From the Council Chamber November 28, 2023
By Pittwater Greens Councillor Miranda Korzy
The temperature of the November Council meeting rose on Tuesday night with proposals on the agenda for a moratorium on seawalls and a ban on bus stop advertising for gambling, alcohol and fossil fuels to be introduced for any new contracts. New state government measures to increase housing density, that were announced that day, also drew fire from many councillors, along with its abandonment of work on Mona Vale Road West.
Labor announcement panned by councillors
Councillors at Tuesday’s meeting panned Labor’s announcement of new planning rules that day allowing increased density in residential areas.
About half an hour before Tuesday's meeting, councillors received information that the NSW Labor government would introduce new planning rules to fast track low and mid rise housing.
In response, Mayor Sue Heins (Curl Curl Ward, Your Northern Beaches) introduced a Mayoral Minute, expressing the council’s concerns that the new policy would override the council’s authority to make planning decisions.
The government changes include allowing:
- Dual occupancies (two separate homes on a single block) such as duplexes, in all R2 low density residential zones across NSW.
- Terraces, townhouses and two storey unit blocks near transport hubs and town centres in R2 zones across Greater Sydney (and the Hunter, Central Coast and Illawarra).
- Mid-rise unit blocks near transport hubs and town centres in R3 medium density zones and “appropriate” employment zones (ie allowing more housing within 800 metres of transport hubs, shops and other amenities.)
Planning Minister Paul Scully noted in the media release that the changes would be included in a new State Environmental Planning Policy but “if a council’s own planning rules match the policy - or go further - …the changes will not apply”.
The Mayor’s Minute also called for the Northern Beaches council to write to Mr Scully, acknowledging the housing crisis and asking the minister to work with the council on the issues.
Ms Heins said Deputy Mayor Georgia Ryburn (Manly, Liberal), had brought the new rules to her notice and so allowed her to lead debate on the issue.
The changes would fast track and remove council from planning decisions, Ms Ryburn told the meeting.
“We know the problems with housing supply are extreme,” she said.
“That’s why we have endorsed a housing strategy and are developing a (single) Local Environment Plan.
“I have grave concerns that the New South Wales government are trying to cut us out of that process completely,”.
The Mayor rounded out the debate, saying: “it’s disappointing and distressing that we could have the rug pulled out from underneath us at any point.”
Wakehurst MP and Frenchs Forest YNB Councillor Michael Regan said he had briefly met with the minister and told him councillors had been working with planning staff to talk about “what we can do” to increase numbers of dwellings.
“I think he’s jumped the gun on this,” Mr Regan told the council meeting.
In late October, council planners held a day-long Saturday workshop with councillors to discuss work towards the new LEP.
Asked by Pittwater Liberal Councillor Karina Page at Tuesday’s meeting, what stage the LEP was at and if staff had known about the new rules, a senior staffer said: “Staff have regular meetings with the Department of Planning, so they know where we’re at.
“It was anticipated that this would be expected.”
Pittwater YNB councillor Michael Gencher noted supporting infrastructure for the proposed housing was not mentioned in the media release.
“This is arrogant and only foreshadowing what is to come,” he told the meeting.
Curl Curl Greens Councillor Kristyn Glanville noted that the changes were only meant to apply near train and metro stations.
“It provides good context for the Brookvale Structure Plan (an item discussed later in the meeting, significantly increasing density in Brookvale),” she said.
I reminded the meeting that the changes applied only to R2 and R3 zones and we needed to increase density in some places. In this case, zonings and retaining Pittwater’s Conservations zones will become even more critical.
On Tuesday night we were working from a media release and letter to the mayor for information, so I said we needed to find out more about the changes before panicking.
Unfortunately, however, I believe councils’ planning powers have already been undermined by successive state governments with the removal of Development Application assessments from councillors, council amalgamations and the introduction of a standard template for developing LEPs.
The motion passed unanimously.
