The Hon. Robert Stokes, MP
NSW Minister for Planning
The Blue Mountains is a unique area — one that has been in the making for hundreds of millions of years. It’s part of the system of National Parks that make up the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, which is globally recognised for its outstanding universal values by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Greater Blue Mountains represents one of the largest, most intact tracts of protected bushland in Australia. It is a vast and beautiful area, inhabited by Aboriginal people over millennia. Its landscape has special significance to the Darug and Gundungurra people. The Greater Blue Mountains area is also home to unique species found nowhere else in the world, such as the Wollemi pine.
Few places in the world can boast of being surrounded by over a million hectares of wilderness. With its varied ecosystems and biodiversity, 300 metre cliffs, canyons and waterfalls, the Blue Mountains region is regarded as the ‘lungs’ of the Sydney basin.
Amongst this wild and rugged landscape, the Blue Mountains character townships and villages sit along the main ridgeline beside roads of historical significance, and are famous for their quiet tree-lined streets and houses in traditional garden settings.
The Blue Mountains — with its Aboriginal and European cultural heritage and outstanding environmental and scenic values — attracts a large and growing number of domestic and overseas visitors. This contributes to the economy of the Blue Mountains, where tourism and visitation is a significant economic sector.
We are sure you will agree that such an exceptional area deserves the utmost respect and protection to ensure its future preservation, as the NSW and Commonwealth Governments committed to at the time of the World Heritage listing.
In 2012 the NSW Government asked the Blue Mountains City Council to develop a new Local Environment Plan (LEP) consistent with the mandated standard state-wide planning model. In developing the new plan, one of the key objectives for the community was to conserve our beautiful World Heritage Area and character towns and villages. The current planning provisions have successfully regulated the impact of urban development on the World Heritage Blue Mountains National Park, as well as ensuring our small Blue Mountains towns and villages are not subject to increasingly dense urban and high-rise development.
The previous Coalition Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard promised that special consideration would be given to the Blue Mountains in developing its new LEP. This commitment was reflected in the draft Blue Mountains LEP 2013, which was widely supported by the community during the public exhibition process. However, we understand that the NSW Department of Planning now has concerns with the draft Plan and advocates instead that key heritage and environmental provisions be removed or downgraded, because they do not fit the state-wide planning model.
The local community and Council have worked hard for over twenty years to develop a plan that will continue to protect the valuable Blue Mountains natural environment and character towns and villages. UNESCO, too, recognises the threat that development on the ridgetops poses and the careful management that is required to protect the World Heritage Area.
We find it incomprehensible that an area of such outstanding natural and cultural value is required to fit neatly into a generic ‘one size fits all’ development plan. The future of a very ancient, sensitive and globally significant area is being jeopardised if this is the case.
So we ask you, Hon. Robert Stokes, Minister for Planning, to recognise the ecological significance and cultural importance of the Blue Mountains. You must keep the commitment your government previously made to the community to preserve the current Blue Mountains planning framework. We urgently request that you approve the draft Blue Mountains LEP 2013, as exhibited and endorsed by Council.
Sponsored by Blue Mountains Conservation Society Inc.: www.bluemountains.org.au