The latest public review of controversial plans to rezone more than 1500 hectares of land in Wollongong's northern suburbs has sparked a cyber war between pro-development groups and environmentalists.
At least four websites connected with northern Illawarra lobby groups contain e-submission pages, for residents to send prepared "form" letters to Wollongong City Council registering support for or objection to proposed zoning changes at Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Tops.
The council estimated it received about 24,000 online submissions, with the exhibition period still open for another two days.
Each of the lobby group websites viewed by the Mercury allowed for individuals to make submissions on one, some, or all of the 24 precincts up for re-zoning, meaning one resident can lodge up to 24 submissions in a single transaction.
The council said its figures were based on the number of overall submissions and not on the number of individuals who lodged comments.
People have to enter personal details before submitting the form to minimise multiple submissions from the same person.
A council spokesman said the council had also received a further 6000 mostly form letters, the bulk in the past two days.
While environmental lobbyists have used the online system in the past to push their cases, pro-development groups have only recently signed up to the e-revolution.
Helensburgh Business Owners Group member Neville Bussa said although he had been opposed to the use of e-petitions, he believed it was time to fight fire with fire.
"Council told us the [previous] online submissions from lobby groups wouldn't be counted as submissions, but they obviously were because they got 18,000," he said.
"We decided to set up our own e-submission process because a lot of land owners said they didn't feel like their voices were being heard by the council.
"It's about creating balance and showing the council there are different opinions about these changes."
Natasha Watson, who is running e-submissions from both her own Otford Eco website and the Oftord Protection Society site, yesterday claimed to have forwarded about 33,000 comments to the council so far.
Ms Watson said she saw the e-submissions as a way to help people who wanted to make a submission but did not have the time or the literary skill to put pen to paper.
Council staff will collate the comments and sort and analyse them before a final report is presented to councillors.
However, the process is expected to take some months, with staff required to wade through each individual submission.