State hands back Minmi housing project

THE state government will hand back to Hunter councils planning assessments of a major housing and employment project on the fringe of the city at Minmi.

The state is expected to soon approve rezoning plans for Coal & Allied’s ‘‘Northern Estates’’ project.

The project includes developing 3300 houses on 520 hectares at Minmi next to the freeway link road and 183hectares at nearby Black Hill for employment uses.

Most of this land is in Newcastle, but some falls into Lake Macquarie.

The move relates to the O’Farrell government’s decision in 2011  to scrap the controversial part 3A planning powers and hand some projects back to councils.

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie councils criticised the Coal & Allied plans in submissions in 2011 to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure. 

Despite that, a department spokeswoman said it was ‘‘likely’’ that development applications for the project would ‘‘need to be lodged with and assessed by councils’’.

The joint regional planning panel will make final decisions on the plans.

‘‘The department is finalising its assessment of rezoning proposals for the Northern Estates,’’ the department spokeswoman said.

‘‘The department is continuing to assess concept plan applications for these two sites.’’

Newcastle council future city director Judy Jaeger said she expected the council would assess development applications for the project.

‘‘What we know is the Department of of Planning was hoping to finalise the rezoning prior to Christmas and also the concept plans need to be approved,’’ Ms Jaeger said.

‘‘All of that has to happen before any DAs are lodged with us.’’

Minmi Progress Association secretary Clarice Hamling said the plan had been going for five years and  ‘‘everyone wants to know what is happening with it’’.

It was one of the plans caught in a Land and Environment Court ruling in 2009 that found deals struck by the former Labor government for development in exchange for conservation land amounted to ‘‘land bribes’’.

Coal & Allied plans to dedicate of 1561hectares for conservation as part of the Minmi plan and 54hectares for conservation with the Black Hill proposal.

A Coal & Allied spokeswoman said the conservation land would be ‘‘transferred to the state government  for the long sought after Watagans to Stockton Bight conservation corridor’’.

‘‘This will offset sustainable residential and employment-generating developments in these two key sites, which have been earmarked in the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘Coal & Allied is allocating $10million for initiatives associated with social infrastructure to support existing and future communities at Black Hill and Minmi.’’

Minmi to soak up city sprawl

Minmi is Newcastle’s last frontier of development.

The city’s border goes no further west than Minmi, the suburb earmarked to take the last of the city’s urban sprawl.

Minmi Progress Association secretary Clarice Hamling said Minmi had a lot of history.

‘‘When I first moved to Minmi people kept saying it was the ‘gateway to Newcastle’ and basically it is,’’ Ms Hamling said.

Coal & Allied initially planned to build 6300 houses at  Minmi, but later reduced that to 3300 houses.

Ms Hamling said the ‘‘little village will be part of another area, once it meets Fletcher with the first stage of development’’.

‘‘A minority of residents don’t like it, but others know you can’t stop it,’’ she said.

‘‘People have to live somewhere and they have kids who will one day grow up and need a home.’’

Residents will seek to ensure adequate services and infrastructure accompany the project.

They will push for the developer to upgrade Minmi Progress Hall.

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