A decades-long dispute over the protection of sensitive Hacking River catchment lands in Wollongong’s northern suburbs could be resolved in as little as 18 months.
NSW Planning has told Wollongong City Council it must take action on the most recent proposal to rezone 1600ha of catchment land at Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Park, commonly referred to as 7(d) lands, within 18 months or risk having the department make the final decision.
The direction does not mean the council cannot change the proposal and request more time, however if it decides to proceed with its existing plans, they must be finalised by October 2013.
Meantime, the department has told the council it must seek advice from eight government and industry bodies before the proposal is put on public exhibition.
The list includes the Southern River Catchment Management Authority, the Department of Primary Industries, Origin Energy and NSW Rural Fire Service.
The council must also consult neighbouring Sutherland, Wingecarribee and Campbelltown councils, the department said.
Under the proposal, the council has suggested rezoning the majority of the land for conservation.
However, some small parcels of land will receive zonings that allow minimal development in precincts at Helensburgh, Walker St (Helensburgh) and Otford South.
Councillors at their December meeting rejected a bid to have up to 450 homes built at two Helensburgh precincts known as the Land Pooling area and Lady Carrington Estate.
Residents will have the chance to comment on the proposal once the council has finished its consultation with the relevant agencies.
Two exhibition periods on previous proposals have attracted hundreds of comments.
Ward 1 councillor Greg Petty, a long-time advocate for greater conservation of 7(d) land, predicted this round of community consultation would attract a significant number of submissions once again.
He said many Helensburgh residents were still dissatisfied with some of the council’s decisions on the future zonings.
‘‘The council decisions, in my opinion, resulted in a flawed document with many inconsistencies,’’ he said.
‘‘And now NSW Planning has rubber stamped a document with individual zoning changes which fail to consider the connecting zone.’’