged a Development Application to build themselves a Home of Football based at NTRA on Bobbin Head Road. The proposal consists of a 300-seat undercover grandstand, and includes an exclusive gym, physio room, player and referee change rooms, meeting room, corporate box, closed media box, café with office space and boardroom.

North Turramurra residents overwhelmingly objected to the proposal presenting written objections and petitions with over one thousand signatures. The main objections relate to the scale of the facility, intensification of use in numbers and time, its impacts on evacuation in an area designated High Bushfire Prone and the long-term occupation of a large part of the NTRA site by a single user.  Residents also raised existing issues with parking across driveways, noise and lights.

The NSFA acoustic, parking and traffic studies that concluded the new grandstand development would have no impact locally, were all based on the assumption of no change to existing player and spectator numbers. The NSFA denied intensification of use despite residents pointing out the inconsistency with a NSFA 2021-2022 application for a NSW Greater Cities & Regional Sport Facility Grant in which the NSFA stated, “proposed total visits with a grandstand and facilities would increase by 36,489 individuals to the site annually”.

Residents were ignored and the DA was approved by the Ku-ring-gai Planning Panel on recommendation of staff. The NSFA propose to fund the construction of the building, but it is unclear as to who will be responsible for its maintenance. The approval of the DA means the NSFA can now apply for a Sports Grant. Any Memorandum of Understanding between council and NSFA will be critical to financial implications on rate payers and use of the facility.

This process has broken the trust of North Turramurra Residents with council. The peninsula remains without a passive recreation area despite having contributed to its funding for years.

Ku-ring-gai Council plans to sell more community assets

One has to delve into the Ku-ring-gai Council’s Community Strategic Plan’s detailed attachments to unearth the basis of the Strategic Plan.

Unfortunately, the Draft Long Term Financial Plan (DLTFP) accompanying the Strategic Plan, highlights Council’s objective to sell $110 million of community assets over the next 10 years.

FOKE continues to stress that the sale of community assets remains detrimental to the long-term amenity, health and character of Ku-ring-gai. With the impost from NSW Planning to demand further population increases in Ku-ring-gai, the loss of the community assets that could be utilised as playgrounds, ovals, open space and community services buildings is negative to the vision espoused for Ku-ring-gai in the Strategic Plan of an interconnected community appreciating our natural and heritage character.

The DLTFP is heavily supported by the sale of supposedly ‘underutilised’ assets, without the mention of the largest asset of 828 Pacific Highway which has been very much underutilised to meet council or community needs.

Going back to the early 2000’s it was understood by the community that the Council Chambers and council’s car park would be proposed for a ‘Gordon Hub’ not 828 Pacific Highway which we understand is the current plan. We believe the house blocks adjoining council’s car park bought by council for a park on the west side of Gordon adjacent to the shopping precinct, are now a potential additional council asset being considered for sale and redevelopment.

Community assets are not an ever-ending source of funds for Council. Continuing in this manner to maintain a sustainable budget will eventually spell financial disaster, while undermining the key elements that make Ku-ring-gai such a wonderful area to live.

Though the early years of this financial plan highlight spending on park development, this quickly dissipates in the outward years. Very few new parks are planned while community assets such as bowling and recreation clubs, 3 libraries and public halls such as the Pymble Town Hall, car park and Presbytery, and Lindfield senior citizen community hall, affordable housing units and two tennis courts (on the Lindfield Library site) are planned to be sold and redeveloped, are just some of the assets to be disposed by Council.

Outlined in the DLTFP was an alternative financial scenario without asset sales which was seen as similarly ‘financially sustainable in terms of maintaining a balanced budget, sufficient unrestricted cash and available working capital, sufficient cash reserves and a permissible debt service ratio over the medium term’.

The intergenerational equity of retaining existing assets close to residential areas for use by residents into the future should be council’s primary purpose. The office block at 828 Pacific Highway should be the first asset to be sold as it does not add to the amenity of residents in terms of community services, recreation or engagement.

Council’s own Open Space Program highlights numerous areas where parks and playgrounds need to be built or expanded, such as in West Roseville and Lindfield west of the Highway. The Lindfield Hub will allow for hundreds of new residents with no significant open space for play and recreation within close proximity. With this overdevelopment planning scenario played out for other planned council Hubs in Turramurra and Gordon.

The determination of ‘underutilised assets’ (assets which have for years been deliberately allowed to run down by council) for sale will continue to be an area of concern for residents both for the short and long term as these sites, once sold these assets will be lost forever for the amenity of our ever-growing population.

Assault on our Suburbs

Though at first glance the Draft Design & Place State Environment Planning Policy incorporates all the ‘well meaning’ principles of good planning in its introduction, the detail in the objectives will lead to the destruction of the integrity of many suburbs, including Ku-ring-gai.

The principles espoused in this Draft Policy include delivering beauty and amenity through improved overall design, delivering inviting public spaces, improved sustainability and greener spaces for well-being and improved resilience to climate change.

However, the objectives in the Urban Design Guide highlight that the true purpose of this Policy is increased density across NSW, especially targeting current R2 low density residential areas.

Objective 3 aims to build ‘Compact and diverse neighbourhoods’. Critically this is to be met by targeting density levels of 30 dwellings per hectare within a 5 minute walk to neighbourhood shops and centres. The minimum density of 15 dwellings per hectare is targeted everywhere else. In areas of greater intensity or where there are excellent active and public transport networks, development should aim for a minimum density of 30 dwellings per hectare across the entire walkable neighbourhood.

The reasoning that these minimum residential targets will guarantee a more vibrant urban area has absolutely no foundation.

Objective 3 effectively ignores current LEP’s, environmental and heritage considerations and will impose a blanket density over the entire municipality that will extinguish any individual characteristics.

This objective overrides the local Council zoning plans and will destroy the character of established suburbs and LGAs, such as Ku-ring-gai. High and medium density should not be allowed within R2 Low Density Residential areas. This is completely contradictory to Objective 16 which calls for the retention of existing built heritage, landscape and other unique features, including reinstatement of historical street patterns where possible.

Within Objective 15 is the damaging recommendation to override any current zoning and reduce detached dwellings to only 30% in areas where the number of dwellings per hectare is currently 15 dwellings or greater!

The use of the term ‘compact neighbourhoods’ as a preferred outcome litters the document as the preferred planning outcome.

We believe this is another assault by the current State Government on the current character of existing suburbs and puts increased density as the key aim of this Policy. It is apparent that this policy is not about better design and quality sense of place, it is about providing developers and the property industry with greater options for increasing density in our suburbs.

In terms of the Apartment Design Guide, there appear to be few mandated minimum standards, with developers able to freely depart from the recommended provisions with the use of offsets and alternative designs.

