A push from resident environmental advocates has reignited debate over the Halloran Development at Callala Bay.
The issue returned to the Shoalhaven City Council chamber on Monday night (May 22) through a Mayoral Minute.
Currently, the application fora 380-lot housing subdivision sits before the state government, awaiting consideration from the environment minister.
Mayor Amanda Findley moved for council to withdraw its existing biodiversity certification application for the proposed development site.
The biodiversity certification application is a step in the assessment process for major developments.
In a Mayoral Minute, Cr Findley moved to withdraw the application, citing 'widespread community opposition to the potential development'.
Initially passed in the chamber 7-6, a rescission motion was tabled by opposing councillors.
It means the issue will return to council's June 5 meeting.
The proposed development is a 380-lot housing subdivision adjoining the existing Callala Bay township.
The land is owned by the Halloran Trust, and development company Sealark Pty Ltd (owned by Halloran Trust) has put forward the planning proposal.
In total, 38ha of land is earmarked for the housing subdivision; more than 500ha of land owned by the trust would be transferred to the Jervis Bay National Park as a biodiversity offset.
Sealark managing director Matt Philpott made a deputation to the council meeting, speaking for the proposed development.
Addressing the chamber, he said the development would be playing a role in addressing the region's housing crisis.
"We are in a housing crisis," Mr Philpott said.
"Urgency has never been greater - we're talking 380 new homes for families that desperately need somewhere to live."
Mr Philpott told councillors that Sealark planned to deliver an average of 30 lots a year for 12 years, depending on market demand.
Opposition to the development has come from Callala Bay residents, and from environmental advocates further afield.
Many voiced their opposition during 2022, when the planning proposal went on public exhibition.
There were 1029 total submissions from the general public; most were from individuals, while nine came from Shoalhaven community and environmental groups.
14 were in favour of the development, and 13 were labelled 'other' (requests for additional information, comments out of scope, or comments without a clear position for or against).
Callala Bay resident Cat Holloway also made a deputation to the council meeting.
She said as a local, she was concerned by the environmental impact on known habitat of the endangered greater glider.
"One of the reasons we've fought this so hard on biodiversity grounds is because the biodiversity certification assessment report claims they [Sealark] will be able to offset the complete loss of biodiversity on those 40 hectares by somehow improving land elsewhere," she said.
"You can't just kill everything and then make it up later somewhere else, it's simply not possible to do that.
"The animals will die - gliders don't just pop over to a different forest, they depend on their territory and several tree hollows in the area.
"Gliders are extremely difficult to find, so any little hotspots like we have here are an extremely important thing."
In response, Mr Philpott said Sealark had followed state government environmental requirements for housing developments.
"According to the NSW Government's own Biodiversity Certification methodology, the proposed development requires the retirement of ecosystem and species credits," he said.
"For this development, these credits will be retired from the Lake Wollumboola Biobank Site, which is also owned by Sealark.
"In 2019 Sealark commenced the extensive rewilding of over 90 hectares of farmland on the Lake Wollumboola Biobank Site, which directly adjoins the Callala Bay Urban Release Area.
"The majority of the rewilding is the same vegetation community that exists on the 38 hectare Callala Bay site.
Withdrawing a biodiversity certification application would not stop the proposed development, only delay it.
Cr John Wells pointed out the issue.
"The passage of this resolution will not be fatal to the approval of planning as given," he said during debate.
"What it will do is incur for the developer a six figure sum for research and also delay the process by 18 months to two years."
Councillors in favour of the Mayoral Minute remained steadfast in their call for withdrawal, and new studies.
Speaking to the Minute, Mayor Amanda Findley cited locals' environmental concerns.
"It's actually their [the gliders'] housing crisis that we're talking about this evening," she said.
"Because if we remove that forest, what we end up with is a contribution to the ongoing extinction of those critters that are there."
The planning proposal for this specific development has been in the works since September 2017.
Previously the Callala Bay site was included in another planning proposal, alongside the Halloran West Culburra development.
The Callala Bay site was officially rezoned for residential development in October 2022.
The biodiversity certification application is the subject of a separate assessment process.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.