The Bambara Rd properties (Lot 2502 DP 801107, Lot 229 DP 755221, Lot 251 DP 755221, Lot 478 DP 755221 (technically 140 Woy Woy Rd)), as the accompanying plan shows (MAP Bambara Rd Kariong), comprise a total of about 74 hectares surrounded by Brisbane Water National Park on all sides. The properties are referred to as an inholding within the park. Gosford Council has held the view for a long time that the land should, preferably, become part of either Brisbane Water National Park, or failing that, the Council’s Coastal Open Space System.
The unique environmental and heritage value of Bambara does not need to be restated here at length. It is home to at least 12 threatened Species and a large number of sensitive and important Aboriginal cultural sites. (See Bambara 4 National Park Website)
For decades, residents have lobbied to have the land acquired (See Memo). Over 30 years ago in 1983 the National Parks and Wildlife Service moved to acquire the land in question for inclusion in BWNP but because of financial constraints was unable to go ahead.
In 1989 there was a proposal to rezone the land for development, which was opposed by the both the Central Coast and Sydney branches of the National Parks Association. Council in 1991 decided not to proceed with the rezoning.
Throughout the next decade the inclusion of the land into the BWNP continued to be supported by the National Parks Association and Council made representations to NPWS and the then Minister for the Environment for their purchase and inclusion into the BWNP
In 1998 the Council again made representations to the NPWS and the State Government to have the land in question purchased for inclusion in the BWNP and the National Parks Association supported that request.
All this early history is important because it was in the year 1999 that the present owners of the major lots in question, Lots 229, 251 and 2502, purchased those properties.
No purchaser at that time (or since, in the case of Lot 247 which was purchased in 2007) could have been unaware of the intentions of Council and the long term likelihood that the properties would be absorbed into the Brisbane Water National Park.
In 2001 the properties were rezoned by council which reduced the range of activities which could be conducted on the land to allowing only one single residential dwelling.
In 2008 Council received and declined a development application for residential dwellings on the lots in question. This was contested in the Land and Environment court and ultimately, in June 2010 the Court upheld Council’s position and refused the development application largely because of the environmental disturbance that would be necessary for bushfire protection. (Land and Environment Court decision)
Alongside and including that process Council reached an agreement (in 2011) with National Parks and Wildlife for a 50/50 share of the costs of acquisition of all of the Bambara Rd properties and in 2012 offers of voluntary acquisition were made to all of the landowners in Bambara Rd.
In late 2012 negotiations on Lot 2501 (one of the larger lots and lying to the north of Bambara Rd) were successful and Council acquired that property also.
Offers remain open for the remaining 4 lots – lot 229, to the east of Bambara Rd and lots 478, 251 and 2502 to the south of Bambara Rd. One land-owner has made a counter-offer without a professional valuation to justify the amount, and the other land-owner has not responded at all.
Council and the NWPS have gone to a lot of trouble to demonstrate to affected landowners that they are willing to undertake negotiations which reflect the true market value of their properties. NWPS went further and engaged an independent mediator/negotiator to facilitate the negotiations. But this has been of no avail.
The current process leaves the owners of the land in limbo – they cannot sell the properties on the open market while the acquisition process remains open. By not finalizing the process in a timely manner, Council and NPWS are at risk of incurring compensation claims, as has been attempted by property owners in Sydney in similar positions.
After decades of attempts, and over 2 years since the voluntary acquisition offers were first made, and given that the purchase of this land by public authorities was an election promise by Mr. Chris Holstein, this Council and the State Government should bring the process to an end before the next State election. The Community has always been concerned that as time passes, opportunities for the final acquisition of the Bambara properties and their inclusion into the National Park will slip away, regardless of the declared intentions of the State Government and Council. So the time to move on this is now.
Given that the intent is that these properties be incorporated into a National Park, which is the responsibility of the State Government, the most logical course to pursue is to request the State Government move to compulsory acquisition. It is clear that negotiations have taken place over the last two years and that Council has done what it can within its powers to reach an agreement with all the owners. Council cannot move on compulsory acquisition as the purpose of the use of the land is not within normal council purposes, however, Council remains committed to its offer of 50% of the costs under voluntary acquisition.