Another area lagging behind the rhetoric is the engagement with the community as a key stakeholder in any design plans during the full process, not just in the initial information gathering phase.

FOKE does not believe that this Policy will assist in building community trust in an already flawed planning system and has made a submission to this effect.

The submission period closed on 28th February. However, it would be worthwhile to contact or email your local MP to let them know you are concerned about the impact of this Policy unless significantly altered to address these concerns. You can find the documents at Design and Place SEPP.

“A sting” in Planning Department’s Approval of Ku-ring-gai Housing Strategy

Council submitted Ku-ring-gai’s Local Housing Strategy to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) in December 2020 with the core objective of meeting Ku-ring-gai’s housing targets to 2036, through existing capacity and existing planning controls.

On 16th July 2021, Council received confirmation from the DPIE of the approval of the Local Housing Strategy (LHS). However, the Department’s confirmation letter included 12 additional immediate further planning impositions. The full letter is available here.

The following pro-development requirements are completely inconsistent with the Housing Strategy submitted and approved which relies on utilising available capacities. These requirements are:

  • To submit planning proposals for new dwellings in Gordon, Lindfield and/or Turramurra local centres by December 2022.
  • To submit planning proposals for new dwellings within St Ives local centre by December 2022.  In the LHS this was to be part of the longer-term plan from 2031 and dependent on improved transport links.
  • To identify neighbourhood centres such as Roseville, Roseville Chase, Killara, Pymble, Wahroonga, West Gordon and North St Ives for additional medium density housing for the period 2031 to 2036, with plans delivered by December 2023.
  • Setting senior housing and medium density targets which were not previously required.

Additionally, this letter states that a specific medium density complying development model for Ku-ring-gai that had been previously agreed by the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) in the Ku-ring-gai Local Strategic Planning Statement is now refused. This is an extremely important element and an essential part of planning for Ku-ring-gai. With our built and cultural heritage elements, riparian lands, surrounding bushland, vulnerable fauna and flora and undulating typography any development must be tailored to its specific location.

Importantly, requirement number 9 is an updated implementation plan of these requirements by January 2022 This would be the first meeting of a new council, due to the postponed elections. This unnecessarily tight timing limits the ability to discuss with the DPIE the suitability of the requirements presented in this letter.

The threat from the Department is that they will accommodate developers and landowners in proponent-led proposals if council does not meet the requirements in its letter.  It is both dangerous and disappointing when developers already have too much sway in local planning outcomes!

Critically, the proposed housing targets have not been updated and are based on Pre-Covid population projections from 3 years ago. It is essential that the GSC issue updated population targets before foisting unnecessary increases in dwellings on existing infrastructure and communities.

The Government’s Centre for Population had updated its projections in December 2020.  See the Population statement 2021.

These projections show a 5% reduction in forecast population for Sydney vs pre-covid projected levels to 2026, and a 5.4% decline to 2031. This amounts to over 300,000 fewer people expected to reside in Sydney than projected in 2026 and 340,000 less by 2031.
Post Covid, Sydney population targets will be less than half the previous increases which will have a major impact on the housing requirements in our area.

The requirements in the DPIE letter of approval are inconsistent with the adopted and approved Ku-ring-gai Local Housing Strategy that provides new housing from existing capacity within Ku-ring-gai’s current planning controls until 2036. With a 5% reduction in Sydney’s projected population by 2036, all housing targets will be essentially halved.

At the 16th November Council meeting this issue was debated with the resolution to reject the DPIE conditions. Unfortunately Mayor Spencer and Councillors Ngai, Kelly and Kay agreed with the pro-development conditions of the letter.

As we embark with a new council, please contact your councillors and local Ministers, Alister Henskens and Jonathan O’Dea, to ensure that an outcome that better reflects the aim of the approved Housing Strategy is agreed with the DPIE.

Chaos in Ku-ring-gai Council Prior to Council Elections

Since the September 21st when new Mayor Cedric Spencer was installed as Mayor after a tied 5-5 vote was resolved by his name drawn from a box, no effective Council meetings have been held.

Within days of the new Mayor taking up his position, two of his supporting councillors, Christine Kay and Peter Kelly, called for an Extraordinary meeting with the sole agenda of reviewing the contract of the General Manager, Mr McKee. This is despite the fact that less than 2 months earlier his contract was renewed and his performance rated as ‘More than Satisfactory’ by ten councillors and supported by an independent consultant’s report.

This action was an unnecessary aggravation just weeks before Council was to go into caretaker mode and resulted in five councillors not attending the meeting ensuring no minimum meeting quorum, requiring 6 councillors, for a resolution was available. With the Mayor’s extra vote to break a tied vote, the General Manager’s position would have been terminated.

Mayor Spencer has been quoted acknowledging “that Saturday’s meeting is regarding McKee but has stated that council has not yet resolved to terminate McKee and is merely re-assessing his performance. Although he does acknowledge that termination may well be the outcome of this assessment.” (Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post, 9 October 2021)

This Extraordinary meeting was then re-scheduled three times with the same result. No quorum, no resolution.
However this has now been raised to the attention of the media and the Minister for Local Government who stated in an SMH article on 27th October

“Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock said she had sought urgent advice from the Office of Local Government on how to intervene in the council, which has been stuck in limbo because it has lacked the required numbers at meetings for business to be discussed.

“In the interim, I am calling on the council to refrain from making any decision in relation to the general manager’s employment or other decisions with ramifications for the incoming council,” Mrs Hancock said on Wednesday.’ See the full link here.

However this issue of the General Manager’s position has persisted and extended into the Ordinary Council Meetings, effectively ensuring that no meetings have been held since September and no Council business conducted.

Additionally there have been more unpleasant manoeuvrings within council chambers that have resulted in Mayor Spencer being banned from speaking to staff.

Mr McKee wrote ‘“It is not appropriate for staff to be subjected to explicit or implicit threats of dismissal by a mayor. It is not appropriate for a mayor to threaten disciplinary or other retributory action towards staff, explicitly or implicitly.” For the full article click here.

We hope that this saga which has brought our Council into disrepute will soon come to an end as the council enters caretaker mode.

Heritage Act Reforms

In May 2021, the NSW Government announced a major review of the Heritage Act, 1977 which would contribute to its legislative reform.

The NSW Heritage Act is the single most important instrument in our state that identifies, protects and conserves our heritage and we believe should only be strengthened.

FOKE participated in a National Trust Forum on the Government’s Discussion Paper on the 9th May with 277 experts, heritage organisations and other participants.

We believe the current Heritage Act is very robust and working well and needs only minor updating.

The stated intention of the review is to make heritage ownership easier, more affordable and maximising a heritage item’s economic value.  

