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.

Read full transcript HERE

Ku-ring-gai’s Letter to NSW

READ Ku-ring-gai’s open letter to NSW residents, published in early May 2024:

An open letter to NSW residents – WAKE UP

We’ve all heard about the NSW Government’s plans for increased housing. But no-one has heard anything about how our schools, hospitals, roads and parks are meant to support this population growth.

Read full letter HERE

Save Sydney Rally

RALLY Save our Suburb 12th March Sydney Domain Ipm


ON Tuesday 12 March 2024 1pm

AT Tree of Knowledge behind Parliament House, Hospital Road, Domain. Map here.

PROTEST against the new planning laws proposed by the NSW Government.

THREATENS every suburb across Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Lower Hunter, Greater Newcastle and Illawarra-Shoalhaven.

BRIING banners identifying your suburb or council area.

SPEAKERS will include MPs, Mayors & Community representatives.

SHARE with your networks, community groups, neighbours, friends and family.

VISIT SAVE GREATER SYDNEY COALITION  Website & Facebook 

CONTACT KATHY COWLEY, President, FOKE, info@foke.org.au for more information



TOD Inquiry Announced

The NSW Parliament has announced an Upper House Inquiry into the Development of the Transport Orientated Development Program (TOD).

Submissions are due on 28 March 2924.

The TOD Program will devastate Ku-ring-gais heritage conservation areas and environmentally sensitive lands particularly the 400 metres surrounding Roseville, Lindfield, Killara and Gordon Stations.

Both the TOD Program and the Low and Mid-rise Housing State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) will include a “non-refusal” standard which will disallow Ku-ring-gai Council heritage and environmental controls.

The TODs 3:1 FSR and 6-7 + storey heights (with no minimum lot size or lot width) will effectively wipe out Heritage Conservation Areas and remove critically endangered Blue Gum High Forest (BGHF) and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest (STIF) in Roseville, Lindfield, Killara and Gordon. 

The Upper House Committee consist of:

Chair: Sue Higginson MLC (GREENS)
Deputy Chair:  John Ruddick MLC (LDP)

Members: 
Mark Buttigieg MLC (ALP)
Anthony D’Adam MLC (ALP)
Scott Farlow MLC (LIBERAL)
Jacqui Munro MLC (LIBERAL)
Peter Primrose MLC (ALP)

The Terms of Reference can be found here.

It is critical that as many submissions be sent in by members of the community.

Say NO to NSW Government

Send your submission HERE by deadline Friday 23 February, 2024

Ideas to help you send your submission:

The NSW Minns Government planning ‘reforms’:


  • are grossly UNDEMOCRATIC.

  • are flawed. They undermine the integrity of the entire NSW PLANNING system and will lead to planning chaos.

  • will destroy the character, heritage and environment of Sydney’s diverse suburbs with a “one size fits all policy”.

  • fails to consider local amenity impacts, including overshadowing, loss of privacy, loss of scenic views, loss of streetscape.

  • fail to ensure good quality and good designed apartment buildings.
  • put the interests of property developers before the COMMUNITY.

  • will allow super windfall rezoning profits to be ‘gifted’ to property developers.

  • will not address the housing affordability crisis.

  • will open the NSW planning system to “corruption risk” with the introduction of the ‘non-refusal standards’ (including money-laundering).

  • deny natural justice for those residents living within a  Transport Oriented Development (TOD) with no opportunity to object.  

  • deny natural justice for those residents living across Sydney with the introduction of the Changes to create low and mid-rise housing occurring just before the Christmas, New Year and school holidays.

  • lack transparency and accountability. The Minns Government refuses to release the “Cabinet in confidence“ evidence justifying why Roseville, Lindfield, Killara and Gordon had the necessary infrastructure to take further density.   the TOD to be introduced 400 metres surrounding Roseville, Lindfield, Killara, Gordon Railway Stations can take the increase in density.

  • are environmentally irresponsible when Sydney’s natural ENVIRONMENT is under severe with the escalating threats of climate and biodiversity extinction.

  • fail to acknowledge Sydney’s environment interconnections. Ku-ring-gai is the lungs of Sydney. What happens to Ku-ring-gai’s trees will impact on Western Sydney’s, Northern Beaches, Sydney Harbour’s and the Hawkesbury River’s environmental health.

  • will devastate Ku-ring-gai’s natural environment with the overriding of existing Council protections including Tree & Vegetation Development Control Plan (DCP), Urban Forest Policy, Threatened Species Community.
  • Fail to acknowledge Ku-ring-gai as an environmentally sensitive area.  

  • Fail to acknowledge Ku-ring-gai’s Aboriginal heritage that is a local government area that has one of the most significant Aboriginal sites in Sydney.

  • will push Ku-ring-gai’s Critically Endangered Ecological Communities (Blue Gum High Forest, Sydney Turpentine Ironbark and Duffys Forest) and its wildlife and birdlife to extinction (Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act).

  • will destroy Ku-ring-gai’s tree canopy. Already Ku-ring-gai’s tree canopy is under serious threat with an 8-9% slash in tree canopy cover. The NSW Housing Strategy will accelerate this destruction. It will destroy the vital wildlife corridor/national park railway line ridge.

  • will have an adverse impact on Lane Cove National Park, Garigal National Park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. As well the integrity of the remaining pockets of intact Blue Gum High Forest at the Dalrymple-Hay Nature Reserve (St Ives), Sheldon Forest (Turramurra) will be placed under pressure. Other bushland reserves include Ku-ring-gai Flying-Fox Reserve (within 400 metres of Gordon Railway Station), Granny Springs Reserve (Turramurra), Swain Garden, Seven Little Australians Park.

  • ignores Ku-ring-gai’s geography. geology and climate. Ku-ring-gai suburbs are located on a thin ‘railway line’ ridge that climbs to about 200 metres and has the highest rainfall in Sydney. There are many creeks running from this ridge east and west, flowing down into either the Lane Cove, Garigal or Ku-ring-gai National Parks. The canopy trees, bushland reserves, gardens are environmentally critical to the survival of these national parks. The NSW housing policies will lead to more intensive hard surfaces.  During high rainfall events this will lead to flash flooding, with pollutants, rubbish and weeds being flushed into the National Parks.
  • will result in wildlife extinction. Ku-ring-gai has more native species than the entire United Kingdom. Ku-ring-gai is a hot bed of biological diversity that supports over 800 native plants, 170 fungi and 690 fauna species (including the threatened species – Grey-Headed Flying Fox and Powerful Owl.

  • ignores the evidence that Ku-ring-gai is one of Sydney’s most ecologically sensitive places.

  • Fail to provide an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regarding the  multiple rezonings since 2004 when the last major rezonings occurred as LEP 194.

  • will demolish Ku-ring-gai’s hard won HERITAGE Conservation Areas that includes the nation’s best 20th Century domestic architecture.

  • fail to acknowledge and respect the character, heritage and environment of a local area. They are blunt, one-size-fits all changes that will irreversibly destroy a community’s liveability, character, heritage and the environment.

  • abrogate NSW’s obligations to protect individual heritage items (eg Eryldene)  and Heritage Conservation Areas . If allowed it means that heritage protection will be extinguished across NSW.

  • will destroy Ku-ring-gai’s heritage where the ‘natural dominates the built form’. Ku-ring-gai’s garden and bushland suburbs will be demolished and replaced with hard surface concrete.

  • fails to recognise Ku-ring-gai’s significance to the Australia’s cultural, natural and environmental pioneer history. Ku-ring-gai is the birthplace of the modern Australian environment movement with environmental pioneers such as Annie Wyatt (founder of the National Trust of Australia), Charles Bean, Eccleston du Faur, Alex Colley, Paddy Pallin.

  • will overwhelm existing ageing INFRASTRUCTRE for stormwater, sewerage and drinking water, train carrying capacity.

  • fails to address the risks that Ku-ring-gai faces from climate fueled bushfires, wild storms and flash flooding.
  • will cause continual traffic congestion chaos. Ku-ring-gai has limited access roads to the Pacific Highway. In an emergency how will the ambulance get to the hospital? Streets will be impassible with additional carparking.

  • are silent on controls to ensure new multistorey developments have net zero emissions with roof top solar and community batteries for the high energy required for lifts and air conditioning.

  • fail to provide the funds to purchase additional land for more parks, playgrounds, green spaces, sporting fields, swimming pools as well as services such as schools, hospitals, libraries and community and recreational facilities.

  • fail to acknowledge that over the past 20+ years, Ku-ring-gai Council’s attempts to strengthen the protection of Ku-ring-gai’s heritage and the environment have been ignored, denied or delayed by the NSW Planning Department (eg 10/50 vegetation clearing rule). Concurrently environment, heritage and local government powers have been significantly weakened. It is time to strengthen urban environmental protections – not extinguish them.

