Court challenge over state government blocking plans for up to 2000 condominiums around Boat Harbour on Kurnell peninsula

In limbo: The proposed development area stretches north from this access road, and large tracts of land have already been filled and levelled. Picture: John Veage
In limbo: The proposed development area stretches north from this access road, and large tracts of land have already been filled and levelled. Picture: John Veage

An appeal against the blocking of plans for up to 2000 condominiums around Boat Harbour on the Kurnell peninsula was heard in the NSW Land and Environment Court this week.

The court action followed the Department of Planning and Environment’s refusal last year to issue environmental requirements to advance a proposed $2 billion “integrated leisure, tourism, health, residential, and employment precinct”.

Included in the project were 2000 oceanfront apartments – described as condominiums – two hotels, a convention centre, private hospital, shopping centre and business park.

The court action was taken by Besmaw, a company owned by the Holt family, which has owned the land for 150 years and conducted extensive land mining operations.

Mined sites are progressively being filled, and large tracts of land have already been levelled.

Justice John Robson, who was expected to reserve his judgment, heard the department refused to issue SEARS (secretary's environmental assessment requirements) for several reasons, including the condominiums were not considered to be state significant development.

Ready to go: Rehabilitated former sand mining land, north of the skate park, proposed for development. Picture: John Veage

Ready to go: Rehabilitated former sand mining land, north of the skate park, proposed for development. Picture: John Veage

The department’s view was that while residents in the condominiums might have use of the tourism resort facilities, the two components were not sufficiently related for the entire proposal to be classified as state significant.

Besmaw was invited to exclude the condominiums from the proposal and resubmit plans, but instead opted to take court action.

Much of the legal argument related to a letter from Cronulla MP and Environment Minister Mark Speakman, strongly opposing the development.

The letter to then Planning Minister Rob Stokes, was forwarded under Mr Stokes’ letterhead and marked high importance to the secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment.

Neil Wiliams SC, for Besmaw, said the letter containing Mr Speakman’s “strident views” was never disclosed to his client and there was no opportunity for rebuttal.

Mr Williams said Mr Speakman’s views could have been seen as legal opinion because his letterhead showed he was a senior counsel.

Mr Williams said several points Mr Speakman made were “taken up” in the reasons given for refusal.

Alan Shearer, for the department, said the “critical issue” was the dominance in the development of the condominiums, which would involve permanent accommodation.

Mr Shearer said the condominiums would be 1-2 kilometres away from the resort facilities at the Bate Bay Hotel and Boat Harbour Hotel.

Mr Shearer said the department’s concerns about the tourism and residential components not being sufficiently related were conveyed to Besmaw through ongoing dialogue.

He said Besmaw was aware of Mr Speakman’s views because they had met with him, but had not put anything in rebuttal to the department.