Our main concern is that the discussion paper intends to water down the current Heritage Act’s conservation and protection measures. Under the rationale for the review, the prescriptive controls which have helped conserve and protect heritage items are cited as outdated, with no real comment as to best practice improvements or any strengthening of the Act.

Rather the paper recommends a ‘nuanced’ approach to heritage controls, which will only lead to individual interpretations resulting in legal battles among residents, developers and local and state planning controls. Prescriptive controls have proven to be successful in other countries such as the UK.

The key areas supported in our submission relate to the need to address Aboriginal Heritage, the ability to issue penalty infringement notices for non-compliance or wilful deterioration of a heritage item, and financial incentives for funding conservation.

The issues raised that are not supported are streamlining the delisting process, and extending the levels of heritage protection into four categories.

However, the Act would benefit by excluding heritage from State Significant Developments, which currently can override the provisions of the Heritage Act. As we have just seen with the removal of Willow Grove to make way for the Parramatta Powerhouse museum.

Similarly, Heritage items should have a significant conserved perimeter where no development is allowed. Most heritage is an item in a setting that adds to its value and historic validity, hence the area surrounding it needs to be similarly protected.

Why are only 4% of the 40,000 State Heritage Inventory Items actually listed on the Heritage Register?

The Heritage Council is adding fewer and fewer items each year. Without protection these items will be lost. The National Trust (NSW) have listed over 100 buildings and places that in their view warrant State Heritage listing which the Heritage Office has not registered.

Heritage assessment and relevance to local, state or national significance should be maintained. Any proposed amendments should result in better heritage outcomes rather than a weakening of heritage protections.

Council’s Quiet Divestment of Community Land

In a controversial decision in June, council resolved behind closed doors the future of ‘surplus’ parcels of ‘operational’ land for divestment.

Ratepayers deserve to know which council owned land is described as ‘surplus land’ and why it is being proposed to be divested!  

FOKE has been strongly opposed to public land being sold off particularly when that land will never be returned to community use or replaced. Now over 27 council owned properties that were ‘community classified’ and maintained under Plans of Management are now classified as ‘operational’.  Operational classification allows council to sell and allow the redevelopment of this land without ensuring a replacement. 

Processes around the disposal of public land are supposed to be fully accountable and transparent!  Whilst there are some issues around confidentiality with respect to land valuations, the community deserve openness and transparency as to which land is being divested and whether it will be replaced.

We believe that if community owned land is ‘surplus’ to Ku-ring-gai’s needs then ratepayers should be consulted prior to the land or property being considered for divestment by council!   

As an example, Council’s Havilah Lane public car park in Lindfield which provided public car spaces for 25 cars was considered by Council as surplus council land and was sold to a developer for approximately $4.6 million for 8 storey unit development several years ago!   The 25 carspaces that the Lindfield centre lost from that commercial sale and disposal have not been replaced in the provision of new parking space in the Lindfield Village Green despite the Commissioner’s Reclassification Report recommendation that the money from the sale be spent back in Lindfield.

‘Community’ classification is council owned land which should be kept for use by the general public with the use and management of community land regulated by a plan of management.

Operational land is council owned land held as a temporary asset or as an investment, land which facilitates the carrying out of Council functions or land which may not be open to the general public, such as a works depot! 

The problem that we have in Ku-ring-gai now is that the majority of council owned land is now reclassified ‘operational’.  This includes community facilities and local parks such as Bates Park in Roseville Chase.

Operational classification of land takes the control out of the community and into the control of bureaucrats and councillors in deciding future outcomes which may or may not be in the long term public interest!

This is especially important at a time of increasing population where greater avenues for open space are essential to our residents’ health and amenity.

The challenge of protecting and enhancing Ku-ring-gai’s character

Following on from December’s article on Ku-ring-gai’s Local Character Study, we now have the next iteration of these Broad Local Character statements for review as a result of comments received from residents.


In January, FOKE also made a submission to NSW Planning regarding its Local Character Overlay policy. This has provided us with further clarification of this policy approach.


Although FOKE welcomes any planning initiative to protect Ku-ring-gai’s Local Character, FOKE remains concerned that the Local Character Statements and Local Character Overlays obscure contrary objectives of increasing medium density development via the new ‘Low Rise Housing Diversity Code’ (LRHDC). This would continue to decimate Ku-ring-gai’s character, heritage and environment, if allowed.


It is apparent that the underlying objective is not preserving local character, but increases in population density. This is assumed as the starting point and cornerstone of this Local Character approach to planning, rather than adopting a more balanced and respectful approach.


The approach for these Broad Local Character Areas (BLCA) is to firstly define Ku-ring-gai’s physical characteristics. This first stage will not examine the social and cultural characteristics of our areas, which include many of the key elements of Ku-ring-gai’s core character, our cultural heritage and development.


Whilst we agree the need for Local Character Statements and Local Character Overlays in protecting areas of special Local Character, however, there are a number of red flags which arise from examining the public exhibition documents. 


In drilling down on the objectives of this planning direction, there is regular reference to promoting more medium density development via the ‘Low Rise Housing Diversity Code’ (LRHDC).  This code has been roundly criticised by councils as being able to potentially destroy vast areas of established Local Character.


These documents clearly state that with respect to seeking exemptions from the LRHDC in a Local Character Area, a Council would “need to demonstrate that without complying development, the housing needs can still be effectively met.” 


And this is at a time when we are seeing a massive drop in population growth in Sydney that will impact housing requirements for years to come.


As the Ku-ring-gai Housing Strategy approved by Council in 2020 has not yet been approved by NSW Planning, areas for ‘change’ or ‘desired future character’, essentially meaning rezoning, are not being actively sought in this process. However, the Housing Strategy is defined for a period to 2036 and thereafter additional housing will again be on the agenda.


So what to do:

Participate in the Ku-ring-gai Local Character Study which is now on public exhibition until Monday 26th April.  The link to all the information is –  Ku-ring-gai-Local-Character-Background-Study 


The video clearly outlines the detail of the approach and then you will be able to respond via the online survey or make a detailed submission. You will note the updated character statements focus on the physical characteristics of the areas.


FOKE’s view is that by segmenting the approach to these statements into physical character first, and then later the social and cultural character, will undermine the value of our heritage conservation areas (HCAs) and heritage values across our suburbs.


An essential feature of HCAs and character areas is their relationship with historic subdivision patterns and history. Severing that relationship diminishes and degrades the significance of Ku-ring-gai’s history and heritage, and so endangers the protection of its built and natural environment, and essentially degrades the local character.

Ku-ring-gai’s Housing Strategy – Further changes!

