October 29 - November 4, 2023: Issue 603


Patyegarang (Lizard Rock) Planning Proposal open for submissions, again: a Fait Accompli process? 

Feedback closes November 7

Wombat in Belrose, February 2022. Video supplied. Video maker lives on Morgan Road

Submissions are now open, again, for the Lizard Rock now called the ‘Patyegarang Planning Proposal’ to clear 126 acres of bushland and build 450 dwellings, a proposal that keeps getting progressed, despite a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report that doesn't list the known inhabitant wombat or the endangered Angus Onion Orchid, Microtis angusi found by residents on the site, but is aware koalas, listed as endangered, and the Heath Monitor, also known as Rosenberg’s Goanna, Varanus rosenbergi, currently listed as vulnerable in New South Wales, have been seen here. 

The Preliminary Biodiversity Development Assessment Report, July 2023 version, states 'There is no change to the structure plan or to the biodiversity assessment results.' from the initial document lodged, and still finds all vegetation across the subject land are classed as being in good or intact condition; intact Heath, intact Woodland and intact Forest.

The amount of 'offsets' required to raze this land and kill all the wildlife thereby that lives in and on it, such as the Eastern pygmy Possum, amounts to thousands of required 'credits to be retired'. The BAM Biodiversity Credit Report (Like for like) lists Pittwater, Cumberland, Sydney Cataract, Wyong and Yengo  or any IBRA subregion that is within 100  kilometres of the outer edge of the impacted site[Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia].

However, in missing the endangered Angus's Onion Orchids that grow here, that occurs on soils in the restricted ridgetop lateritic soils in the Duffys Forest - Terrey Hills - Ingleside and Belrose areas - the 'like for like' may be difficult. These soils support a specific and distinct vegetation type, the Duffys Forest Vegetation Community, which is listed as an endangered ecological community under the TSC Act and ranges from open forest to low open forest and woodland; intact Heath, intact Woodland and intact Forest..

With the name change to ‘Patyegarang’ in early September 2023 speculation that the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) had partnered with a development company began to circulate in the community.

Pittwater Online enquired from MLALC CEO Nathan Moran whether that was the case, whether any money had been exchanged, and whether Expressions of Interest were being sought from companies with the capacity to build the 450 dwellings proposed for the 70 hectare/175 acres bushland site.

Mr. Moran had previously emailed the news service requesting that the MLALC be contacted and included for any future reports on the Belrose bushland proposal after the Unbroken Songlines update.

However, the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO declined to comment and referred all enquiries to their development website. 

The naming of projects often precedes the passing of development plans. In recent years residents have seen development websites for blocks of units in the back streets of Newport long before DA approval was granted, with plans and diagrams of what the proposal will look like freely available on those websites easily being updated when required.

Should that speculation be proved correct it would make any invitation to again provide submissions appear to be a sham process with an outcome already decided before that consultation even commenced on October 27.

However, 'The decision to rename the planning proposal was made to better reflect the cultural significance of the site to the local Aboriginal community.' the NSW Planning Department states on its Patyegarang planning proposal webpage, despite the around 1700 members of the local Aboriginal community who state they are opposed to destruction of this land.

Viewed from the outset as a cynical move by the then coalition government to use First Nations peoples as a means to further developers aims and destroy bushland that previously could not be so easily moved into residential prospectuses, where opponents can be termed ‘racist’ as a means to stymie objections, the means through which this is proposed, was and is through the NSW Government's Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, which celebrates its 40th year in 2023.

Legislated to provide a means for our indigenous custodians to be given ‘Crown Land’, and Pittwater Online News historical research on land sales in NSW can attest to the hundreds of pages listing millions of acres listed as ‘owned by the Crown’ under Queen Victoria (1819-1901); and then sold off in Crown Land sales, the purpose was to, per the Act:

(a)  to provide land rights for Aboriginal persons in New South Wales,

(b)  to provide for representative Aboriginal Land Councils in New South Wales,

(c)  to vest land in those Councils,

(d)  to provide for the acquisition of land, and the management of land and other assets and investments, by or for those Councils and the allocation of funds to and by those Councils,

(e)  to provide for the provision of community benefit schemes by or on behalf of those Councils.

