By Claire Ottaviano
AN ambitious plan to see the controversial North Stoneville site rezoned back to rural may yet get off the ground after the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) deferred its decision on the rezoning proposal to seek further planning and bushfire advice.
On Wednesday June 30, the WAPC considered presentations from multiple community members, the Shire of Mundaring and community action group Save Perth Hills in support of a Metropolitan Region Scheme amendment, and one presentation in opposition, before deferring its decision pending a review of the WA Government’s Bushfire Framework.
The WAPC will also seek more advice from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage on a strategic review of urban-zoned land in Perth’s Hills.
Mundaring Shire president John Daw said the decision to defer was a positive sign.
“Ideally we would have preferred them to make the decision to rezone, but it is a significant positive that they are looking at getting more advice on a strategic review of urban zoned land and on the whole bushfire planning framework,” he said.
“All the reasons we’ve been arguing why [urban zoning] is inappropriate is covered in the reason for deferral.
“They seemed to pick up on the concerns that we had and that’s very positive for us.”
The Shire of Mundaring Council supported a push by Cr Doug Jeans to ask the State Government to reverse the site’s urban zoning in May 2020.
At the time, the request was somewhat complicated by the impending WAPC decision to approve or reject the 1410-lot North Stoneville structure plan.
Last week’s deferral of the decision to rezone the 555ha land parcel comes almost exactly one year since its rejection of the proposed structure plan.
That rejection is still subject to a State Administrative Tribunal appeal by developer Satterley and the landowner the Anglican Church.
Save Perth Hills chair Jeremy Hurst said the deferral signalled the possibility of a more cautious planning approach in extreme bushfire zones.
“We applaud the WAPC for taking, what we consider to be, a sensible and ‘precautionary approach’ to urban planning in our extreme bushfire prone areas, and in this case, to the North Stoneville site,” he said.
“We support the suggested strategic review of urban zoned land in the hills, and to wait on the important outcomes of the comprehensive bushfire framework review given the personal and environmental toll that the Wooroloo Bushfires inflicted on Hills’ communities in February, the worst bushfires in Perth Hills’ history.”
Stoneville resident Paige McNeil, who helped present the Save Perth Hills’ deputation, said advantages of a rural rezoning would be significant.
“A rural zoning still allows the landowner opportunity to develop, but in a safer and environmentally sensitive manner, including wildlife corridors, walking trails and regeneration of the creek-line to share as public open space,” she said.
Other presentations were made by Mark Hancock of the Susannah Brook Catchment Group, short-stay accommodation owner Claire Hurst, Stuart Guthrie speaking on behalf of EcoCare Commission and as a member of the Anglican Diocese, volunteer firefighter Greg Rankine and Perth Hills ecologist Simon Cherriman.
Paul McQueen, of WA law firm Lavan, presented in opposition to the motion on behalf of opponent Satterley and the Anglican Diocese of Perth but the deputation was made confidential.
Satterley also declined the opportunity to comment further.