Ku-ring-gai Council is preparing yet another Residential Housing Strategy, a planning process driven by the NSW Dept of Planning to periodically rezone more and more of our established garden suburbs for ever denser and taller apartment blocks.

As we have expressed in earlier articles, Council is expected by the State Government to plan new housing for a population increase in Ku-ring-gai of 25,000 people from 2016 to 2036.

This Draft Ku-ring-gai Housing Strategy (KHS) is now on Exhibition until May 8. We urge you to review the Strategy at Draft_Ku-ring-gai_Housing_Strategy_to_2036. 

The KHS is proposing 10,660 new medium and high-density dwellings to 2036.  This is additional to the 13,000 new dwellings Ku-ring-gai has already approved in the last 15 years, and equates to a staggering 41% population increase since 2006.

The KHS is the last step prior to new zoning and Local Environment Plans being introduced later this year or 2021 and Council needs to hear your views on this Strategy.

This strategy will add large tracts of medium and high density dwellings within 800 metres of rail  or main transport nodes, initially focused on four Primary local centres Lindfield, Gordon, Turramurra and St Ives. On average, from 2021 to 2036, a high 1,660 new dwellings per Primary Local Centre.

Lindfield, Gordon, Killara and St Ives are acknowledged by Council as having borne the weight of the previous 20% population increase in Ku-ring-gai to 2018. Yet Lindfield, Gordon and St Ives are being targeted again, with Turramurra, to take 100% of the new growth! This is unsustainable.

Increased heights of apartment towers to 10-15 storeys are proposed for the Primary Local Centres with up to 20 storeys for Gordon town centre. Outside of these Primary Centres, other areas including neighbourhood centres, are being investigated for medium density up to a 400 metre radius.

It is important that your voice is heard on this important Strategy. For details of our concerns from an assessment of the full range of accompanying documents, please see FOKE Letter to Ku-ring-gai residents.

To assist you with points or ideas for a submission please see Guideline for Draft Housing Strategy submission April 2020

FOKE and other community groups participated in the community workshops in December 2019 and February 2020 and responses from these workshops have raised a number of concerns:

  • That Council decisions are being overridden, by the State Government, Sydney North Planning Panel and Land and Environment Court.
  • There needs to be better protection for the local character, heritage, and our ‘green’ environment.
  • That development of the strategy should include accompanying studies on water, sewerage, parking and infrastructure;
  • The need for affordable housing, not just luxury units, combined with the impact of overseas investment where our local character is not valued.
  • Council is not addressing areas that require more urgent focus: new facilities, new parks, footpaths, run off, impacts of an increasing population, school capacity, congestion and development of an urban forest strategy.
  • Detached houses should remain the predominant dwelling type as this is the preference of residents, as supported by numerous surveys.
  • There was a strong preference for medium density (townhouses/villas) rather than high density (apartments) for new dwellings that must be supported in zoning and targets.

Where are the updated Baseline studies that were essential in the development of the last Residential Development Strategy in 2002?   The four baseline studies were Heritage and Neighbourhood Character, Infrastructure, Environment and Traffic and Transport Studies. The studies assisted council in planning this strategy and in protecting the heritage and the environment of Ku-ring-gai.  The cumulative impact of the layering of development must be considered before planning for more development and whether it is ecologically sustainable.

Again and again our growth targets are being updated over short timeframes and approved growth not included in the revised targets.

Council has acknowledged that the 4000 new dwellings required for Ku-ring-gai as part of the North District Plan during the 5 year period from 2016 to 2021 will be met through existing approvals and zonings.

The net new dwelling target for Ku-ring-gai is 10,660 to 2036. Excluding the 4,000 already agreed as deliverable, that leaves 6,660 net new dwellings remaining over the remaining 15 years. With 3,000 in Stage 2 to 2026, and 1,800 new dwellings in each of Stage 3 to 2031, and Stage 4 to 2036.

FOKE contends that more than half of these requirements can be dealt with under existing zoning, especially around town centres. As such minimal, if any, rezonings should be required to reach the 2036 target. This is, however, not what is shown in the Draft Housing Strategy.

We expect Council to adhere to the statement on their website, that they ‘can deliver the additional dwellings while protecting and enhancing our much-loved local character’.

NSW’s Catastrophic Summer Needs Action

New laws are urgently needed to protect Ku-ring-gai’s bushland, forested landscapes and biodiversity.

Australia’s unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires have changed everything.  Never before has Australia witnessed an 11,000km fire edge that has burnt so much of Australia.  Never before have temperatures been so high or prolonged, such severe drought, and hazardous smoke haze blanketing our cities.

The scale of the recent bushfires is hard to comprehend, with over 5.4 million hectares of NSW impacted by bushfires since July 2019.  More than a third of NSW’s national parks and reserves have been burnt out, including Sydney’s World Heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains National Park.  Nationwide, 34 people have tragically died, 3500 homes burnt and an estimated billion wildlife obliterated.  We now face the very real threat of extinction for many of our wildlife including our iconic koala.

FOKE has argued for many years that Ku-ring-gai, as an environmentally sensitive area, needs sensitive and controlled development.  Already too much of Ku-ring-gai’s natural environment has been destroyed by successive NSW Governments who have sponsored overdevelopment, without regard for long term impacts.  Ku-ring-gai needs ‘no go’ zones, where development is prohibited, especially in its bushfire prone areas.  East and West Killara and North and South Turramurra are renowned as extreme bushfire danger hotspots, yet they continue to be targeted for more development in the form of secondary dwellings.

Ku-ring-gai urgently needs new legislation to protect its many threatened and endangered species.  Ku-ring-gai is a landscape prone to bushfire threat. It is time to place sustainable limits on future housing numbers. It is time to review and reverse the NSW Government’s plans for increased high-medium housing throughout Ku-ring-gai, particularly on its ridge, which now retains less than 1% of our remnant Blue Gum High Forest, and where Sydney Turpentine Ironbark forests remain.  It is time to put in place new planning laws that preserve and protect our unique environment – more important than ever when so much of NSW’s environment is facing ecological collapse.

Despite decades of scientific warnings, successive governments have failed to take the decisive action on climate change. Climate change was predicted in the 2008 Garnaut report that warned, “Fire Seasons will start earlier, and later and be more intense.  The effect increases over time but should be directly observable by 2020.”  Thankfully Matt Kean, NSW Environment Minister, has strongly promoted the need for action on climate change, at a time, when NSW was not only devastated by catastrophic bushfire but also wild storms.  Lindfield, Killara and Gordon were badly hit in late 2019, with what residents describe as a ‘mini-cyclone’, causing tall gum tree trunks to snap in half, so ferocious were wind speeds.

