THE Land and Environment Court last week upheld the NSW Government's approval of modifications to the Sandon Point residential development project by Stockland. The development site, north of Wollongong, is a culturally significant area for Aboriginal people.
The original proposal, which was approved by the Planning Minister in November 2009, included a 181-lot residential subdivision, a super-lot for residential apartments and construction of a display village and infrastructure at Sandon Point.
In March this year, Stockland made two requests to the Minister to modify conditions of the approval, affecting the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Minister approved both modification requests in August.
Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy representative, Roy Kennedy, appealed against the approvals on five grounds, including that the Minister was obliged and failed to consider the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage and artefacts and ecologically sustainable development.
However, Justice Peter Biscoe dismissed all five grounds of Mr Kennedy's appeal, finding in favour of the Planning Minister and Stockland.
Department of Planning Deputy Director-General Development Assessment, Richard Pearson, welcomed the decision and said it confirmed that the approvals had only been given after a thorough assessment by the Department.
Mr Pearson said the Court's judgement had specifically recognised that Aboriginal cultural heritage, and the possible existence of Aboriginal artefacts, had been addressed in the Director General's assessment report on the proposed modifications.
"The court found that the issue of protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage had been considered in some detail during the assessment," Mr Pearson said.
"The court also noted the inclusion of conditions which permitted testing for artefacts on the Sandon Point site and a walkover by Aboriginal groups to identify artefacts on the site.
"The conditions provided evidence that preserving Aboriginal heritage for future generations had been properly considered".