Brookvale Structure Plan
Many of us in Pittwater oppose increased density in our area to protect our precious environment and also due to the extent of hazards in the area - including risk of bushfire with limited road capacity, risk of landslip and coastal erosion.
However, most of us also recognise that we have a housing emergency - and many of our own children can’t afford to live where they grew up. NBC planners, in line with current practice, have been looking at places where we can increase housing supply that is close to good transport, schools and other facilities.
As a result, the Brookvale Structure Plan was presented to council at Tuesday's meeting.
With several blocks of multi-storey units ranging from seven and eight storeys to 12 storeys at Warringah Mall, Brookvale will carry the largest increase in density on the Northern Beaches.
A new town square will provide open space for residents and local workers.
However, councillors were not unanimous in their praise of the plan.
Curl Curl Greens councillor Kristyn Glanville said she had mixed feelings about the project, although she voted for it.
“The real politic of this is that if we don’t jump, we’ll be pushed,” she told the meeting.
“I have concerns that the increase of residential areas next to industrial areas will lead to problems with noise.
“There are things that are good about it.
“Parts of Brookvale are in need of renewal and increasing height and FSRs (Floor Space Ratio) allows us to increase employment lands.”
However, pinch points included the need for adequate developer contributions and sufficient public transport for the area, she said.
Curl Curl Liberal councillor David Walton also supported the plan, saying it was the perfect place to activate and the Winbourne Rd precinct for holding food and wine festivals.
By contrast, Narrabeen Liberal councillor Bianca Crevelin was concerned about what she considered a potential loss of parking under the plan, particularly from the Winbourne Rd carpark - which will remain the venue for weekend markets.
The draft, which was exhibited from December 1, last year to February 28 this year, received 344 submissions of which 73 per cent were supportive.
Brookvale is already the Northern Beaches largest employment hub and has the greatest concentration of industrial land in Sydney’s North, the draft plan said.
In recent years it’s developed a micro-brewery industry, emerging arts scene and other small businesses.
It also has schools, a shopping strip, Warringah Mall, TAFE campus, Brookvale oval, health facility and regional bus depot, with the best transport connections on the Northern Beaches.
“This represents the pre-eminent public transport infrastructure on the Northern Beaches and and is a key reason why planning for Brookvale has progressively focussed more housing growth in the area, with the highest densities closest to the B-line stop,” the document said.
With the state government’s abandonment of development plans for Ingleside (due to the bushfire risk and problems with evacuation) the council must find somewhere to locate the 1,000 dwellings that had been projected for that area under its Local Housing Strategy.
That housing strategy anticipated the need for another 275 extra homes across the Northern Beaches by 2036. As a result, the Brookvale Structure Plan now posits increasing the number of homes there by 1,350, with 900 extra jobs.
However, for the project to go ahead, the plan says the state government would need to make a major commitment to upgrading the area’s roads and intersections in the area.
Voting for the adoption of the plan were: Ms Heins, Ms Ryburn, Ms Glanville, Mr Walton, myself and councillors Sarah Grattan (Manly, YNB), Candy Bingham (Manly, Independent), Karina Page (Pittwater, Liberal), Michael Gencher (Pittwater, YNB), Ruth Robins (Narrabeen, YNB), Stuart Sprott (Frenchs Forest, YNB) and Jose Menano-Peres (Frenchs Forest, YNB).
Against the plan were councillors Vincent De Luca (Narrabeen, Independent) and Ms Crvelin, while Mr Regan was absent for the vote.
Seawall moratorium motion amended to call for support from NSW government
A moratorium on vertical seawalls proposed by me sank at Tuesday’s council meeting, with councillors instead calling on the NSW government to review seawall alternatives.
I took the motion to council because of my long standing concern about climate change and its impact on our coastline. To act on these concerns I joined the Sydney Coastal Councils Group (which coordinates action managing Sydney’s coastline) as our NBC rep after I was elected to council. I’ve also initiated a coastal management working group on council.
However, the immediate trigger was the September approval of a third vertical seawall at Collaroy-Narrabeen and the public reaction to it.
