Lake council ‘misusing’ sea-level rise policy

Lake Macquarie City mayor, Jodie Harrison, left, and property owners’ lawyer, Daryl Gray, right, during on site discussions at Catherine Street Swansea on Thursday. Photo by Marina NeilLAKE Macquarie City Council staff have been accused of misusing a NSW government guideline on sea level rise to recommend refusal of a dual occupancy at Swansea.
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Councillor Jason Pauling alleged a council staff memo to councillors on the matter was ‘‘misleading’’ and created ‘‘a bias in perception’’.

The development proposal was discussed at an inspection of the Catherine Street site on Thursday, which council staff, councillors and the landowner attended.

Council staff were opposed to the dual-occupancy proposal because they said it represented an ‘‘intensification of use’’ of the land, which relates to development restrictions for sea level rise risk.

Councillors asked staff to further explain what intensification meant.

A council staff memo to councillors on Wednesday said the NSW government’s coastal planning guideline for ‘‘adapting to sea level rise’’ defined intensification as “processes that increase intensity or density of land use”.

Cr Pauling said the council memo failed to include other important definitions of ‘‘intensification’’ outlined in the state guideline.

The guideline said an example of intensification was ‘‘changing from low-density to high-density residential or from a rural zoning to a residential zoning’’.

The guideline said ‘‘when councils consider reducing land-use intensity, the following factors must be considered: current land uses and existing use rights’’.

It also said ‘‘the availability, effectiveness and feasibility of impact-mitigation options’’ should be considered.

Cr Pauling said the dual occupancy should be allowed when these extra explanations were considered.

‘‘It’s madness,’’ he said, of council staff’s approach to the matter.

The council said the state guideline’s definition of intensification meant “an increase in potential landowners or potential allotments as a result of development”.

“Council’s objective is to limit the increase in number of properties located within these areas to reduce exposure to the risk of flooding and potential sea level rise,” it said.

Blacksmiths resident Russel Hicks, who is planning the dual occupancy, said his development application proposed ‘‘a low intensity use of the land’’.

His lawyer Daryl Gray said his client was prepared to build the floor level at 2.36 metres to meet council flood controls.

“You’d need a storm 10 times the Pasha Bulker before you’d get anywhere near that floor level,” Mr Gray said.

Mr Hicks said the dual occupancy was planned for his daughter to live in one dwelling and her grandmother in the other.

He said the council objection and legal advice needed to challenge it had “cost us a fortune”.