Council members are calling for urgent action to protect one of Darwin’s last natural bushland remnants from urban encroachment in the form of a formal proposal to Darwin City Council.
the main points:
- Two city councilors will move a motion to save Lee Point at the upcoming Darwin City Council meeting
- Prime Minister and Environment Minister say the project will go ahead
- Lee Point is home to endangered animals and protected bird species
Hectares of threatened cycad species and natural habitats have been swept by bulldozers in Lee Point, a northern suburb of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, where plans to build 800 homes in Australian Defense Housing are proceeding.
But councilman Rebecca Want de Roe, who will present the proposal at next Tuesday’s council meeting with councilman Justin Glover, says the “development is totally against everything the council is fighting for.”
Ms. Want de Roux said she is calling on the council to send a letter to Environment Secretary Eva Lawler requesting a construction freeze until the Northern Territory Planning Commission completes a “comprehensive plan for the area.”
“This is not a done deal, the minister has the right to stop this,” she said.
“It’s an urban forest, and the City of Darwin recently voted unanimously on the Darwin Greening Strategy, and the goal of this strategy is to protect our urban forests, increase our tree canopy and keep our city cool and green.”
The project was approved by the Development Approval Authority in 2018.
But Ms Wantt de Roux said in 2016, by the time the project was given the go-ahead, public consultations were “dream”.
She also said in the wake of a global pandemic, the importance of green spaces has been brought to the fore.
“In the recent council elections, I was overwhelmed by a lot of people who said they were concerned about the development at Lee Point,” she said.
The proposal is expected to have the support of seven other local council members and Darwin City Council Mayor Con Vatskalis.
Recently appointed local council member Amy On, who will also support behind the movement, questioned the public utility of the development and site.
“This is a legacy we must leave to the next generation, our children,” she said.
She said the land should instead be protected and preserved like a mecca for birdwatching and tourism as it already was, attracting 80 percent of the Kakadu bird species and 80 percent of Australia’s migratory shorebird species.
Northern Territory Premier Michael Gunner has consistently emphasized that it is “too late” to halt development.
Despite the growing opposition, he said, more homes were needed in Darwin, where vacancy rates were falling, to attract workers to jobs.
“The blocks are for sale, the sale and development is underway,” he said.
“Right now we have jobs available during the recession…we want people to take those jobs. People need to live somewhere.”
About a quarter – or 21 hectares – will be incorporated into the existing Casuarina Coastal Reserve and another 11 hectares will be set aside as open space, the government said.
Environment Minister Eva Lawler said she had no “intent to overturn decisions of independent legislatures,” including the Northern Territory Environmental Protection Authority and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
“The subdivision will move forward,” she said while understanding the audience’s concerns.
A recent Darwin City Council study that examined wild cats at Lee Point revealed two endangered species: the black-legged tree mouse and the yellow-spotted screen rat.
It is the discoveries, combined with rising temperatures as cities turn into tangible heat islands, and a projected increase in traffic congestion and automobile-related emissions, that have excited members of society.
CSIRO said last year that urban areas in Darwin could become high-risk areas for heat-related diseases within decades, and the number of days above 35C could increase dramatically by 2030.
Ian Redmond, an avid bird watcher and member of the Friends of Lee Point community working group, said the government had ignored opposition over the development.
“There wasn’t enough consultation to get started…Everyone we talk to hates evolution, [they believe] They are going to miss out on something special.”
“It (development) is bad for the environment and bad for the economy,” he added.
The Australian Housing Defense has been contacted for comment.