Division 2, of the Act, Claimable Crown lands, lists:

Claims to Crown lands

(1)  In this section, except in so far as the context or subject-matter otherwise indicates or requires—

claimable Crown lands means lands vested in Her Majesty that, when a claim is made for the lands under this Division—

(a)  are able to be lawfully sold or leased, or are reserved or dedicated for any purpose, under the Crown Lands Consolidation Act 1913 or the Western Lands Act 1901,

(b)  are not lawfully used or occupied,

(b1)  do not comprise lands which, in the opinion of a Crown Lands Minister, are needed or are likely to be needed as residential lands,

(c)  are not needed, nor likely to be needed, for an essential public purpose, and

(d)  do not comprise lands that are the subject of an application for a determination of native title (other than a non-claimant application that is an unopposed application) that has been registered in accordance with the Commonwealth Native Title Act, and

(e)  do not comprise lands that are the subject of an approved determination of native title (within the meaning of the Commonwealth Native Title Act) (other than an approved determination that no native title exists in the lands).

Mr. Moran has made plain the intention of the MLALC is to accrue as much land and money as possible to compensate for the dispossession of First Nations people from the land of NSW. In a recent interview with 2GB’s Ben Fordham over an MLALC claim for Balmoral land, estimated to be worth $100 million, he plainly told Mr. Fordham this is about grabbing land and making it pay through its sale or development. 

At the August ‘Black Parliament 2023’, hosted by the NSWALC at NSW Parliament House, and celebrating the 40th anniversary of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act, Mr. Moran stated, paraphrasing his grandmother; ‘we’re the landlord, you’re the tenant – you need to pay the rent. You may be a squatter but we need to come to agreement if we’re going to go ahead’.

The NSW Department of Planning introduced a suite of changes under the previous coalition State Government to forward this proposal, including the Aboriginal Planning Concierge announced on August 24, 2022, to 'help unlock opportunities on Aboriginal-owned land, by reducing backlogs and accelerating the assessment process', along with the appointment of 13 new specialists to the pool for the Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels on the same date, without naming these.

However, those who were appointed in July 2022 have updated their CV bios in platforms such as Linked In, clearly under the impression that a ministerial appointment to the NSW Department of Planning installed planning panels presents a new level of kudos. Some  Members are from Land Councils and sit on the panels for these proposals decisions.

This was followed up by the December 16 2022 Department of Planning and Environment announcement that it is cutting red tape with a series of new decisions aimed at providing greater self-determination for Aboriginal communities and enabling them to reap the economic benefits of their land. Executive Director of Local and Regional Planning Malcolm McDonald said a pilot program had been launched to ensure land is appropriately zoned to unlock housing and development opportunities.

Mr McDonald said the Department had also worked with the corporation Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) to finalise its Development Delivery Plan (DDP), which outlines how 31 sites could potentially be developed.

“This DDP sets out Darkinjung’s intentions for how the 31 sites could support future new homes, jobs, open space on the Central Coast,” he said.

Other changes made to improve outcomes for Aboriginal communities across NSW included:

  • Removing the requirement for LALC land to be mapped in the Planning Systems State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) before a Development Delivery Plan can be approved; and
  • Giving the NSW Aboriginal Land Council the same access to the Aboriginal Lands SEPP as a LALC.

Council remains opposed to the proposal despite the MLALC responding to a requirement via the Gateway Determination that it meet Council's affordable housing requirement. The MLALC stated that $36 million will be provided to the same, amounting to what would be 20 homes. The May 29 Determination Decision required 45 dwellings (Condition 2 — “10% Affordable Housing is to be provided”) to be delivered, however, an August 2023 letter from MLALC states an intention to deliver the equivalent of 20. (MLALC Patyegarang Project, Belrose Provision of Affordable Housing Affordable Housing Discussion 18th August 2023). This was clearly accepted as a Condition met as progressing the proposal to the latest public exhibition of the documents for feedback has occurred.

On Friday October 27 Council said in a statement that the Northern Beaches Council has issued yet another warning about the Patyegarang planning proposal at Morgan Road, Belrose – also known as ‘Lizard Rock’.

The planning proposal by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) is currently on public exhibition on the NSW Department of Planning Environment website.

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins said Council was deeply concerned about the environmental impacts and bushfire risks associated with the development and would be making a submission to the Department.

“We wholeheartedly support the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act – after all, this land always was and always will be Aboriginal land – but we simply cannot condone this particular proposal due to the extreme risks and impacts it presents,” Mayor Heins said.

“The proposed development will see the destruction of 45 football fields worth of bushland and the construction of 450 homes in bushfire prone land.

“The new homes would be built on precious bushland and residents would face extreme bushfire risk. These new homes would also be surplus to our housing targets.

