‘No benefit’ in Mambo wetlands site's clearing plan, Port Stephens Council planners say

Trees tagged at 182 Port Stephens Drive in late 2017. Picture: Kathy Brown
Trees tagged at 182 Port Stephens Drive in late 2017. Picture: Kathy Brown

PLANNERS have recommended Port Stephens Council reject a Salamandar Bay development in the Mambo Wetlands at Tuesday’s meeting.  

Site owner Paul Unicomb has proposed a $450,000 dwelling on the 5.6 hectare Port Stephens Drive property that forms part of the Mambo Wetlands. 

While its zoning allows residential development, the site has become a battleground in the area in recent years as conservationists urged authorities to buy back the former Department of Education land sold in 2016. 

The large public response to the proposal, including more than 2600 submissions during its 30-day public exhibition, have landed it on the elected council’s Tuesday night agenda. Roughly 2300 of the submissions were pro forma letters. 

In their assessment report the council’s planners state the proposal represents “minimal public benefit” and would hurt local ecology, making it ineligible under its environmental conservation zoning. 

Planners note that the proposal would cleave away 200 square metres of preferred koala habitat, 1300 square metres of 50-metre buffer over supplementary habitat and modify another 3300 square metres of supplementary habitat and 50-metre buffer zone.

“The development will require the removal and modification of koala habitat within an area considered to have high environmental value,” the report states. “While a number of measures were proposed with the aim to reduce and mitigate harm … adverse environmental impacts are unavoidable.” 

The Port Stephens Council report notes the site’s lack of cleared areas means shifting the development on the site would likely do little to reduce lost vegetation.

The state government in February indicated to the council it would examine whether buying back the site was feasible. 

A Department of Primary Industries submission notes the proposal has “little difference” to a former dual occupancy application that was withdrawn. 

Planners noted a medium risk that deciding to refuse or approve the development could spark a legal challenge.