22 October 2019

Ginninderry opponents say 'special deal' for Parkwood won't help Yass residents

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Ginninderry development

Ginninderry developers say the future is bright for the former Parkwood site. Photo: Supplied.

Opponents of the Ginninderry development plans and the Yass Valley Council are at odds over a new, specially created Local Environment Plan that will go to Council this week, alleging a special deal for the developers and ACT Government stakeholders.

The 5 km NSW ACT Border Zone Planning Group Inc, which describe itself as “a non-profit association working for a better environmental, social and economic outcome for South Yass Valley”, say the one-off Local Environment Plan is of no benefit to Yass ratepayers.

“Every ratepayer should take a close interest in this proposal as it replaces the planning controls stated in the Yass Valley LEP that the rest of the ratepayers have to comply with, with a new one that allows high-density housing in a sensitive environmental area,” an email from the group reads.

“It is a special deal for the Riverview Developments Pty Ltd and Stevens Pty Ltd and of no stated benefit to the ratepayers of Yass Valley. We assume that shareholders of Riverview Developments Pty Ltd, a private company, includes a 60% share by the ACT Government.”

But Yass Valley Planning Director Chris Berry says the Local Environment Plan changes, if approved, are necessary to ensure the entire project can proceed across state borders, and there had been no significant changes from the original proposal, more than five years ago.

“The main thing is to have a seamless look and feel about the new urban area with the ACT,” Mr Berry said. “Development standards are very different in the ACT to the rest of the Yass Valley, as are land uses.

“We need to create a NSW zone that is very similar to the ACT and Council doesn’t have that scope under NSW legislation. As matters stand we would have to choose from an existing template.

“Ginninderry is physically isolated from the Yass Valley, it will face towards Canberra not the rest of Yass. It’s a unique site with unique characteristics and it was always very clear that the suburb being created must have the look and feel of a Canberra suburb.”

Masterplan illustration

The Ginninderry masterplan illustrates the challenges facing the cross-border development. Photo: File.

At the forthcoming meeting, Councillors will also be asked to vote on a new policy document called the Draft Local Strategic Planning Statement. This would create a 5 km buffer zone around the state border to prevent intensive residential development between the ACT and Yass.

The 5 km group claims that “Councillors can’t honestly, morally or ethically vote for a policy document that is in conflict with a development proposal”.

They’re calling for an independent assessment of the Parkwood/Gininderry proposal to determine a range of issues including protection of sensitive environmental areas; whether high-density housing is the best use of that land and how it will contribute economic employment, social or environmental benefit to the rest of the Yass Valley.

But Yass Valley Planning Director Chris Berry says that Council has been clear that the Ginninderry development should not disadvantage to other Yass Valley ratepayers. “Gininderry will be largely reliant on ACT services, so it needs to generate sufficient revenue to cover the cost of those services,” he said.

“In NSW, rate revenue is capped. An increase in rate revenue from Ginninderry would mean there has to be a decrease in the rates elsewhere. That could impact the level of services for the rest of Yass Valley because there is less income from there.

“One solution is to look at the idea of a special rate variation. It’s a complex problem because those variations are usually only for a specific period of time, but this would be almost indefinite,” Mr Berry said.

Council “doesn’t necessarily disagree” that it would be easier to simply move the border so that the whole development fits inside the ACT. “Political will would be necessary to change the border at all levels of government and that conversation needs to be had,” he said.

The Parkwood/Ginninderry development proposal will be discussed at the Yass Valley Council meeting at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, 23 October. Opponents believe this may be their last chance to have a say about the proposal’s future.

In the meantime, Ginninderry will unveil GX – The Ginninderry Experience this weekend with a display village experience, a local arts trail, turf and environmental control displays, the ‘Mini-G’ tiny house, 16 display homes and an integrated mobile App.

There will be a community event on Saturday 26 October and Sunday, 27 October from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.

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I’d like to directly ask the proponents of the Ginninderry development why the setbacks from the river are so much smaller on the NSW side of the border to those on the ACT side (as is plain in the plan in the article above)? There also seems to be a smaller proportion of land labelled “parks” on the NSW side – even with the proximity to Ginninderra Falls on that side.
Either the Riverview Developments organisation have a commitment to the environment/Murray Darling Basin or they don’t.
The Yass Council, representing their constituents downriver, have a clear obligation to protect the water quality in the Bidgee. IF they do vote to approve the development on the NSW side, they should enforce the same (or stricter) controls on contaminated stormwater runoff as does the ACT Government.

This story illustrates that the problems with this development which were identified five years ago when it was first proposed haven’t gone away and – if anything – have become worse.

This idea that you can simply spill Canberra over the border into a country shire and have everything exactly the same as it is in Braddon and Red Hill is ridiculous and it is stupid to mislead people into thinking it will.

Like everybody else I’ve seen the glossy ads on the TV promising a great community experience on the weekend. I’ve thought “Whoa, there! You’re trying to sell something that doesn’t exist, can’t be built and won’t ever be able to be built until complex constitutional issues are overcome”.

“Let’s just shift the border!” Huh! NSW has never been comfortable about having a chunk of their land handed over to the Commonwealth, and to expect them to meekly stand by while we grab even more? Well… Good luck getting it past the Nationals, One Nation and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MPs in the NSW Upper House.

I think it’s time to take a cold shower and just stop this development at the border, if it goes ahead at all. Trying to franchise Canberra out to an interstate country council is just stupid.

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