Due to the destruction of the wetlands around the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Planning on the 27th of July. I have now received the documents I sought.
The request was for the release of environmental matters/research/correspondence the West Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) used when deciding to approve the request for subdivision. I wanted to know why the WAPC was comfortable in approving the sub-division application with a cash-in-lieu payment instead of an increased buffer zone between the development and the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary.
After going through the documents, with one exception, and one error, I can almost understand why the WAPC made the decision they did. To me, the blame lies mainly with the Department of Parks & Wildlife (DPAW).
Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) emailed and stated they had reviewed the subdivision and had no comments to make – WAPC therefore rightly placed no regard to natural assets because the organisation that has a mission statement “To ensure that the nature of Western Australia is protected and conserved, for its intrinsic values and to enrich people’s lives” made no comment.
Department of Water simply recommended a minimum habitable floor level of 4.67m. The WAPC detailed this in advice note 1 of the approval.
Environmental Report provided with the application was from 360 Environmental and commissioned by the ABN Group (the company names were redacted, however have been sourced elsewhere). It concluded that there does not appear to be any significant environmental features or constraints that would not be manageable and may prevent consideration of the development”. Of great importance however is that the environmental report related to lots 6-10 Leake Street and DID NOT relate to lot 14.
Lots 6-10 are shown below in yellow and really don’t appear to be environmentally sensitive:
Lot 14 (upper left red box below) is where the WAPC approved the temporary cul-de-sac heads and has a far greater tree canopy, and as anyone who has visited the site well knows, a teeming fauna life under the tree canopy.
It was indeed fortunate for the developer that they submitted an environmental report which did not include Lot 14, and a great pity the WAPC did not take note of this omission.
Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) simply provided advice on the acid sulphate soils and recommended that acid sulphate soil condition EN8 and advice note ENa1 are applied to the approval. The WAPC did this. It is unfortunate that the DER, who claim that “clearing native vegetation is an offence, unless done under a clearing permit, or the clearing is for an exempt purpose” also did not consider lot 14.
Bushfire Hazard Assessment states “the subject land is identified as a bush fire prone area, designated by the Fire and Emergency Services (FES) Commissioner”. The Bushfire Assessment led to point 11 of the WAPC approval which is:
“A Bushfire Management Plan being prepared, approved and relevant provisions implemented during subdivisional works in accordance with the approved plan (attached), in accordance with the WAPC’s Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas (December 2015) to the specifications of the local government and/or the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.”
What should be of concern to the applicant is that the Bushfire Assessment offers a recommendation that no development should occur on lot 10 until such a time as lot 14 is cleared for development. Ergo, the WAPC approval is conditional on a Bushfire Management Plan being approved by the local government and/or DFES, yet I am unsure how an approval can be given until lot 14 is cleared for development.
City of Bayswater staff excelled, and the WAPC’s biggest error was to ignore the one voice which spoke against the development proceeding in its current form. In a passionate letter dated the 2nd March 2016, a senior staff member detailed the importance of the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary, that the City is requesting DPAW to review the existing classification to ‘Resource Enhancement’ (so WAPC shouldn’t really say they approved it because it was next to a lowly zoned ‘multi-use wetland’), that the proposed development does not consider the future impact of residential development on the Bird Sanctuary and that the City’s does not support a cash-in-lieu contribution for public open space (POS) as the POS should be provided and serve as a buffer between the development and the bird sanctuary.
Unfortunately, there are far too many government departments which make decisions without placing sufficient weight in the local government’s views. Without placing sufficient weight on the views of the people who know the area and who represent those living in the area. SAT’s abysmal decision to approve a concrete batching plant in a highly unsuitable location is but one other example of this occurring.
In conclusion, the DPAW failed abysmally, the DER failed and the WAPC failed by not listening to the Local Government and not realising the environmental report did not include Lot 14.
I am unsure whether the DPAW and the DER were aware of the City of Bayswater’s views. If not, then a process should be put in place where they request what the views of the local government are.
Power to the people.
(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)