NSW Labor DETERMINED TO DESTROY KU-RING-GAI

“You have something special here in Ku-ring-gai. Fight for it.” – Tom Uren

Ku-ring-gai is about to be destroyed.

It is now time for residents to fight for Ku-ring-gai.

The NSW Government is planning to destroy Ku-ring-gai – its tree canopy, its heritage homes and its character.

IT IS IMPORTANT for residents to:

a) complete a Ku-ring-gai Council online survey about their say on the planning changes

b) send feedback to the State Government’s planning department here.

THE DEADLINE IS FRIDAY 23 FEBRUARY, 2024.

The NSW Government proposes dual occupancies in low density residential zones on block sizes of 450sqm. A block of 900 sqm will allow four homes to be built on it.

The NSW Government’s blanket zonings will allow terraces, townhouses, manor houses (two storey apartment blocks) and 6 to 7 storey mid-rise apartment blocks to be built within walking distance of railway stations. Possibly too for Ku-ring-gai’s local centres – East Killara, East Lindfield, West Gordon, West Pymble, West Lindfield, South Turramurra, North Turramurra?

Ku-ring-gai’s future will be dramatically different – traffic congestion, high rise with the removal of thousands of trees. Heat stress turbocharged. Wildlife extinguished. Heritage erased.

In April 2024 the NSW Government plans to implement ‘Transport Oriented Development’ (TOD).

TOD allows blanket 6 to 7 storey unit developments within 400m of the Roseville, Lindfield, Killara and Gordon railway stations. Eight to nine storeys will be allowed if developers provide “affordable housing”.

Heritage Conservation Areas WILL NOT BE PROTECTED.

The NSW Government has indicated it will NOT CONSULT Ku-ring-gai residents over its TOD high rise rezoning changes.

For more information see Ku-ring-gai Council: ‘Proposed changes to NSW housing policy and its impacts on Ku-ring-gai’.

FOKE supports Mayoral Minute 21 November, 2023


14 November 2023                    


Dear Mayor and Councillors


FOKE wishes to express its support for the Mayoral Minute of 21 November, 2023 that outlines his initial response to The Hon Paul Scully MP, NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces letter (dated 30/10/2023 and received on 9 November, 2023).


It is important that the integrity of Ku-ring-gai zoning controls or Local Environment Plans (LEPs) be upheld to ensure Ku-ring-gai’s environment, heritage, character and amenity, especially in its R2 Low Density Residential Zones, be protected for future generations to enjoy.


FOKE commends the Mayoral minute for its clarity and careful consideration on the challenges ahead for Ku-ring-gai.


FOKE strongly supports a rigorous and transparent public consultation process to allow residents to have a say.  We recommend that Council refer to the 2002 questionnaire sent to all residents that was used as part of the consultation process for the then Ku-ring-gai Residential Strategy.


FOKE shares the Mayor’s concern about the unacceptable loss of tree-canopy and asks that an audit be done on the cumulative loss of trees since 2004 as well as what planning controls are needed for climate-change resilience as we face increasingly dangerous bushfires, wild storms, flooding and extreme heat stress that will endangers the lives of residents and threaten the natural environment.

FOKE shares concerns townhouses in low residential areas in R2 zones would considerably alter the heritage character and environment of Ku-ring-gai.

FOKE shares the Mayor’s concern about significantly increasing Ku-ring-gai’s population without necessarily the funding for or provision of adequate infrastructure (transport, stormwater, education and recreation and environmental restoration projects) to support the increase.


FOKE requests that the four baseline studies (Heritage and Neighbourhood Character, Infrastructure, Environment and Traffic and Parking Studies) carried out for the preparation for the Ku-ring-gai Residential Strategy in 2002 be assessed in light of the development that has occurred since 2004.


For over twenty five years FOKE has argued that Ku-ring-gai requires planning controls that protect, threatened and endangered ecological communities, national parks and environmentally sensitive areas. 


We thank and commend this Mayoral Minute.


Yours sincerely


Kathy Cowley

President

PRESIDENT


cc  Matt Cross MP Member for Davidson

cc The Hon Alister Henskens SC MP Member for Wahroonga

cc The Hon Paul Fletcher MP Member for Bradfield

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.