Manyana residents have been protesting plans by Ozy Homes to clear unburnt mature growth forest. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS

Environment

Ley asked to intervene in NSW forest spat

2020-05-15 19:23:05

A dispute over plans by a property developer to raze a local forest on NSW’s bushfire-ravaged South Coast has been escalated to the federal environment minister over concerns the project could threaten endangered species.

Residents of Manyana have been protesting plans by Ozy Homes to clear 20 hectares of unburnt mature growth forest to make way for nearly 180 housing lots.

They are opposed to the development given so much local bushland has recently been burned.

Ozy Homes was due to start clearing the forest in Manyana last week but following the outcry agreed to pause work until May 18 to allow for discussions, community group Manyana Matters said in a statement this week.

But following a meeting on Wednesday between Ozy Homes, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and representatives from Shoalhaven City Council, the group on Thursday says the developer has shown “no indication … that they are willing to further delay the start of work on this project”.

Manyana Matters has now engaged the Environmental Defenders Office to act on their behalf, with letters sent to federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley and the director of Ozy Homes.

The community group wants the development – approved by the NSW government in 2008 – referred to Ms Ley for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act over concerns it could impact a number of threatened species, including the critically endangered swift parrot.

Apart from experts finding the project will directly impact listed species by clearing bushland that provides key areas of habitat, the site “is now surrounded by fire-affected forest and has become an important refuge for wildlife”, the letter to Ms Ley says.

“The EDO has informed us there is a strong chance this project may be in breach of the (Act), given the presence of threatened species on the land slated for development,” Manyana Matters said.

The organisation will call on Ms Ley “to invoke her powers under the Act to delay this project until a proper assessment can be completed,” it said.

In the letter to Ozy Homes, the EDO said it was under instructions to seek an assurance that the developer will refer the project to Ms Ley and that no work will start until a determination has been made.

Ozy Homes and Ms Ley have been contacted for comment.

More than 56,000 people have also signed a Change.org petition calling for a halt to the land clearing in order to prevent any harm to the greater glider, which is listed as vulnerable.

Meanwhile, there are calls for the state government to order Forestry Corporation to abandon plans to log Nambucca State Forest on the NSW North Coast.

“Logging these forests after so many were devastated in the summer bushfires is morally indefensible,” Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian said in a statement on Thursday.

“Trees that are habitat for a wide range of native animals, including the greater glider, sooty owl and koalas, will be cut down to make telegraph poles, pool decking and pallets.”