We need our state Members of Parliament to take leadership and address the causes and consequences of climate change that will continue to profoundly affect the health and resilience of Ku-ring-gai’s environment but also its residents’ health and wellbeing.

Ku-ring-gai is one of the most biodiverse regions of Sydney.  Its bushland and remnant forests are vital refuges for wildlife. With urban temperatures rising, Ku-ring-gai’s role as the ‘Green Heart of Sydney’ is even more significant when Sydney had 81 days of hazardous bushfire smoke.

New laws are needed to protect and enhance Ku-ring-gai’s environment, biodiversity and protect residents from future climate disasters.  Scientists have been warning government for years, that the rate of growth is unsustainable and that we are hitting our limits, creating ‘superwicked’ problems!

NSW Planning agenda for megacity Sydney!

Ku-ring-gai Council has prepared a draft 20 year Local Strategic Planning Statement (LSPS) for Ku-ring-gai that meets the objectives and population targets established by NSW Planning, and its implementation arm, the Greater Sydney Commission. All Councils are required to do likewise.

Commencing in the latter part of this year there are a number of policies being put forward for community comment to further inform these planning objectives. In November we were asked to complete a Housing Survey to inform Council as to our expectations of appropriate housing for the future in Ku-ring-gai.

Council’s statement that the projected increase in Ku-ring-gai’s population over 20 years of an additional 31,000 people, ‘represents a relatively modest growth compared to many parts of Greater Sydney’ fails to mention the fact that since 2006 the population of Ku-ring-gai has increased by 20% to 2018 (as stated in the LSPS). Council fails to take into account the cumulative impact of the earlier period since 2004 when Ku-ring-gai was targeted for high growth.

This new target projects another increase of 25% up to 2036. This is a dramatic 50% population increase over 30 years. This is not a modest growth…this is a rapid and destructive growth target.
So, we will have a draft Housing Survey on exhibition in early 2020. We are also requested before Christmas to complete the survey on a Draft Urban Forest Strategy and Draft Recreation in Natural Areas Strategy, as well as a Draft Community Participation Plan. Please participate and go to http://www.kmc.nsw.gov.au/Your_Council/Organisation/Have_my_say_public_exhibitions. And these and more surveys and policies will be rolling out over the next 12 months.

The draft LSPS was approved by Council on 19th November with minor amendments, though much more were sought from the community. It is a sign of the speed of this process that no baseline studies have been undertaken in the preparation of the Draft Local Strategic Planning Statement to inform the document. An improved process was undertaken in 2000 in preparation for the Ku-ring-gai Residential Development Strategy, where 4 baseline studies (Environment, Heritage and Local Character, Traffic and Transport and Infrastructure) were undertaken as a basis for planning before the Plan was drawn up.

Key studies critical to the LSPS remain unfunded such as the Local Character Study, Urban Forest, Green Grid, Open Space Sport and Recreation, and Creative Arts Strategies. Funds must be allocated to ensure these studies are completed in the short term. We would also think it is imperative that an environmental study is undertaken to assess the cumulative impacts of the past two decades of development on the critically endangered ecological communities.

FOKE recommends that it be a requirement for council staff to prepare a Ku-ring-gai Map overlaying all development which has occurred in the past 15 years since the Residential Development Strategy and subsequent LEPS were put in place since 2004, covering the projected 800 meters from each local centre, and 400 metres from neighbourhood centres, as required for high or medium density in the LSPS. This will need to be overlaid with Ku-ring-gai fire zones, riparian and sensitive bushland areas, heritage conservation areas, heritage homes, areas of high slope and slip, developed SEPP 5 and Seniors Living development sites, dual occupancy and boarding house development which has been approved and built etc to assess the constraints and the cumulative impact and layering of development which has occurred within Ku-ring-gai since 2004. Only then will we be able to assess a realistic target for growth.

FOKE will continue to pursue informed and proper process and the feasibility of this additional population with Ku-ring-gai Council, our councillors and our local representatives. It is clear that Ku-ring-gai’s heritage and environment has been impacted and degraded from the last two decade’s urban consolidation programme

Ku-ring-gai’s Plans for our Future: Massive increase in High Density!

Following many months of deliberation, the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) North District Commissioner, Dr Debra Dearing, and council staff have released for public comment, the Draft Ku-ring-gai Local Strategic Planning Statement (LSPS).

Ultimately, the LSPS will help guide future changes to Ku-ring-gai’s planning controls – the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP).

We urge all residents to read the Draft LSPS and to make a submission before the August 12 deadline.  FOKE has provided some submission points for you to consider, attached here.

Overall, the LSPS espouses all the correct statements about protecting the environment, Ku-ring-gai’s biodiversity, character and heritage. However this is overshadowed by the high numbers of new dwellings to be required in our area. The plan acknowledges we have already met our North District plan targets for 2021. Many areas already planned for development have also not been included to meet our future dwelling targets. FOKE had consistently lobbied for no changes to the current LEP zoning until those areas already planned or designated for medium and high density in our town centres are taken up.

Specifically concerning are the ‘Principles for Housing’ which now plans to locate high density housing within an 800 metre radius from our town centres. In our current LEPs high density is essentially restricted to town centres. In NSW high density has meant High Rise!

This change will have a dramatic impact on our heritage areas, usually with close proximity to town centres. The LSPS then adds a section of medium density, plus 400 metres around neighbourhood centres. This will continue to dramatically alter the heritage character and tall tree environment of Ku-ring-gai! The plan put forward in the draft is ecologically damaging and unsustainable.

The essence of the document is a foundation for the Housing, Open Space, Heritage, Sport, Recreation, Social, Cultural, Employment and Sustainability plans that will be produced by Council and Exhibited for comment.

This draft planning statement is important as it will establish the planning principles in Ku-ring-gai for the next 20 years! 

ACT NOW: For more information and to make a submission see:kmc.nsw.gov.au/Have_my_say_public_exhibitions/Ku-ring-gai_Local_Strategic_Planning_Statement_LSPS

The Once Lucky Country

‘The Once Lucky Country’ article makes some poignant warnings about where Australia’s cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne, are headed under current planning policies in terms of housing cost, liveability and jobs.

The article appeared in the City Journal and is written by Joel Kotkin. He is the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, USA, and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

Click here for the full article. The Once Lucky Country

Berejiklian’s Destructive Record on the Environment

With the Berejiklian Government now re-elected, we cannot ignore that this Government has demonstrated such contempt for protecting the environment.

It was positive to hear that the Don Harwin, NSW Energy Minister acknowledge “The Federal Government is out of touch on energy and climate policy …” Yet its own performance on climate change has been woeful, with many new coal mines approved in NSW over the past 4 years.