“We call on the Minister for Planning to listen to the concerns from our community. This is not NIMBYism, this is about protecting our precious environment and protecting lives.”

Council states it has previously written to federal and state MPs, along with relevant ministers, proposing an alternative solution and financial model so that MLALC can still benefit financially from its land, while the land is protected in perpetuity.

The planning proposal has significant planning, environmental and hazard issues, including:

  • Bushfire risks – the site is in a high bushfire risk area. We know this from the 1994 bushfires. Evacuation will be a problem. No upgrades to Morgan Road are proposed. A new slip lane onto Forest Way requires acquisition of Council land and a new emergency egress proposed via Oates Place is proposed to be gated and available only during a fire event raising concerns about it practicality.
  • Inconsistency with planning strategies – The proposal is inconsistent with key aspects of the Greater Sydney Region Plan, North District Plan, Northern Beaches Local Strategic Planning Statement – Towards 2040, and Northern Beaches Local Housing Strategy, particularly in terms of the preferred location and type of new housing and impacts on the environment and Metropolitan Rural Area.
  • Inconsistency with Council’s Conservation Zones Review – The Review recommends applying a C3 Environmental Management Zone to most of the site due to its high environmental value and high rick of bushfires.
  • Enormous loss of high biodiversity habitat – With 44.7 hectares of bushland to be cleared (equivalent to the size of around 45 rugby fields) the proposal and new development will have significant environmental impact. Given the scale of development, we are not satisfied that waterways within the site can be protected and the quality of run-off to Narrabeen Lagoon can be controlled.

“None of these issues have been addressed in the revised planning proposal,” Mayor Heins said.

“As we have said time and time again, this planning proposal does not demonstrate strategic or site-specific merit and should be rejected.”

The property also incorporates most of the upper catchment of Snake Creek, classed as a first order stream in the Narrabeen Lagoon catchment. Local engineers who have specialised in this field for decades have stated runoff from the proposed new development during construction will end up in Narrabeen Lagoon via the waterways in the catchment, destroying environment along the way. 

Council has resolved to prepare a submission outlining its concerns. The community is encouraged to give feedback by lodging a submission with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

The Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians are also urging the community to write submissions to the State Government to save Lizard Rock in Belrose from Development.  The Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians' petition to save Lizard Rock with 12,000 signatures was presented to NSW Parliament on 23 June 2023. 

The response from The Hon. Paul Scully, now the Labor Government's Minister for Planning, dated July 27, states the government is committed to unlocking opportunities for local aboriginal land councils to help deliver economic and community benefits from their land holdings, and advised that once the MLALC had addressed the Gateway Determination conditions they would be able to provide feedback again. A similar reply was given to an e-petition on the same subject, that response was dated September 14.

The Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians recently hosted a public meeting at Belrose to discuss the proposal, video below, and prepared a template submission and other resources to assist community members to write to the Department of Planning and to other State Ministers. This template is available on their website at www.envirolink.net.au/howtowrite

"It is outrageous that after the 2019 Bushfire season, the State Government is continuing to progress a  planning proposal where independent bushfire assessment shows that we will be building houses in places where lives will be at risk. The lives of the residents and the lives of our local RFS volunteers" said Cr Kristyn Glanville, Northern Beaches Councillor and member of the Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians campaign.

"It is integral that we protect every piece of remaining intact biodiversity to address climate change and stop the extinction crisis" said Envirolink President Dr Conny Harris, "As a local GP, I see that we are in a mental health crisis. Not only is saving the bushland good for the environment, but places to bushwalk and meditate are also critically important for our mental well being and physical health".

Cr. Kristyn Glanville speaking on behalf of the Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians campaign, further stated,

"This rezoning proposal being approved will trigger a precedent across the Northern Beaches and NSW. Close to home, it will set the precedent in the deferred lands that any owner on high quality bushland can get a spot rezoning to residential zoning. Across NSW this SEPP opens the door for mass clearing of native vegetation, despite the 30 by 30 targets to conserve 30% of nature in NSW by 2030. 

"Its astounding that the State Government is considering an ordinary residential zoning, as future dwellings could rely on private certifiers to obtain CDCs. The land at Lizard Rock is more appropriately zoned C3 Environmental Management, as this would rule out development via CDC in such a environmentally sensitive and bushfire prone area.

"The Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians campaign does also want to see a fair outcome for MLALC. The State Government has given them land as compensation from which they cannot earn any income, but which is fundamentally unsuited for development.  We are pushing for an alternative such as a land swap for developable land without environmental value, or leasing Lizard Rock from them as a National Park. The land was given to MLALC as compensation for past wrongs, but clearing the bushland there would be committing new wrongs against nature.’’

