The proposed Blue Mountains Wildlife and Tourism Development is located at the foot of Bodington Hill, Wentworth Falls on the Great Western Highway.
These are known as "zombie DAs". In theory, if the conditions of the original development approval are met, then it can be built.
In early 2021 a proposal for a new and larger Blue Mountains Wildlife Park gained State Significant Development Status. This means that assessment of the proposal is taken out of Council’s hands. The proposal also included a 56-room hotel.
In March 2021, the Department of Planning issued the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), which identifies what information needs to be provided in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS needed to be completed and lodged with a development application (DA) within two years - later extended to July 1 2023.
Following information provided by the proponent’s representative, Farshad Amirbeaggi, at the February 2023 ‘town hall meeting’ at the Carrington Hotel, we were expecting that the EIS and DA would be lodged by the due date, July 1. Instead, in March 2023 revised plans were lodged with the Department of Planning along with a request for a revision of the original SEARs issued in March 2021. If revised SEARs were granted, the developer would have 2 more years to submit the EIS and DA.
After conferring with the Department’s Environment and Heritage Group, the Blue Mountains City Council and Transport for NSW, on June 28 2023 the Department notified Mr Amirbeaggi that the SEARs would not be revised and that the EIS and DA would have to be lodged by July 1. Otherwise, the SEARs would expire and a new one would have to be lodged.
July 1 passed without the proponent lodging the required documentation and so the SEARs officially lapsed. This is the situation as it currently stands.
As previously reported, in March this year the proponent of the Wentworth Falls zoo/hotel development lodged a request for revised SEARs (Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements) with the NSW Department of Planning. Updated plans were also lodged which included a new intersection with traffic lights on the highway and a new ‘Predators of Australia’ exhibit featuring fresh- and salt-water crocodiles. The Department then consulted with government agencies including the Blue Mountains City Council, Transport for NSW and the Department’s Environment and Heritage Group.
After considering the government agencies’ responses and the proponent’s response in reply, on June 28 the Department informed Farshad Amirbeaggi, solicitor acting for the proponent, that the SEARs would not be revised and that the Development Application and Environmental Impact Statement would have to be lodged by July 1. Otherwise, the SEARs would expire and a new one would have to be lodged. The letter added: “Given the significance of the concerns raised by Council, TfNSW and EHG regarding the proposed amended layout and site access arrangements, the Department strongly recommends that you consider revising the design of your proposal before submitting a new request for SEARs.”
See the Department’s letter to the proponent here
According to an article first published online in the Blue Mountains Gazette on June 29, Mr Amirbeaggi immediately wrote to the Department in response, stating "We invite you to reconsider the position you have taken and confirm that the period for making of the development application is extended to 28 June, 2025. Please do so by close of business tomorrow [June 29], absent which our client will on 30 June 2023, file its summons seeking judicial review of your decision."
See the Gazette article here.
See the Council’s press release June 29 here.
See the ABC news online story June 29 here.
July 1 passed without the proponent lodging the required documentation, so the SEARs for the proposal have officially expired. And, so far, there is no news on whether or not a summons seeking a judicial review of the Department’s decision has been lodged.
The proponent’s options at this point seem to be:
This is not over yet!