The NSW Government passed its Orwellian ‘Biodiversity’ laws that allows the destruction of habitat by greenlighting broadscale land clearing of native bushland.  Nor can its flawed “offset money” for biodiversity management ever compensate for the loss of endangered habitat.

Regional Forest Agreements were renewed in 2018, signalling more intensive and destructive logging regimes of our State Forests which are pushing koalas and other arboreal mammals to extinction.

The Berejiklian Government has passed legislation (Water NSW Act) to raise the Warragamba Dam wall and flood 4,700 hectares of World Heritage national parks.

Major funding cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service have also occurred during the Coalition’s time in office.  This Government also revoked Marine Sanctuaries and then backflipped on its plans for a Sydney Marine Park.

The Nature Conservation Council has prepared a report recommending 5 key points for 2019 election candidates in order to protect our nature and make climate our number-one priority. See nature.org.au/nsw-election-2019.

  1. Set up a $2-billion regional renewable energy fund to accelerate the transition to clean energy;
  2. Set up a $1.5-billion land and biodiversity fund to restore bushland and forest to protect all high-conservation-value habitat from clearing;
  3. Establish a Sydney Marine Park to give the marine life the world-class protections it deserves;
  4. Create the Great Koala National Park to save our iconic species for future generations; and
  5. End logging of public native forests to protect these remaining ecosystems, which are among the most diverse in the world.

NSW needs leaders who recognise a healthy, functioning environment is essential for the health and wellbeing of its people.

Higher Density: The Facts Don’t Stack Up!

By Tony Recsei, President of Save our Suburbs. 

Save Our Suburbs, a community group with members across Sydney, is alarmed at planning policies being introduced to force high-density into suburbs originally designed for low density living. The NSW Planning and Environment Department proceeds to implement these policies irrespective of the political party currently in government. The Department makes claims of benefits for its policies that do not stand up to analysis.

It maintains that high density is more sustainable. An Australian Conservation Foundation study has calculated annual greenhouse gas emissions per average person living in each post code. This shows the annual national average for high-density areas is 27.9 tonnes per person, compared to 17.5 tonnes for low density areas. High density is significantly less sustainable.

The Department claims that high-density makes housing more affordable. But we have seen more affordable older or smaller apartment buildings and homes replaced by high-density luxury units, essentially removing the lower value stepping stones into the housing market that worked so well for decades.

To force an increasing population into high-density the rate of land release on Sydney’s periphery was severely curtailed. This resulted in a scarcity that pushed up housing prices, where the land cost component has now more than doubled. The beneficiaries of these excess costs are developers and the government, which receives higher stamp duties and other fees.

High-density results in the degradation of the city’s environment. Gardens and remnant bushland are replaced by hard surfaces. City greenery which absorbs carbon dioxide and other pollutants and cool the city is vanishing. Rainwater, no longer absorbed by open ground, carries pollution into our rivers and ocean.

We were told that high-density would result in less car travel and its associated congestion and pollutants as everyone would use public transport. A 2004 Melbourne study which measured the percentage of car travel by people, before and after densification, found there was no resulting change. People still use their cars and comparisons of world cities show that the more density the more congestion.

The Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) claims that with its vision of a Metropolis of Three Cities no one will be more than a 30 minutes away from their jobs and public services. It assumes that currently most Sydney jobs are in the CBD and asserts this is what its Metropolis of Three Cities will change. But this assumption is incorrect. A 2018 study by the Grattan Institute finds that only 14.5% of jobs are currently in the CBD and the rest are spread throughout the city. Therefore, one cannot see the Commission’s 3 cities plan significantly changing the current overall jobs/dwelling relationship. The real situation is much more complicated than the Commission assumptions.

The Markelius plan for Stockholm is an example of a failed attempt to reduce travel by building high-rise dwellings and employment opportunities in centres. Only 15% to 24% of workers living in such centres worked there, the rest commuted out. In a democracy, one cannot dictate to people where they should live and work. Choices are made based on many individual factors. Yet the GSC uses its 3-city scenario as a justification to force high-density into communities.

There are examples of other planning possibilities. In the US, the fastest growing cities have lower densities, with resultant lower house prices and less congestion. For example Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are larger than Sydney but experience house prices one third of Sydney’s as well as lower journey times to work and lower measures of congestion.

New South Wales needs to adopt a more open-minded and objective approach to planning and learn from others. And importantly, we need to use regulation sparingly and not to enforce the implementation of unproved ideology.

Celebrating 25 years

This year marks 25 years of FOKE working to protect the Ku-ring-gai’s heritage and environment.
Over this time, we have made hundreds of submissions to Council, various NSW Government departments and the Greater Sydney Commission on issues pertinent to Ku-ring-gai. We regularly and often present at Council meetings and have raised many, many petitions canvassing community opinions.

We have had successes at both the local and government level, particularly when banding together with like-minded community groups. However, there remains much to do as we fight to protect Ku-ring-gai from overdevelopment, the degradation of our bushland and forests and the loss of our character and heritage.

We thank all our members for their support. We could not continue without you!

Council Amalgamations

NSW Government’s Council Amalgamation Push always lacked validity.

In July 2017, the NSW Government stated it would abandon forced council amalgamations, ending an 18-month war with the state’s local municipalities. Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said Sydney’s communities needed certainty prior to council elections. But added that “The Government remains committed to reducing duplication, mismanagement and waste by councils so communities benefit from every dollar spent.”

The NSW Government has backed away from the amalgamation threat to Ku-ring-gai and a small number of other city Councils. However, we remain concerned that this may still be a longer term policy of the Local Government Minister.

The proposal to amalgamate council areas makes many assumptions which are not backed by evidence. Mayor Abelson from Mosman is an economist and has co-authored an interesting and thought-provoking paper called Smoke and Mirrors on the forced amalgamation issue. To read the summary presentation, click here Smoke & Mirrors Presentation 2015. To download the full report, click here Smoke & Mirrors Report.


The Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) has released a comprehensive analysis of the financial performance of councils forcibly amalgamated in 2016. The publication ‘Council Amalgamations: A Sea of Red Ink’ was released in Sydney outside Parliament House on Thursday 7 March 2019, and in Orange on Friday 8 March. Read the report here.

The SOCC analysis shows that the combined study of metro council operating results will deliver $114 million less than the government’s proposal targets of $103 million surplus. The regional and country study of 13 mega councils shows a combined deficit of $48 million – expenditure exceeding income.

The Forced Council Amalgamations in NSW was Bad Policy pursued by a flawed process. It has failed to deliver the claimed financial benefits. It has resulted in a loss of identity and loss of effective representation for communities forcibly merged. The Government must take responsibility and allow communities wrongly merged a referendum to demerge if that is their wish. It is obvious from the report that ‘bigger is not better’ for local government!