Feedback is due by 7 November 2023 at: www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/ppr/under-exhibition/patyegarang-morgan-road-belrose

However, although it may be worth putting pen to paper, those who are have also begun discussing if they will be prepared to put boots on the ground and stand before bulldozers as well. 

The processes to progress the proposal are clearly already in play and will not cease through petitions that are fobbed off or thousands of objections when the intent is for the documents so many have found huge holes in to be accepted, a polishing up for the pre-advertising of the Patyegarang sell off to those after a property has already occurred (bring 2+ mill median price with you), and in the first instance, a Concierge was created with the stroke of another pen to ensure the smooth movement of the project through the NSW Department of Planning cogs is achieved. 

On March 8 2023 Prof. Rico Merkert and David Li looked at the effectiveness and authenticity of carbon offsetting when looking at the true carbon footprint of proposals as part of Sydney University's 'Thinking outside the box’ series.

Their contribution essay was title 'It’s called Frenchs Forest for a reason and why it is important to see the wood for the trees'. 

That too runs below as further food for thought.

Koala Spotted In Belrose Area

The Northern Beaches still has koalas!!! Sighted recently in the Belrose area. (exact location withheld as per NPWS policy). 
Please help to keep koalas safe. Their biggest threats are:
  • dog attacks - please keep your pets away from wildlife
  • vehicles - slow down for wildlife particularly on Wakehurst Parkway, Mona Vale Road and Forest Way
  • habitat destruction - over development on the NB is a major threat to our koalas and could eventually wipe them out.
In a sad era for our native wildlife it's an exciting time for us at WIRES to learn that there are in fact koalas still living amongst us. 
Here are some photos courtesy of @lisa.spinks1 - WIRES

Save Lizard Rock Community Information Night

filmed by Wayne Richmond

It’s called Frenchs Forest for a reason and why it is important to see the wood for the trees

From the ‘Thinking outside the box’ series, 2023. Professor Rico Merkert and David Li look at the effectiveness and authenticity of carbon offsetting when looking at the true carbon footprint of proposals:

The recent record-breaking floods and the not-so-distant memories of 2019 bushfires still haunt many of us. Today, most have accepted the scientific consensus that we are at the dawn of a climate emergency. Amongst the many challenges surrounding us, controlling carbon emissions has proven to be the hardest job our modern society has ever witnessed. Living in the 'Lucky Country', it's easy for us to shift the attention away and blame others. Sadly, as our governments may often have us believe that we are doing everything we can to catch up, Australia is amongst the most carbon-intense economies in the world, at 15 tonnes per person per year (Figure 1), well ahead of most other advanced economies in the world. Yes, you heard it right. An average Australian emits more CO2 than an average American.

Having the will is far from enough and we would be fooling ourselves to expect no changes to our way of life. Many sectors are starting to realise how entrenched we are in this fossil-fuel-powered modern life and how much hard work, investment, and compromise it's going to take to move the needle. The new federal government has recently announced to reduce Australia's emissions by 43% by 2030 1. In the coming years, significant and swift changes will be necessary in areas such as where we live, work, and find entertainment, how we power our homes, what we eat, and how we move around our communities, commute to work, and travel the world. We can also expect more severe weather events to serve as a reminder of the urgency of these changes.

All these changes are geared to achieve an outcome. From Canberra to community neighbourhoods, from corporate boardrooms to local school classrooms, we are in the era of decarbonisation.

And this has brought us to the inconvenient truth in the recent MLALC development proposal at Lizard Rock, Morgan Road, Belrose. Despite a comprehensive list of benefits that are "consistent with the planning guideline", this proposal comes at a cost of 51.1 hectares of deforestation, in an area covered with mature Bloodwood-scribbly gum, Narrow-leaved scribbly gum, Angophora woodland, coastal Banksia-Teatree scrub and Narrabeen Escarpment scrubs 2.

Whilst we are not arguing against the potential economic and social benefits, such as additional housing, and indigenous cultural preservation this proposal seeks to achieve, we simply want to bring the attention of our community and politicians to the cost of deforestation, which is 'conveniently' not explicitly covered in the proposal reports.

