NSW Planning department holds talks with Blue Mountains croc park developers

The owners of a proposed flora and fauna park at Wentworth Falls have discussed with the NSW planning department if it could be deemed a "state significant development".

Ward 2 councillors Romola Hollywood, Chris Van der Kley and Brent Hoare with the mayor, Mark Greenhill, near the croc park site in Wentworth Falls.

Ward 2 councillors Romola Hollywood, Chris Van der Kley and Brent Hoare with the mayor, Mark Greenhill, near the croc park site in Wentworth Falls.

This would put approval in the hands of an independent planning commission or the NSW planning minister.

The planning department has confirmed that it held discussions with those behind the so-called "croc park".

"The department met with the applicant, Aesthete No.14 Pty Ltd, in April about a $194 million wildlife park and tourism development proposal at 10 Great Western Highway, Wentworth Falls," a spokesman said.

"The proposal qualifies as a state significant development because it is a zoo with a capital investment value (CIV) greater than $30 million and a development for other tourist-related purposes with a CIV greater than $100 million.

"At this stage, no development application has been submitted to the department."

A DA for the park was approved by council in 1989 but if the owners want a larger development, it would need a new DA.

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, is concerned that if it was deemed a state significant development, "council's role is reduced to being able to make a submission only".

The 1989 approval for the 11-hectare site was for a flora and fauna park with a souvenir shop and refreshment room, wildlife exhibits and a crocodile pond, although the crocodile idea was dropped after community pressure.

Farshad Amirbeaggi, a solicitor acting on behalf of the developer, told the Gazette last year that the plans now were for a $30 million dollar "five to six star" wildlife park development with 40 hotel rooms.

The Blue Mountains Conservation Society expressed surprise that what it called a "zombie DA" for the 11-hectare site had come back to life.

The National Trust also weighed in. State CEO Debbie Mills wrote to the department earlier this year, supporting calls for a time limit otherwise a new DA should be lodged, meeting present-day standards.

In response, a planning department official said there were no plans to amend legislation, noting that it was a long-standing convention that development consents remain valid after they are legally granted and physically commenced.

"Any changes to this could cause a lack of certainty for the development industry, negative impacts on property value and create issues of procedural fairness.

"Lapsing development consents mid-project may also have the undesired effect of incomplete development sites, which could have negative impacts on the environment."

Aesthete No 14 Pty Ltd is a private company with a mailing address in Market St, Sydney. Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show the company registered the business name Blue Mountains Wildlife in March 2018.

The planning department spokesman said that if it was given significant development status, the DA would be subject to extensive community consultation involving local people, council, government agencies and other stakeholders, "followed by a rigorous assessment".