Finally, the Berejiklian Government is having a moment of pause in their developer driven destruction of our suburbs.

In May 2018 Planning Minister Roberts responded to the pressure caused by the rapid growth of apartments by stating he will put a suspension on new residential developments in the areas of Ryde and Canterbury Bankstown Council.

Has our State Government and their mouthpiece, the Greater Sydney Commission, finally listened to the uproar among residents regarding the rapid spread of high-rise developments and the new laws allowing increased medium density in our R1 and R2 residential areas? The Government may have finally realised that it is the residents, not the developers, who will determine whether they are re-elected next March.

This Government has to listen to their constituents and suspend or dramatically reduce new residential development across Sydney until infrastructure and services can absorb it. It also needs to rescind its flawed Medium Density laws which essentially crowd more people into smaller spaces in existing suburbs. As complying development, this destructive and irresponsible medium density law does not require Council, transport or services to assess whether an area can even support it.

This Missing Middle code is so flawed that already four councils have been granted a 12 month delay from its July 2018 introduction, with another five councils seeking deferrals and more to come. Minister Roberts states there was extensive consultation, with FOKE among hundreds of submissions. However, the Planning Minister never altered the proposed code in the face of nearly universal opposition, from both communities and councils, for the medium density code to be complying development!

What is the Medium Density Housing Code? The Medium Density Housing Code, extends medium density development throughout current low density single dwelling (R2 zone) residential areas as complying development. As complying development, developers will not need to get development application approval, with neighbours only required to be informed of these developments without the right to object. As long as these developments meet a predetermined set of guidelines they can be fast-tracked through Council. Currently the R3 zone has been specifically designed to deliver medium density. The proposed plan is to allow complying medium density development on residential R1, R2 land where multi-dwellings are allowed, with a street frontage of 12m or more and a minimum lot size of 400sqm, with 5 townhouses on a lot of 1000 square metres.

These medium density complying developments include townhouses, terraces, manor homes (2up, 2 down) and dual occupancies. This proposal applies an extended rezoning for medium density (with minor exceptions) to low-density residential land. It does not take into account the cumulative effects of intensifying development on local infrastructure, services, traffic, street car parking, social services and amenities. It overrides local environment plans and planning controls to the detriment of residents. Also please read FOKE’s Media Release Low Density Residential Zones to Disappear.

Lindfield Hub and sale of Library site a big negative for Ku-ring-gai!

The Lindfield Hub site which is to house the new Lindfield Library, Seniors and Community Centre as well as shops, cafes, supermarkets and carparking is still far from finalised. However, this has not stopped Ku-ring-gai Council lodging a Development Application for the existing Library, tennis courts and community services buildings to be replaced by a 134 units across 8 storey buildings on the site.

The Lindfield Hub, previously agreed by the community to be no higher than 7 storey residential is now being pushed by Council to be up to 14 storeys, with less open space and public amenity. In the community workshops for the new higher density proposals, the reaction by residents has been understandably negative.  A scale back of the Lindfield Hub was supported to fit the site, not to go higher. With sizeable libraries in both Chatswood and Gordon, with 2 existing supermarkets and a mega Harris Farm, the plans for the Lindfield Hub are now believed to be overdeveloped. The community is increasingly annoyed that the funds from the sale of another Lindfield community asset, the Lindfield Library site, are not going to be used to support the Hub and new community facilities, hence forcing the increased densification (14 storeys) of the Hub site to support its development.

Moving to higher residential buildings for the Lindfield Hub will set a precedent for higher density and highrise across Ku-ring-gai.

FOKE president Kathy Cowley spoke to the North Shore Times in January 2019 and confirmed FOKE  did not agree with selling the public land. “We believe it should be held in public interest because we need more community facilities, not less,” she said.

She said an application to demolish the library was premature when there was no replacement Library available. Assurances from Council that this would not occur appear to have been overlooked.

Within one kilometre of the current Library site there are 5 primary schools which makes this move to sell the existing site without a satisfactory and well-placed replacement, a retrograde step for the community.

We have until February 14th to comment on this Lindfield Library site DA. Please make your concerns heard by responding to Council with reference to DA0570/18.

A Population Policy or a Pre-Election Mirage?

Since our 2017 AGM when Dick Smith spoke of the need for a Population Policy and limits to what our cities can absorb each year, the concerns have only increased and are peaking in the pre-election promises of both our State and Federal leaders.

In October, Premier Berejiklian has called for a halving of NSW’s migrant intake, with the debate on population policy now resting on congestion, liveability, housing affordability and infrastructure.

Premier Berejiklian has now appointed an expert panel to develop a population policy for NSW. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the current high rates of population growth are putting even more pressure on our infrastructure. It is now time for us to take stock and get ahead.” The Premier renewed her call for net overseas migration levels to return to more sustainable Howard-era rates when NSW net overseas migration was steady at around 45,000 a year, rather than the current 100,000.

With both Victoria and NSW lobbying for a review of immigration levels, Premier Morrison is expected to cut the number of migrants coming to Australia by up to 30,000.

However, this debate cannot ignore more than 1 million temporary working visas and 350,000 international student visa holders currently requiring a home while in Australia. A population policy without a reduction in the number of future visa holders will not assist in addressing the congestion, liveability and housing needs of residents.

It is time for a constructive debate over immigration policy in the lead-up to the State and Federal elections. What is required is not just promises, but a coherent set of proposals and timetable of how this will occur. Promises, without concrete plans, will be futile. We have been there before on this issue.

Sydney’s Empty Buildings In 2017 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “a quarter of Chinese buying property overseas leave their apartments vacant and the majority pay for their purchase with cash, a survey of mainland Chinese customers by investment bank UBS shows.Another 25 per cent of overseas property owners use their homes on a temporary basis, suggesting about half of the overseas properties owned by mainland Chinese were not fully utilised.” Our suburbs are being bulldozed and radically altered so that non-residents can invest their capital while it does nothing to ease rental pressure, accommodate existing residents, or reduce prices for people looking to purchase their first home.

The need for a more sustainable population policy is required to improve the prospects for the next generations. Higher population does not equate to a higher standard of living. In fact, In the year to December 2017, real GDP grew by 2.36% in seasonally adjusted terms, however per capita GDP increased by only 0.8%. The Government is relying on population, rather than improved productivity, to maintain GDP. This implies that we, as individuals, are not benefitting from our current high levels of population growth. Click on the link for a more detailed perspective on Population and Housing.

High Impact Recreation in Bushland – a Trojan Horse?