I am especially concerned that this latest approval, along with the other two previously constructed walls, have not only destroyed the character of Collaroy Beach but have also set precedents for other beaches eroding on the Northern Beaches and elsewhere in NSW.
The moratorium would have prevented the council working on any further proposals for vertical seawalls until it had carried out an investigation into alternatives - particularly revetments - and how these could be provided for in the new Local Environment Plan.
However, it would not have affected any existing seawalls or DAs already submitted and approved - as the council’s CEO Scott Phillips pointed out in a note attached to the motion.
The motion also called for the establishment of a Coastal Management Committee (rather than simply a working group), to consult on issues related to the entirety of the Northern Beaches coastline - to include independent experts from within the community, councillors, and other stakeholders (see my full speech to council after this report).
One of Pittwater’s eminent coastal engineers, Angus Gordon, a former Pittwater Council General manager, sent a speech that was read out at the meeting in support of the motion during the Public Address session.
Recent consents for vertical seawalls had failed to comply with the council’s current Coastal Zone Management Plan for Collaroy Beach, Mr Gordon said in his speech.
“Given the outcomes that have eventuated it is clear that the current CZMP has holes in it that are large enough to literally drive bulldozers through,” Mr Gordon said.
“Unfortunately, it is also clear that some of the wording of what was approved as the CZMP has been altered and or interpreted without being reconsidered by the Elected Council, the responsible body.”
Also speaking for the motion but pushing to go further was Surfrider Northern Beaches president Brendan Donohoe.
Mr Donohoe called for the council to rescind its CZMP, which is part of the framework of controls over coastal development.
“Without a CZMP any further consideration of DAs in this space would have to be considered by the state’s Northern Metropolitan Planning Panel which, unlike the council’s planning panel, is required to have at least two experienced and competent coastal experts on it,” Mr Donohoe told the meeting.
“Surfrider is confident that a panel containing coastal experts will prohibit further extension of the vertical concrete wall as coastal experts have done for decades.”
However, not all the public was sympathetic to this position, with Newport Surf Life Saving Club president Guyren Smith speaking against the motion during the Public Address session.
Mr Smith said he was concerned the motion would impact the club.
The Sydney North Planning Panel in October 2022 rejected a DA from the council for renovations and extensions to the Newport clubhouse, which included a seawall built into the seaward side of the building.
The club’s facilities were outdated, while the historic building was in a poor condition but used for a host of community functions, Mr Smith said.
“Newport Surf Club has been working with the council on protecting the old club,” he told the meeting.
“There’s no similarity to the wall at Collaroy.”
I was disappointed that amongst councillors support was limited.
Ms Glanville said the feedback she had received about the seawalls was predominantly negative.
“A vertical seawall is not the only design possible,” she said.
“A rock revetment could do the same job without the same visual impact and effect on surf dynamics.”
Mr Menano-Peres, however, said that as the other councillor in the Coastal Management working group, the staff had briefed us on developments towards a Coastal Management program for Collaroy - a replacement for the CZMP.
“I think this is premature,” he said.
(However, my concern is that despite having been involved in the working group for more than a year, no preliminary public consultation has occurred with the coastal experts in our community - and that coastal management is broader than just developing a CMP.)
Mr De Luca observed that the issue had plagued the council since 2016 and that the legislation surrounding the issue of coastal defences was a “nightmare to navigate”.
“Furthermore, … because of the numerous statutes and policies … there needs to be a coordinated approach,” he said.
He therefore proposed replacing my motion with one calling for the NSW government to review all alternatives to seawalls, to review the Coastal Management Act of 2016 to ensure its provision for Coastal Management Programs are in line with “sound planning, environmental and community expectations”.
The new wording also called for community consultation on the Coastal Management Program under development - however this is already planned by the council.
The revised motion passed unanimously.
My speech on the Moratorium:
I’m not going to rake over the past in this discussion. However, sea level rise resulting from climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the Northern Beaches. NSW government projections indicate this’ll be up to 2.3 metres by 2100, however, if the Antarctic ice shelf continues melting at the current rate, it’s likely to be up to 5.5 metres by 2150.
