FOKE Evidence on Planning

FOKE presented evidence to the NSW Parliament Upper House Portfolio Committee No. 7 regarding its inquiry into the planning system and the impact of climate change on the environment and communities on Friday 10 May 2024 at the aks Room, Dee Why RSL, Dee Why from  12.00 pm to 12.45 pm. Appearing alongside FOKE was Friends of Lane Cove National Park Inc

The Upper House Portfolio 7 Committee consist of: Chair: Higginson, Sue (GRNS, LC Member); Deputy Chair: Ruddick, John (LP, LC Member); Members: Buttigieg, Mark (ALP, LC Member); D’Adam, Anthony (ALP, LC Member); Farlow, Scott (LIB, LC Member); Munro, Jacqui (LIB, LC Member); Primrose, Peter (ALP, LC Member)

FOKE Introductory Statement

Thank you for the opportunity for Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment, or ‘FOKE’ as we are known, to comment on Portfolio Committee No. 7’s Inquiry into the NSW planning system and the impact of climate change on the environment and communities.

In speaking about Ku-ring-gai, FOKE wishes to acknowledge the traditional owners of Ku-ring-gai, and that it is on the land of Gammeragal (Roseville) Darramurragal (Turramurra) and Guringai (West Head) Country.

FOKE is a community group, run by volunteers.  It celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year.  During these three decades FOKE has advocated for the protection of Ku-ring-gai’s natural, built and cultural heritage.

FOKE is deeply alarmed at the state of the current planning system and takes the view that it endangers the lives of residents from the accelerating impacts of climate change.  Ku-ring-gai, being surrounded by three national parks, is in a high bushfire prone area and with properties exposed to flood hazard.  With escalating climate change Ku-ring-gai will face more frequent, intense and life-threatening bushfires and flooding.

FOKE unreservedly opposes a NSW planning system that weakens environmental protections.  Stronger environmental protections at the state and federal level are urgently needed to stem the crisis of biodiversity extinction and the climate emergency.

The increasingly “one-size fits all” NSW planning system needs to be overhauled to ensure planning decisions prioritizes resilience, climate safety and biodiversity conservation.  In its current form it offers little protection.

Central to FOKE’s submission is the view that there has, and continues to be, a public policy failure with successive governments’ urban consolidation policies that drive dangerous climate by escalating the environmental crisis through land clearing, deforestation, habitat destruction, loss of canopy and seedbank.

FOKE is deeply concerned that the current NSW planning system and poor controls exerted by planning instruments, continues to profoundly change the landscape of Ku-ring-gai and its critically endangered ecological communities, particularly its remnant Blue Gum High Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest; as well as their capacity to regenerate into the future. It will also destroy Ku-ring-gai’s natural beauty and its urban villages, many of which are located within or adjacent to heritage conservation areas or national parks.

Over 70% of Ku-ring-gai’s Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs) are located on private land.

FOKE takes the view that the survival of these Endangered Ecological Communities are key to the survival of Ku-ring-gai’s tree canopy. Yet these Endangered Ecological Communities are under threat due to the decades of local government powers being weakened. 

Since the introduction of external planning panels and the deregulation and privatisation of compliance and enforcement regulators, local governments no longer have the regulatory and enforcement powers to refuse most development applications and ensure the ongoing conservation of its natural environment.

Complying development, SEPPs and substantially weakened legislation have fuelled tree removals on private land replacing small houses with oversized ‘McMansion’ type houses and apartment buildings; replacing trees and gardens with hard surfaces and reducing the property’s capacity for deep soil landscaping. Without adequate deep soil landscaping provisions on private property Ku-ring-gai’s Endangered Ecological Communities and canopy cannot survive into the future. Deeply alarming is that there is less than 1% left of Blue Gum High Forest in the world.

FOKE is concerned that current development proposals are assessed in isolation without consideration of the cumulative impacts of previous planning and development decisions and their impacts on the environment.

FOKE calls on the NSW Government to implement a new fit for purpose climate planning system, based on ecologically sustainable development and which uphold the highest standards of biodiversity conservation and climate resilience.

Find list of speakers at Inquiry Hearing on 10 May, 2024 HERE

Watch video of FOKE’s evidence at Inquiry on 10 May, 2024 HERE

Read full transcript HERE

Read FOKE’s Submission HERE