November 11 - 17, 2018: Issue 383


Destruction of Swamp Sclerophyll Forest at warriewood: Developers dreams remain a Community nightmare

On Sunday November 4th regular Contributor John Illingsworth (Pittwater Pathways) sent through the below video of habitat destruction along a creekline at Warriewood that began on Monday October 29th. 

The vegetation removal appears to be in breach of the Pittwater LEP (Local Environment Plan) and the Pittwater DCP (Development Control Plan) in respect of tree and vegetation cover and adverse environmental impacts. 

'If destruction of this intensity can happen here at a dedicated conservation area in Warriewood, what chance for the rest of Pittwater's sensitive environment?' Mr. Illingsworth quite reasonably pointed out. 

This is a Dedicated Conservation Zone.

Pittwater Online News shared the video on its Facebook platform to which the community reacted with dismay and outrage - also understandably.

We sought comment from Council - and have been provided the following media release;

Council investigates destruction of bushland at Warriewood

Council is investigating the destruction of bushland at a new subdivision at Warriewood.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan said Council staff are investigating the property at 41 Warriewood Road and will provide more details once further evidence has been gathered.

“Council is aware of what appears to be significant damage to bushland at a property on Warriewood Road.

“Council staff are undertaking an investigation as to the authorisation of works and exploring all options within our power to address this serious issue.

“I’m shocked at the damage caused by these works. Serious questions must be asked how works in this precious bushland area can be justified in contrary to the conditions of their DA.

“Thank you to the community for reporting this matter to Council as protecting our environment relies on the community and Council working together in partnership,” he said.

Council officers have reviewed footage of the area and have raised serious concerns with the site owner about these works.

“The Council and the community have spent many years seeking to maintain creek line corridors free of development and kept in as natural condition as possible as development in the Warriewood Valley has progressed.

“This recent work is contrary to the planning objectives for the area and we are taking this matter very seriously.” Mayor Regan said.

Investigations into the matter are continuing by Council.

Chris Hornsby, President of the Warriewood Residents Association issued the following response from the residents group;

The Warriewood  Residents Association are very concerned and disappointed that anyone can feel free to even consider destroying  part of our natural beauty.  The former Pittwater Council took such care to preserve the wetlands associated with the Warriewood Master Plan.  The WRA unequivocally supports the retention of the wetlands and has consistently opposed any previous attempts in the past to reduce or destroy it.  So we ask those who are responsible to rectify the damage done, think up an innovative solution for their drains and apologise to the community. It's not too late to do the right thing - act now. We commend the statement issued from the Northern Beaches Council. 

The approved subdivision Development Application went through an exhaustive process in the Land and Environment Court to ensure the protection of the area at the western part of the site, where the clearing has occurred. 

The developer appears to have approached Sydney Water and received what is known as a Section 73 Certificate to allow the bushland to be removed to make way for a sewer line, although under such certifications, permission for removal of trees still needs to be sought from the local regulating body. The location of the sewer line as proposed was never assessed with the Development Approval and raises serious concerns about how an appropriate assessment of the impact of this Section 73 Approval was undertaken. 

Under the Native Vegetation Act 2003,  if you removed a native tree illegally in NSW you could be liable for a fine of up to $1.1 million if prosecuted. The Native Vegetation Act 2003 and the Native Vegetation Regulation 2013 were repealed on August 25th, 2017. Current legislation governing the clearing of native vegetation is the Local Land Services Act 2013 and the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

Under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016a 'Dedicated Conservation Zone' definition does not exist. There is Damaging habitat of threatened species or ecological community under which the Maximum penalty is a Tier 1 monetary penalty or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

The maximum monetary penalty for Tier 1 is:

(a)  in the case of a corporation:

(i)  $1,650,000, and

(ii)  if this Act provides that an additional daily penalty applies to the offence—a further $165,000 for each day the offence continues, and

(iii)  if this Act provides that an additional penalty for each animal or plant applies to the offence—a further $165,000 for each animal or whole plant to which the offence relates, or

(b)  in the case of an individual:

(i)  $330,000, and

(ii)  if this Act provides that an additional daily penalty applies to the offence—a further $33,000 for each day the offence continues, and

(iii)  if this Act provides that an additional penalty for each animal or plant applies to the offence—a further $33,000 for each animal or whole plant to which the offence relates.

Council also have a webpage where you may report Illegal tree works. Continued reports to this news service that homeowners have been cutting down trees illegally via the NSW Government - Rural Fire Service introduced the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice are best lodged there. Across the state, residents living within 350 metres of a designated bushfire-prone area can clear any trees within 10 metres of their homes, and shrubs and vegetation within 50 metres without permission.

The bush fire prone land online mapping tool ("Tool") has been created using NSW Local Council’s bush fire prone maps and is designed to identify if your property is designated as bush fire prone. Available hereExempt Trees list for our area is available here.

A list of protected flora species in our area is no longer available, however, under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 Schedule 6 lists NSW Protected plants while Schedule 2 lists Threatened ecological communities, including - 'Swamp Sclerophyll Forest on Coastal Floodplains of the New South Wales North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner Bioregions (as described in the determination of the Scientific Committee under Division 5 of Part 2 of the TSC Act)