As sea level rise occurs, property worth billions of dollars, both public and private, will be impacted. So this issue is actually much greater than simply coastal defences at Collaroy and Narrabeen.
Council is faced with a complex task deciding whether to defend or retreat from eroding beaches, and if defend, then it must balance equitable outcomes for both affected property owners and the overall community.
However, governments provide little guidance on how to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, staff must negotiate a maze of legislation across multiple agencies with governments providing no benchmarks, only limited funding and little expert guidance on the way forward. I believe the state and federal governments have totally abrogated their responsibilities on this issue.
We can see the outcome in the form of the seven metre-high Collaroy sea wall, a massive concrete fortification rising above the beach, complete with surveillance cameras, that is widely detested by residents. It defends a small number of homes but could hardly be described as protecting and enhancing the natural character, scenic value, and biological diversity of Collaroy Beach.
This is despite an earlier proposal for a seawall in 2002 triggering a Surfrider protest with more than 3,000 people forming a line in the sand at Collaroy. The wider public became aware of the latest proposal via social media and community activism - including another “Line in the Sand” protest. Consequently, 178 written submissions were made regarding this DA, with the overwhelming majority strongly opposed.
I’m also concerned about the precedent this wall has set for other beaches in our LGA and across NSW.
It’s in this context I’m proposing a moratorium on Council engaging in any work towards more vertical seawalls - until we’ve reviewed alternatives and how we can prevent construction of more of these monstrosities.
This work should also feed into the upcoming Local Environment Plan and I’d like to see it carried out in consultation with the independent scientists, coastal engineers and other stakeholders who live amongst us. That’s why I believe we should establish a Coastal Management Committee, because this is not an issue that we will deal with once, as with a working group, but involves a coastline that is constantly changing.
Bus shelter ads
An uncontroversial proposal to extend bus advertising contracts until they can all be harmonised across the Northern Beaches turned into a hot topic when Greens councillor Kristyn Glanville suggested any negotiations for new contracts should disallow ads for gambling, alcohol and fossil fuels.
Staff had brought a report to the meeting, recommending councillors extend contracts with Oh!media Street Furniture for supply and maintenance of bus shelters and their advertising in the former Pittwater and Warringah areas until next September, when the contract in the former Manly LGA runs out.
Advertising in all three former council areas could then be aligned.
Staff noted they had already advertised for tenders for the new single service, which were due to close in November.
For that reason, Ms Glanville proposed including an option in the new contract of a ban on gambling, alcohol or the fossil fuel industry. She noted a number of other councils, including City of Sydney, already had such a ban in place.
“I've received many emails over my time on council about advertising greenwashing on council billboards,” Ms Glanville said.
When Brookvale stadium was renamed “Lottoland” that had exerted an undue influence on young people, she said.
Meanwhile alcohol ads could be triggering for those struggling with addiction.
Mr Regan supported Ms Glanville, seconding the motion and saying that the council did not actually have to decide on the issue of the ban until tenders came back.
However, the community was asking us to reduce commerciality, he said.
“We as a council can lead on this,” he said.
Mr De Luca was concerned about the impact of the new clause, saying: “It could discourage companies from putting in a tender.”.
A number of councillors also questioned what the “fossil fuel industry” meant, with the Mayor suggesting it could include mobile phones, because of the materials used to produce them.
But Ms Glanville said she disputed that there was any ambiguity in the term “fossil fuel industry”.
“It’s the coal, oil and gas industry that is killing this planet,” she said.
The vote for the motion was carried out in seriatim (meaning the original clauses were voted on as a block, followed by the amendment).
All councillors voted for the first block (with Ms Grattan absent because of a potential conflict of interest due to potential advertising by the organisation she works for).
On the final clause, the vote was tied: with Ms Glanville, Bingham, Heins, Mr De Luca, Sprott, Regan and me supporting it; Mr Gencher, Ms Page, Ryburn, Crvelin, Robins, Mr Menano-Peres, and Walton were opposed.
