20-year battle led to development of the Greenhills Beach suburb

Turning point: Mayor Steve Simpson and executive chairman of Breen Holdings Tom Breen at a soil turning ceremony for Shearwater Estate in 2014. Picture: Chris Lane
Turning point: Mayor Steve Simpson and executive chairman of Breen Holdings Tom Breen at a soil turning ceremony for Shearwater Estate in 2014. Picture: Chris Lane

Sutherland Shire's newest suburb, Greenhills Beach, officially came into being in 2011 following a 20-year battle over the future of the former sandmining site.

The Geographical Names Board accepted the council's request to adopt the name used by surfers and noted on a map of the Kurnell Peninsula drawn by environmentalist Myles Dunphy.

The name Green Hills was also recorded on the 1951 Parish map of Sutherland.

The land comprised two parcels, one owned by Australand (formerly Hooker Holdings) and the other by Breen Holdings.

When sand mining finished on the Australand portion in the early 1990s, the company unsuccessfully applied to the council to build a $50 million resort.

The Land and Environment Court upheld an appeal, but, with an economic downturn, Australand dumped the resort plans in 1998 and instead sought to develop a light industrial estate in keeping with the existing zoning.

The council also opposed this proposal, claiming it would affect environmentally sensitive areas.

Leading the way: The Australand portion of Greenhills Beach was the first to be developed. Picture: John Veage

Leading the way: The Australand portion of Greenhills Beach was the first to be developed. Picture: John Veage

Breen Holdings, which had made continuing proposals for rezoning to the NSW Government and the council as far back as the 1960s, then joined with Australand in a joint strategy to have 32 hectares, encompassing their separate land holdings, rezoned for housing.

Their plan included offering most of the balance of their land holdings on the peninsula to be rezoned from uses that included "light industrial and sand extraction" to public open space.

In 2000, NSW Planning Minister Andrew Refshauge stripped the council of its planning control over the peninsula "to protect the area from inappropriate industrial development''.

In 2002, with a state election looming, the government "froze" all development on the peninsula pending a major environmental study. The report was never acted upon.

In 2003, Australand appealed to the Land and Environment Court to at least be able to build an industrial estate on its land.

The court agreed, and the decision effectively forced the council into a corner.

Keen interest: The auction of oceanfront blocks in Shearwater Landing estate in 2015. Picture: John Veage

Keen interest: The auction of oceanfront blocks in Shearwater Landing estate in 2015. Picture: John Veage

Councillors finally unanimously agreed new homes and community facilities were more preferable than small factories and workshops in that area.

In 2010, a total of 123 hectares was rezoned.

A voluntary planning agreement with the council provided 19 hectares for an Australand housing estate, 13 hectares for a Breen Holdings housing estate and 91 hectares, including 10 sports fields, for what is now called Marang Parklands.

The Australand estate included 236 lots and the Breen development, Shearwater Landing 160 lots.