The Peninsula Residents Association has rejected an offer from Council-under-administration to “sacrifice” trees to plant more later.
Instead they association wants to see Council implement its already adopted Greener Places Strategy and adopt a suggestion from the Local Planning Panel.
Administrator Rik Hart has offered the community a choice:
To inject an unknown “millions” of dollars into an “extensive street tree planting program” on the Peninsula over a ten year period, as a trade-off for the sale of part of the Austin Butler reserve which adjoins the Peninsula Plaza shopping centre.
“In short, the proposal is to sacrifice a few dozen mature trees now, for the benefit of thousands of trees planted in the area over the next 10 years which would provide a substantial benefit for future generations,” Mr Hart said.
The other option is to keep the land in council ownership, about 4000m2 which is home to more than 40 mature trees.
Mr Hart has promised to let the community decide.
The association has called on Mr Hart to bring on a strategic planning review of the Peninsula and implement the Council’s adopted Greener Places Strategy.
“The Strategy includes a review of planning provisions to support the retention and expansion of tree cover,” association secretary Ms Jen Wilder said.
Action proposed in the strategy is to “prepare planning controls to improve tree planting and retention outcomes from development”, she said.
“The community and the association have demonstrated the inadequacy of the current planning provisions to protect and encourage an increase in tree canopy on the Peninsula in their many submissions on local development applications.”
She said that, in November last year, the Local Planning Panel called on the Council to undertake a strategic planning review of the Peninsula “to ensure there is consistency between the relevant controls, provisions and character statements applicable to each locality, and clear direction and expectation on the desired future character of these suburbs”.
Despite the planning panel’s advice, currently, there is no review scheduled.
Ms Wilder said Mr Hart had claimed to be giving the community the opportunity to decide about the long-term future of their area, in particular, from a community greening and street tree perspective.
“We would like the Administrator to introduce the strategic planning review as a matter of urgency” she said.
“Such a review will be more effective in the longer-term, will be less expensive and is a sounder approach to the issue of greening the Peninsula.”
The community has been campaigning to save the reserve since it was listed on a tranche of council-owned land for sale in 2021.
At the time, Council said it needed to sell $60M worth of land. It has since sold $62M with the Gosford council chambers in Mann St Gosford, along with other land nearby still earmarked for sale to increase that total.
Member for Gosford Liesl Tesch is encouraging residents to get actively involved to save the paperbacks from destruction and to help preserve the space.
The reserve is home to a significant stand of paperbark and she-oak trees next to Peninsula Plaza in Woy Woy, adjacent to Austin Butler Oval.
“In my ongoing discussions with Rik Hart, Administrator for Central Coast Council I have asserted that the community must be consulted on this change and the community must be listened to regarding the future of this site, and by extension, the future of Woy Woy town centre,” Ms Tesch said.
“Our Peninsula’s environmental problems are already well documented* as are ongoing tree loss due to development and issues such as the urban heat island effect.”
Ms Tesch said the community had already loudly shown their opposition to the sale of Council community assets and “together we need to continue to speak out and oppose the possible removal of this unique green space.”
“We have launched a petition that will go directly to Council to help in our fight to protect this land.
“It is a lovely piece of land, providing essential shade and amenity to Austin Butler Oval users and shoppers alike. It’s a beautiful shady spot that is teeming with all kinds of birdlife.”
Save Our Austin Butler Trees petition can be found at the following link: https://www.liesltesch.com.au/community/petitions/petitions/