The Mayor then used her casting vote to support the proposed ban.
New councillor rep chosen for Friends of the Bible Garden committee
Mr Gencher will join the Friends of the Bible Garden committee as the councillor representative following his selection at the council meeting.
I had also nominated for the committee, but withdrew because I’m already a member of the Currawong State Park Advisory Committee, and thought it was fairer to share the positions around.
Mr Gencher told the meeting that he had a letter of support from the chairman of the Friends committee and was elected to the post unopposed.
Although I withdrew, I’ve had discussions with Bible Garden volunteers about ways of future-proofing it, and so suggested some of these at the meeting. They included introducing succession planting to the garden, so that in the future as its mature trees reach the end of their lives, others will already be growing in place, ready to replace them.
“To maintain the genetic line of the plants growing there, if resources allow, it would also be wonderful to collect and propagate their seeds - especially for those specimens that are not easily sourced in Australia,” I said.
This would create a living heritage, passed on from its founder, Gerald Hercules Robinson, and his daughter, Deaconess Beatrice Robinson, who cared for the garden after his death.
Illegal parking at Cottage Point impeding emergency services
Council has acknowledged the seriousness of the problem of illegal parking at Cottage Point, which it heard was impeding access for emergency vehicles.
Ms Page brought a motion to council recognising community concerns about the issue, and calling for a council compliance review - due in the first quarter of 2024 - to find ways of enforcing parking controls at “hot spots” across the Northern Beaches.
In background to the motion, Ms Page said that residents and the media had reported that illegally parked cars at Cottage Point continued to impede access for the Cottage Point Rural Fire Service accessing the area.
“When cars park illegally in or around Cottage Point, the width of the road is reduced to 1.9 metres - the width of the Brigade fire truck is 2.5 metres,” Ms Page said.
“In the event of a fire or other emergencies, these vehicles are unable to attend to their duties.
“In addition, illegally parked cars pose risk to residents and drivers through limited sight lines.
The council heard from Cottage Point resident and RFS Captain, Jon Russell, about drivers who flouted the illegal parking signs, with the $120 fines having no effect.
“There’s only one road in and on many Saturday and Sundays it's bedlam,” Mr Russel told the Public Address session.
“You can’t get a fire tanker through.”
He also said there were not enough council rangers, and he had problems reaching them out of hours.
The motion was carried unanimously.
Cottage Point flyer, black Summer bushfires 2019-2020
PUBLIC ADDRESS: November 2023 Council Meeting
Item 15.2 Notice of Motion No 29/2023 – Moratorium on Seawalls
- Brendan Donohoe, representing Surfrider Foundation, addressed Council in support of this item.
- Paul Maddock, on behalf of Angus Gordon OAM, addressed Council in support of this item.
Brendan Donohoe, representing Surfrider Foundation, addressed Council in support of this item.
Thanks for hearing me as I represent Surfrider Foundation and the vast vast majority of rate paying public.
Our strong condemnation of the vertical wall at Collaroy/Narrabeen is shared by virtually all who are not directly protected by it.
I hope you may have read my email plea sent to all Councillors for you to call a halt to considering further wall DAs.
Council’s Mr Phillips has responded with a Memo to all Councillors.
Surfrider contends the wall development DOES NOT FIT the Coastal Management Act, associated SEPP and particularly the Coastal Zone Management Plan but is not surprised at Mr Phillips response, as for the last two years, this type of rote response has been the “modus operandi” of all Council unit responses…simply repeating that it complies does not make it so.
This wall is virtually universally loathed by all who have viewed it.
If Mr Phillips is correct in his assertion that it complies with the CZMP then clearly the CZMP needs URGENT REVIEW.
The CZMP is the only area of this development within Council’s remit and its suspension pending review is Council’s way out of this appalling coastal incursion that so contravenes the objects of the Coastal Management Act that it beggars belief.