It is hard to believe that in 2023, as the Australian society are moving mountains to take carbon (emissions) out of our life without inducing harsh impacts, we could be considering the option to build new housing at the cost of deforestation. Yes, trees are nice, but this is not an argument about the importance of preserving a native bush surrounding to our beautiful Sydney. We are simply arguing against the proposal from a carbon-economic standpoint, and the benefits of letting the bush be (say for biodiversity or recreational benefits).

Without any corporate jargon, we want to help our community understand the negative carbon impact of the Belrose project. We do this by calculating the carbon offset cost and material cost, two common measures used in the science community.

First, let's look at the numbers. The proposal report stated a total area of 710 thousand square metres of native bush, of which 511 thousand square metres (72%) to be removed (Table 1). Figure 2 illustrates the area of concern.

Table 1. Lizard Rock proposal deforestation; Source: (GYDE, 2022) 3

We then plug the figures into the standard deforestation carbon conversion matrix (Table 2).

Table 2. Deforestation carbon conversion; Source: (IPCC, 2018) 4

This gives us an estimation of 6,390 tonnes of CO2 emission. Whilst deforestation can be complex, we can interpret the result as such: the deforestation brought by the Belrose proposal would result in a surplus of 6,390 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.

So, what does this mean? First, let's interpret this from a carbon offset standpoint. Suppose we ask a rural NSW landowner to plant trees on a farm in order to store carbon, and as a reward, be compensated with carbon credits at market price (this is what's happening in the carbon offset market today). At a cost of $37 per tonne 5, a rural landowner can offset the Belrose proposal carbon surplus at a cost of $236,432.

Let's also look at the material decarbonisation costs. For instance, one of the options we have today is to remove internal combustion engine cars from the roads. At an average petrol consumption of 7.5 litres per 100 km and an annual milage of 10,000 kms, we'd need to remove 3,630 6 cars from the roads for an entire year to offset the additional carbon induced by the Belrose proposal. Another option to decarbonise today is to reduce beef consumption. At an average level, each kilogram of beef consumed would generate 1 kilogram of emissions (CO2 equivalent) 7. So, in order to reduce the emissions brought by Lizard Rock proposal, communities in the local area would need to reduce beef consumption by 6,390 tonnes. At an annual consumption level of 89.6 kg 8, all 13,473 residents in the Frenchs Forest area would need to remove beef from their menu for 5.3 years.

It is further worth noting that Lizard Rock is part of a wider proposal affecting six sites and hence a total area of 227.3 hectares. The remaining five sites require further investigation. Future land uses could include residential, industrial, employment and environmental conservation. These sites could have planning proposals or DAs submitted in the next 2-5 years or in other word potentially a lot more years of no beef on the plates of Frenchs Forest people.

As more individuals begin to challenge the effectiveness and authenticity of carbon offsetting, it is important to note that the true carbon footprint of the Lizard Rock/Belrose proposal would greatly exceed the offset cost. Unfortunately, this crucial information is not made explicit in the proposal and should not be ignored by the community and decision-makers. In fact, the local community and community groups made 1,132 submissions objecting to this DDP.

Today, as Australians budget billions on solar, home battery and electric vehicles, as we redesign our diet, as investors (including most of us with a superannuation account) compromise on returns to decarbonise, and as we debate what more we must give up to break free from our carbon ties, cutting down 51.1 hectares of natural bush by the Ku-ring-gai National Park in the 21st century, in one of the wealthiest lands in the world to accommodate a 20th century lifestyle just doesn't make sense.

And if you're still not concerned, ask the children about their biggest concerns for their future, and how they would envision living in their future community, and the answer should not surprise you. After all, it's called Frenchs Forest for a reason, and it is that forest which will preserve our future.


  1. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/albanese-government-passes-climate-change-bill-house-representatives
  2. https://apps.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/DocMgmt/v1/PublicDocuments/DATA-WORKATTACH-FILE%20PEC-DPE-EP-WORK%20PP-2022-3802!20221027T070357.949%20GMT
  3. https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/ppr/under-assessment/lizard-rock-morgan-road-belrose
  4. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ar4-wg3-chapter9-1.pdf
  5. https://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/Infohub/Markets/Pages/qcmr/september-quarter-2021/Australian-carbon-credit-units-(ACCUs).aspx
  6. Based on a CO2 to gasoline ratio of 2.35 kg per litre.
  7. https://ourworldindata.org/carbon-footprint-food-methane
  8. https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2021/12/07/new-data-shows-6-countries-have-hit-their-meat-consumption-peak.html
  9. https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/-/media/Files/DPE/Maps/Plans-for-your-area/DDP-map-August-202208.pdf