Gwandalan Summerland Point Action Group Inc v Minister for Planning
On 2 September 2008 the Minister for Planning approved a Concept Plan for an extensive subdivision development by Rosecorp on development sites at Catherine Hill Bay and Gwandalan. EDO NSW acted for the Gwandalan Summerland Point Action Group, which commenced legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court challenging the approval.
Prior to lodgement of the Concept Plan application, the Gwandalan and Catherine Hill Bay sites were zoned for environmental protection, and the Department of Planning had ranked these sites as the lowest priority for urban release. The sites contain significant populations of the threatened plant species Tetratheca juncea, and have important scenic and heritage values.
However in 2006 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Rosecorp and the former Minister for Planning (Frank Sartor) under which the former Minister agreed to facilitate development of these sites for residential purposes. In exchange, Rosecorp was to dedicate a 300 hectare parcel of land at Catherine Hill Bay for a conservation reserve. Following the signing of the MOU (which was also formalised in a Deed), the former Minister agreed to consider a Concept Plan proposal for the sites under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Approval was subsequently granted.
Gwandalan Summerland Point Action Group challenged the Concept Plan approval on two grounds. The first ground alleged that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias in the decision-making process by the former Minister. The second ground alleged that the former Minister had illegally taken into account the terms of the MOU and the Deed he signed with Rosecorp.
The matter was heard on 9, 10 and 11 June 2009 before Justice Lloyd of the Land and Environment Court. Justice Lloyd delivered his judgment on 31 August 2009, finding that both the concept plan for approval of residential development at Catherine Hill Bay, and the Project Approval for the development at Gwandalan were void and of no effect.
EDO NSW acknowledges and thanks Jeremy Kirk and Gerald Ng of Counsel for their appearance and contribution to the case.