If Mr Phillips’s memo is correct, then I and other Surfrider Foundation representatives, who spent many many hours over a couple of years in attending meetings and writing submissions to aid in its development, must have missed the crucial meeting where virtually every acceptable response for property protection was binned, and a vertical wall that was NEVER on the table, and would have been ABSOLUTELY contested at every turn had it been, was ushered through.
Rescind the CZMP now, take this issue out of the inept realm of local approval.
Without a CZMP any further consideration of DAs in this space would have to be considered by the States Northern Metropolitan Planning Panel which, unlike the Council’s Planning Panel, is required to have at least two experienced and competent coastal experts on it.
Surfrider is confident that a panel containing coastal experts will prohibit further extension of the vertical concrete wall as coastal experts have done for decades when the Coastal Council was required to review such propositions.
After all if vertical CONCRETE WALLS are the solution WHY HAS IT TAKEN TILL NOW FOR THEM TO BE APPLIED? THERE IS NOTHING NEW ABOUT CONCRETE AND SET SQUARES.
If the wall is refused, proponents have the right of appeal in the LEC…Council will finally be in accordance with community expectation of the Act and the SEPP experts can argue the fallout.
Please remember that Surfrider organised the biggest coastal protest the Northern Beaches has ever witnessed directed at Council delivering thousands of people to the beachfront protest a seawall.
We were intimately involved in the development of the resulting CZMP and absolutely deny that discussions in its development could have ever resulted in the development so far delivered.
Please stop it by rescinding the CZMP immediately.
I can assure you that the action you take on this issue will be how you are remembered AS COUNCILLORS for many many years to come.
Thanks for your time
Paul Maddock, on behalf of Angus Gordon OAM, addressed Council in support of this item
Councillors, thank you for the opportunity to have this presented this evening.
Since the 1920s Collaroy Beach has been subjected to a number of major storm events which have resulted in damage and/or loss of private and public assets. The 2016 storm event again brought the issue of the threats into focus.
As a result, Northern Beaches Council found itself at what could best be described as the “Bleeding Edge” of coastal hazard management under the somewhat confusing interplay of the 1979 Coastal Protection Act and the then new 2016 Coastal Management Act. It had already developed a Coastal Zone Management Plan CZMP for Collaroy/Narrabeen based on the provisions of the 1979 Act. It is important here to note that while the elected council has in recent years had its powers to become involved in the determination of DAs removed, the State Government has, through the Coastal legislation, required the elected Council to be responsible for developing and approving CZMPs and now CMPs. The State simply certifies that Council has followed the appropriate steps in developing these documents. So, it is important to recognise that the State has, at no point in time, “approved” the CZMP for Collaroy Beach, that remains the responsibility of the elected Council and hence I use the term “Bleeding Edge” given the “hospital pass” by the State. So, without the power to consider DAs you, the Elected Council are responsible and accountable for putting in place the appropriate management plans to achieve equitable outcomes but over which you have no part in the process that determines the outcomes. Clearly a ridiculous situation in which the State and the community hold you, the Elected Council members, accountable for inequitable outcomes inflicting an undesirable legacy on present and future generations.
A major problem with recent consents is that they have failed to comply with the Coastal Act. It is the Second Reading speech of any legislation which provides the government's intentions. The second reading speech of the CMA makes it clear that the Objects, note the word Objects not objectives, listed in the Act are statutory matters and yet in the consents that have been issued there is little or no reference to those Objects and at best only a cursory consideration of the Coastal Management Act at all. Given the outcomes that have eventuated it is clear that the current CZMP has holes in it that are large enough to literally drive bulldozers through. Unfortunately, it is also clear that some of the wording of what was approved as the CZMP has been altered and or interpreted without being reconsidered by the Elected Council, the responsible body.
I therefore support and commend the motion on the basis that given the outcomes that have resulted it is time for council to reconsider whether or not the current CZMP is sufficiently clearly and robustly worded to ensure that reasonable and equitable outcomes are achieved both for the property owners but also importantly for the overall community.