Too risky: Council says no to State Government housing plan

14 February 2024

Hawkesbury City Council has rejected a plan to force councils to allow low-and mid-rise housing in local town centres including Windsor and Richmond.

The NSW Government’s planning reforms propose allowing residential flat buildings of 3-6 storeys, terraces, townhouses, duplexes and smaller 1-2 storey apartments in suburbs where they aren’t currently permitted – with a focus on significantly increased housing densities near established town centres and train stations.

Councillors rejected the plan on the basis of flood risk, local heritage and insufficient infrastructure to support a significant increase in population and population density.

Hawkesbury City Mayor Sarah McMahon said the plan was not just inconsistent with the character of the area, it could also put the lives of current and future residents at risk.

“The proposed reforms are at odds with the State-acknowledged risks that exist in the Hawkesbury with relation to natural disasters like floods and bushfires,” Mayor McMahon said.

“We saw particularly during the floods in recent years that large numbers of residents became cut off from Greater Sydney, and these were only relatively small floods compared to what can happen.

“It is already well acknowledged the difficulty and risks we would face if we had to evacuate 60,000 residents using the existing evacuation routes that have been sorely neglected by successive state and federal governments.

“Adding more people to that mix is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead of talking about increasing our population, the government should be listening to this Council when we tell them that so much more needs to be done to provide better flood resilience and evacuation routes for the Hawkesbury.”

Hawkesbury City Deputy Mayor Barry Calvert agreed.

“Council is sympathetic to the issue of housing undersupply in NSW, however more homes and higher densities in the Hawkesbury is not the answer,” Cr Calvert said.

“This proposal would undermine the unique character of the Hawkesbury, put lives at risk, and supercharge road and public transport congestion, while barely making a dent in NSW’s housing shortfall.

“Council is willing and eager to work with the Department to advance housing supply, however the proposed reforms do not address the long-term underinvestment by the NSW Government in housing initiatives and the resulting impact this has had on housing diversity and supply.”

Council will now formally respond to the NSW Government in writing to outline its reasons for rejecting the plan.

In rejecting the plan, Council is seeking further discussions with the State Government to better inform government of the current challenges and future aspirations for developing in the Hawkesbury.

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