The proposed Blue Mountains Wildlife and Tourism Development is located at the foot of Bodington Hill, Wentworth Falls on the Great Western Highway.
These are known as "zombie DAs". In theory, if the conditions of the original development approval are met, then it can be built.
In early 2021 a proposal for a new and larger Blue Mountains Wildlife Park gained State Significant Development Status. This means that assessment of the proposal is taken out of Council’s hands. The proposal also included a 56-room hotel.
In March 2021, the Department of Planning issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), which identifies what information needs to be provided in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS needed to be completed and lodged with a development application (DA) within two years - later extended to 30 June 2023.
Following information provided by the developer’s representative at the February 2023 ‘town hall meeting’ at the Carrington Hotel, we were expecting that the EIS and DA would be lodged by the due date, June 30th. Instead, revised plans have now been lodged with the Department of Planning along with a request for a revision of the original SEARs issued in March 2021.
The developer has informed the Department that, due to various delays, the development will now be progressed as a Concept Development Application which allows for a staged development. The developer is requesting that the Department amend the 2021 SEARs to reflect a staged development, comprising a ‘Concept’ for the entire development and a detailed proposal for the first stage of the development only. This first stage consists of preparatory works – land clearing, site preparation and construction of internal roads – for buildings (including the hotel) that are not yet approved, and whose approval would be the subject of a later stage development application.
The major features of the revised plans are:
This intersection is not required for the Stage 1 works as construction vehicles would use the existing entry from the highway. The developer has therefore requested that any detailed plans and impact assessment for the highway intersection not be included in a revised SEARs covering the Concept and Stage 1, but deferred to a later stage development application.
On the Concept plan, a ‘free range wildlife’ exhibit is shown in the vegetated area close to the swamp in the bottom right quadrant. In the Stage 1 works plan that same area shows a ‘predators of Australia’ exhibit featuring fresh- and salt-water crocodiles, dingoes, Tasmanian Devils and lace monitors.
Both these new exhibits are in the Environmental Conservation (C2) zone on the site.
The Department of Planning is currently consulting with government agencies (including Council) and will consider their advice before determining whether to revise the SEARs or not. There is no opportunity for the public to have a say at this point.
The Department is likely to make a decision by the end of May.
If revised SEARs are issued, the developer will have another 2 years to prepare and lodge the EIS and development application for the Concept and Stage 1 plans. If the Department decides an amendment is not necessary, and if the developer does not lodge the EIS and development application by the due date (June 30th), the current SEARs will expire. If that happens the developer will have to re-apply for a SEARs.
See the documents here under ‘Amendments’.
At its meeting of April 26th, the Council unanimously endorsed a Mayoral Matter of Urgency calling on the Department to not amend the current SEARs. It also reiterated its request that the state government end the State Significant designation for the proposed development and return it to Council for assessment.
The Council also resolved to hold a public meeting as soon as practicable, jointly chaired by the Mayor and the Member for Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle.
The Department of Planning has just released the advice from government authorities on the developer’s request to amend the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs).
These government authorities – the Blue Mountains City Council, Transport for NSW and the Environment and Heritage Group – have raised significant concerns that the Department has asked the developer to respond to by 9 June.
The Department has also recommended that the developer consider revising the proposal, given the significance of the concerns raised.
The advice received and the Department of Planning request to the developer.