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THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

September 23, 2020

By Chris Grounds

Erowal Bay is a residential village community of 600 people on the eastern shore of St Georges Basin or Bherwerre in the Dharug language.

It is surrounded on three sides by either Jervis Bay National Park or properties destined to go into the Park.

Residents and holiday home owners treasure the quieter, down-beat family living.  It is a community with strong Aboriginal, Greek and ‘Skippy’ threads.  It has its own community hall and tennis courts. There is even a community notice board. People say “gidday” to people. It has a boat-ramp, a park and a shop, which is one of those old-fashioned multipurpose businesses- petrol, plonk, post office and papers.

There are very few two storey houses and when the first of the modern versions was being built a local wit hung a sign on the security fence announcing the arrival of the ‘Erowal Bay RSL’.

Erowal Bay's general store is low density like the rest of this quiet town.
Photo credit: Chris Grounds

What could go wrong?

The entire village is zoned to ‘Low Density R2 Residential’ with the shop site zoned to ‘Local Centre – B2’. There is no use of that site ‘permitted without consent’ but a range of housing, tourist and commercial uses permitted but needing consent.

Now imagine a three storey, over height limit, 17 dwelling units, 24 undercover carparks, two commercial premises; monstrosity with a $12 million price tag.

An artist's impression on the proposed three-storey development.
Image supplied.

It is what we call ‘development’ in the Shoalhaven and an example of what communities like Erowal Bay are sick and tired of in the picture of their future.

Where do the residents stand?  Well, the Council advice about the Development Application [DA] didn’t go to the whole village when council miscalculated that the DA only concerned near residents. Big mistake! Being the place it is, it only took two days for everyone to know, including absentee owners, as the word spread across fences, on roadsides, on phones; along faithful gossip lines.

Then the ‘Mouse Roared’.

Council received 204 Submissions against the development, and these represented at least 320 people, equivalent to half the village population. The call ‘not on our patch’ rang out and feelings have run very strongly.  The DA proponents, shop owner and three partner proponents SET Consultants, ADM Architects and Hotondo Homes South Nowra seem not to have recognised the likely community reaction or perhaps don’t care.

Council Planners had no choice but to recognise the reaction in Submissions but as well, to evaluate a DA so clearly out of kilter. 

The proponents were advised the design “does not respond to and enhance the qualities and identity of the area, streetscape and neighbourhood”.  Neither was the “proposed scale, bulk and height appropriate to the desired future character or surrounding buildings”. Planners weren’t finished there as they advised the applicants that “the density is not appropriate, and the design does not positively influence external amenity.”

Council planners requested the proponents to consider submissions and redesign the development.  Council also had to request that it be made clear who exactly was the applicant.

The proponents are now busy redesigning a concept that is totally unacceptable to the local community and have been given an extension to October 2nd to provide their intentions.

Shoalhaven Council is currently developing its Growth Management Strategy-2041 and the likes of the Erowal Bay DA fits squarely in the category of, to quote council, “an established area not undergoing significant change or identified for change.”

The village waits with bated breath and Councillors need to take heed of their stance. If councillors haven’t been taking notice they need to and follow their own mantra, so often heard, that they are listening to the community.

Chris Grounds is a long term Erowal Bay resident and Committee member of the Basin Villages Forum.

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    7 comments on “THE MOUSE THAT ROARED”

    1. Thanks Chris. Unfortunately, even if council was a better mix with more members who had a community-listening focus, there will always be a bigger fight with Independent Regional Planning Panels, the Land and Environment Court and the like. Look at the Narrabri Gas Project. 23,000 submissions and around only 300 in support. Let's hope it is nipped in the bud at the starting line. Appropriate development in line with the guidelines, and after real consultation with the community, yes. Erowal Bay is one of few sleepy hollow spots left in the Shoalhaven and deserves to be kept that way. Good luck to the EB community and know that you will have lots of supporters and a local government election in your resources.

    2. Chris, excellent article and evidence that if made aware many good people will support balanced outcomes that take account of the community. Staff handling of the application after receipt of the amended proposal will also need scrutiny and any attempt by some Councillors to distort outcomes.

    3. Thanks Chris for helping spread the word. Let’s keep on it and as a community prevent unnecessary and greed driven “developments” in our beautiful and peaceful part of the world.

    4. We lived in first ave for 3 years 03-06 and loved the low key village living at EB. The powerful owl and yellow bellied gliders routinely roamed the spotted gums in our yard and nearby unfortunately cut down gone now. Gross developments such as proposed is an insult to the village identity and i hope its relegated to the growing scrapheap of ought to be refused developments in the Shoalhaven. The development rot needs to stop. Is it time for a review of the urban zonings in the LEP ??

    5. I do feel for you and wish you every success in stopping this monstrosity in your community. So many small coastal towns have been ruined (my view, not Council's view) bu rampant development. I hope you can resist.

      1. So glad Erowal Bay may be able to fend off the village and pristine bushland destroyers. I hated it when 'bayswood' went ahead despite extensive community protest. Its like a spaceship landed. Thanks Chris for voicing the concerns of locals.

    6. Fingers crossed, Chris. And council will be feeling the pressure of state government. Road improvements - as you know - are to increase development in your beautiful parts of the coastline....and turn them into another Central Coast.

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