Ku-ring-gai Council is currently promoting more ‘recreational use’ of our bushland reserves.  FOKE has real concerns that these high impact sports will seriously threaten Ku-ring-gai’s natural environment by clearing, fragmenting and degrading sensitive bushland that will seriously threaten Ku-ring-gai’s birds and wildlife whose habitat is being coveted by recreational users.

Ku-ring-gai Council signalled its support for high impact sports by first inviting sports users to workshops promoting these sports followed by invitations to those with environmental concerns. Some of the high impact sports include trail running, rock climbing, abseiling and mountain biking.

The National Parks Association has raised an alarm happening in Orange, where the Orange City Council has supported the construction of 60 kilometres of mountain bike trails in the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Areas – supposedly a protected site.  The mountain bike industry is also pushing for 82 kilometres of constructed bike tracks in the Illawarra Escarpment Conservation Areas that will clear up to 16 hectares of rare and sensitive rainforest.

High impact sports are no more appropriate in bushland reserves than clearing them for netball courts or new ovals.  Illegal bike tracks do exist in bushland reserves and there is concerns that some of these tracks may be used as an excuse for bike track industries to justify further and more intrusive bike track construction in bushland areas.

It is important that this recreational policy is not allowed to appropriate and destroy Ku-ring-gai’s precious bushland, a vital habitat for many threatened birds and wildlife.

Council needs to hear from residents. Please email or call to let them know your concerns.

Protecting Ku-ring-gai’s Local Character requires more diligence.

Council is seeking input into the development of Ku-ring-gai’s Local Character in order to manage development ‘in a way that conserves and enhances Ku-ring-gai’s unique visual and landscape character’. This is an absolutely essential and important exercise and we fear that Council is just rushing this through its Local Strategic Planning Statement priorities, without the rigour that is required to effectively understand and allow the protections our area deserves.

In 2000, when the last Character Study was undertaken as one of the baseline studies to form the basis of the Residential Strategy for Ku-ring-gai, Council commissioned Heritage consultants (Gordon, Mackay, Logan) and Urban Planners (Keys, Young) to prepare a Heritage and Neighbourhood Character study. This comprised a rigorous assessment of the character of each suburb with a set of noteworthy, and still relevant, recommendations as to the retention of the area’s character and visual appeal as development occurred. A 1999 street by street analysis conducted by MA Schell consultants supported this Study.

The current Local Character Study will continue into 2021 and include workshops as well as the online survey and interactive mapping to gauge the community views as to what constitutes the character of Ku-ring-gai and our suburbs, but no substantial study has been included, nor are heritage consultants being used. This is a massive error when Ku-ring-gai has already seen a 25% increase in population since 2006 and the character of all our suburbs have been altered as a result.

The current study has divided Ku-ring-gai into 8 local character areas, Green Fingers (the suburbs bordering National Parks), Ku-ring-gai Ridge and Centres (Along the Pacific Highway ridgeline and St Ives centre), Northern Plateau (Wahroonga to Pymble and St Ives), Western Slopes (South Turramurra to south Wahroonga), West Pymble, Lower West (West Lindfield), Heritage Core (Roseville to Gordon) and North Turramurra Table.

In the online survey, each area has a character statement for comment and to add special places. We urge you to take the opportunity to participate, just follow this link www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Ku-ring-gai-Local-Character-Study. The deadline was 18th December, however the survey remains open for comment.

By defining and dissecting suburbs into Character Areas, the manner in which each suburb has developed independently, with the advent of the rail line or the move away from agriculture, is lost. The rationale of how each suburb has grown over the past 150 years is essential to its character.

As a community we believe that Ku-ring-gai deserves better than what is little more than a superficial approach to a critical Character Study. The future impact of further degradation of our area’s heritage, streetscape and character is at stake if there is not a more professional approach to identifying and conserving Ku-ring-gai’s special local character.

New Zoning Increases Bushfire Risk For Ku-Ring-Gai Residents

In Ku-ring-gai the memories of the fatal wildfires in 1994 and 2001/2 are still vivid for many residents. Our municipality is both blessed and cursed with close proximity to natural bush, forests on steep dry slopes rising out of National Parks and the bushfire hazard obvious to all. Since 21 November 2002 the hazard on our doorstep is mapped, certified by the RFS Commissioner and Gazetted by NSW Government. The Bushfire Evacuation Risk in Ku-ring-gai was also identified, mapped, certified and gazetted from 2002 pursuant to the SEPP Seniors Living for People with Disabilities, Rural Fire Act and the EP&A Act.

Alarmingly, it came as a shock to many in Ku-ring-gai when this NSW Government, appears to ignore their Duty of Care to the residents of the 13 areas of combined Bushfire Hazard with Bushfire Evacuation Risk, and went ahead with their apparent priority of increasing both density and population.

Minister Anthony Roberts has added these previously protected areas in Ku-ring-gai to the KLEP, rezoning them for the main part to Environmental Living 4. This new zoning, gazetted at the end of January 2018 permits the addition of secondary dwellings on existing developed blocks in areas of evacuation risk thereby potentially increasing density across these areas. These 13 areas all have in common, mostly a single road [viable in bushfire] servicing both emergency vehicles into the area with the same single road providing egress to evacuating residents. Add to this potentially disastrous mix of two opposing flows of traffic, the predictable compromised to nil visibility in bushfire, combined with the expected speed of wildfire due to slope and close proximity of the hazard and the prospect of fatalities becomes distinctly foreseeable.

Lead times for wildfire may not always be achievable, they may be short which can add to the prospect of fatalities, historically many fatalities occur from late evacuation on compromised evacuation routes.

All these facts make the Government’s planning decision to allow for increased density resulting in overpopulation and increased vehicles to evacuate on roads, in areas of gazetted compromised evacuation risk even more surprising. It surely must raise the following simple questions in this electorate. If the authorities cannot guarantee safe evacuation of the existing population in wildfire conditions, why would they potentially increase the density, population and number of vehicles to be evacuated? The second dwelling will not be unoccupied.

Why would a distinct lack of support in writing, for increased density from both the Police and the Fire Authorities, RFS, to both the local Council and the Department of Planning NSW be ruthlessly disregarded?

Is the Government, the Liberal Party and the Greater Sydney Commission so committed to endless population growth using the pretext of Affordable Housing, that increased density is their only objective? Has this objective itself been allowed to override existing government gazettes and all other considerations and warnings?

These are legitimate questions for individuals to raise in the common Public Interest. Those with legal backgrounds may feel a necessity to think about relevant negligence and other liability issues that may affect future survivors of bushfire in Ku-ring-gai.

It is essential for the preservation of life in the next bushfire event, as there surely will be one, that we keep the pressure on our MPs and Minister Roberts to have this rezoning overturned! Please write, email and confront your MPs about what can only be seen as an act of the highest irresponsibility!