Hearing into controversial $13.6m Bellawongarah development

THE latest chapter into a proposed $13.6 million tourist and function centre, Rockfield Park at Bellawongarah played out on Monday.

Around 100 people, including a number of Shoalhaven City councillors, attended a Land and Environment Court hearing on site at the property on Monday, March 20. 

The Hamilton family through Camberlee Investments want to build 42 accommodation units and associated facilities, including a restaurant/function centre on the property between Berry and Kangaroo Valley.

The proposal for Rockfield Park, on Kangaroo Valley Road, was rejected by Shoalhaven City Council and the Joint Regional Planning Panel in 2015.

Among the reasons was that a function centre was prohibited under planning rules.

Commissioner Rosemary Martin heard submissions from nine residents on behalf of the community.

The presenters raised a number of issues around the development proposal, including government’s due diligence, the environmental impact, road safety, bushfire safety, energy, water and sewage, noise issues, the change to the public amenity and if the development could actually be considered ecotourism, as was first stated.

The recent change in design from a conference centre to a restaurant, which would effectively increase the use of the facility, was also questioned.

In his presentation, resident Fred Owen said the amended plans increased the scale of the development.

“The design change will make this potentially the biggest restaurant in the Shoalhaven,” Mr Owen said.

“It would have the capacity to cater for approximately 300 people.

“The average Shoalhaven  restaurant caters for between 40 and 70 guests.

“This DA was initially to have a large function centre to cater for midweek conference and weekend wedding market.

“It is interesting the amended DA has changed the name of the function centre to a restaurant.

“This new application, with the changes, increases the floor area of the restaurant by four per cent. It was stated the function centre could hold up to 186 people. Now it has the potential capacity to seat 300 people.

“Lounge areas have been moved and added, which makes for about a 12 per cent increase in capacity.

“This will double the waste, double the sewage and will greatly increase the intensity of use.”

Mr Owen asked with 200 to 300 guests and only accommodation for 80 odd people, how would the remaining patrons get home?

“There is no public transport,” he said.

“No taxis. And there is certainly no footpaths.

“The nearest accommodation is 10 to 12 kilometres away. That means probably around 150 will decided to drive the mountain road on dark, foggy evenings. A narrow road, possibly with alcohol on board.

“It is an accident waiting to happen.”

Mr Owen even quoted former Mayor Joanna Gash, who when council voted against the proposal, stated it was a good development, just the wrong location.

Kangaroo Valley Road and road safety in general was a big issue. One presenter stated in a 27 kilometre section of Kangaroo Valley Road there was 260 signs warning of the danger of the road.

Presentations were also made by Ian Goss, Martin Earp, Chris Warren, former CSIRO scientist Dr Keith Houston, acoustics engineer Bob Fitzell, Bob Ashford, Stuart Coughlan and ABC journalist Peter Wilkins.

The hearing will continue in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney on Tuesday and is expected to conclude on Wednesday.


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