“Zombie” developments under Parliamentary spotlight

The NSW Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning is conducting an inquiry into historical development consents, commonly known as “zombie developments” because they are in limbo between approval and completion. Sometimes over many years – even decades – approved development projects remain unfinished (in the case of lapsed approval times with minimal work commenced) for a variety of reasons. Reasons such as lack of finance feature prominently in the causes of zombie developments, so too are those which are the product of land-banking.

Historical, or zombie developments, include coastal approvals that pre-date important developments in environmental science, particularly with respect to climate change and species extinction. Over time, environmental impact statements provided at the time of the development approval may no longer be scientifically valid. A prime example of this is in relation to the koala, which has experienced dramatic slump in population due to disease, bushfires, and vegetation clearing for housing and coal mines around NSW.

South West Rocks and neighbouring historic Trial Bay are some of the coastal localities surrounded by bushland, where residential development has continued to encroach into native vegetation which is koala habitat. In 2023 the NSW Land and Environment Court ruled in favour of site clearing works related to a development application at South West Rocks approved 30 years before. People are fighting back against coastal overdevelopment, often of a historical or land-banking origins
Zombie developments also include infrastructure projects such as Santos’ Hunter to Narrabri Gas Pipeline (originally intended to stretch to Queensland) which the South Australian-based gas company purchased from the original promoter Hunter Gas to provide transport to market from its Narrabri gas field in the Pilliga Forest. The ailing Narrabri Gas Project was approved in 2018 and is yet still not in its production phase.

The (then) Hunter to Queensland Gas pipeline was approved in 2011 and remained dormant for nine years with no contact from Hunter Gas until landholders started to receive letters with maps of their properties with a pipeline route indicated over their landholdings, and a small promotional pamphlet – in mid July 2020. Since the project’s approval in 2011, a considerable proportion of landholdings have changed, and government policy at all levels has demanded action on climate change forcing new fossil projects such as the Hunter to Narrabri Gas Project to be evaluated in accordance with Net Zero 2050 and the Commonwealth Safeguard Mechanism whose success is based on accurate calculation of greenhouse gas fugitive emissions.

Submissions to the Inquiry into historical development consents in NSW closed on 3rd June 2024.
This is the Better Planning Network’s submission HERE


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *