An architect with 30-plus years experience has stepped up the fight to preserve the Mambo Wetlands.
Murray Wood of Salamander Bay makes his living working with developers but said he wasn’t scared to take on Paul Unicomb who bought a six-hectare site adjoining the wetlands at auction. Mr Wood said he had taken a vow as an architect to uphold quality outcomes and couldn’t see how the six-hectare site would ever reap a development the community deserved.
“Being zoned E2 Environmental Conservation it does say you can do environmentally sensitive developments but being on a koala corridor it is clear that this is not an appropriate development site,” he said. “I’ll be working hand in hand with the community to stop this development using my knowledge of planning codes to put obstacles in front of this every step of the way.”
Mr Wood has lodged a submission with Port Stephens Council in opposition to Mr Unicomb’s second lot of plans for the site, after the first DA was withdrawn. The home’s construction value was estimated at $450,000 which Mr Wood disputed. Using the Rawlinson’s Construction Cost Guide 2017 – an industry-standard developer tool – Mr Wood calculated the home would cost $925,000, largely due to the need to meet bushfire standards.
When asked to comment on the $450,000 estimated construction cost of the proposed single-storey dwelling Mr Unicomb pointed out that his property development business also included a large-scale construction company, which would be engaged if and when approval for the development was gained.
“The construction company has the ability to undertake all civil and construction phases of the proposed development and can do so at ‘wholesale’ cost,” he said in a statement.
Mr Unicomb also said the DA lodged on December 22 took into account concerns raised about the original dual occupancy development and seeks to minimise any impact on surrounding bushland.
Further, he said that the proposed development was in keeping with the “E2 Environmental Zoning”, which permits development.
Mr Wood said he felt duty-bound to fight the plans.
“It’s in our charter, we have an obligation not only to our clients but to the community, this is part of my job,” he said.
“It’s part and parcel of my role as an architect.”
Under clause 256 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, Mr Wood said the council was within its rights to refuse the development application, if the costings were not accurate. The regulations allow for the council to do so within 14 days of plans being lodged. But a council spokesman said the plans were in fact still active and under assessment despite Mr Wood’s concern.
Mayor Ryan Palmer said the development application would be treated like any other.
“I share the community’s angst about the use of the site but until we see all of the detail we can’t make an assessment as to whether this development should or shouldn’t happen,” he said.
Cr Palmer wrote to the Premier Gladys Berejiklian last month to seek her support on a buyback.
"We're expecting a reply in the next couple of months after the Office of Environment and Heritage provided advice that it will be seeking a meeting with the Premier in this matter,” he said.