The Sharks Development Proposal,
and why it keeps changing

In essence the Sharks' Proposal is a bid to make millions of dollars by building a huge residential/hotel/conference/retail complex over its club parking area, at the edge of sensitive Woolooware Bay.

Shire Council is therefore obliged to treat it like any other "development application" (DA) presented by a builder.But Sharks' consultants don't speak of the Proposal in such a direct way. They speak instead of "a unique planning and development opportunity" for "an integrated resort style development".

The Sharks Club has 4 times tried to sell off part of its site (i.e. part of its assets)

Question: Why has the Sharks Club made 4 bids to sell off part of its site (in 1996, 2001, 2002 and 2003)?

Answer: Why, indeed, when the site (a) provides ideal conditions for a football club; (b) was said in 1968 to set "a model" envied by other clubs; (c) was sold to the Club by Council at a fraction of its value?
  1. The first sell-off bid, 1996. The Sharks Club sought to sell part of its (junior) playing fields so that "8 factory units with... associated parking" could be built.

    This was rejected by Sutherland Shire Council (11.3.1996) on a motion of ALP councillor Paul Smith, seconded by Liberal councillor Kevin Schreiber. (Present also were councillors Blight, McDonell, Rankin, Rodden, Simpson, who are still on the 2003 Council.)

    The Sharks Club appealed to the Land and Environment Court against the Council. But the Court dismissed the appeal, sided strongly with Council's "grounds of traffic parking, environmental impact/wetlands and loss of social amenity", and concluded that the Club had not "understood the important interrelationship of the proposed development site with adjoining land and Woolooware Bay".

  2. The second sell-off bid, 2001. The Sharks Club proposed to Council a development very much larger than that of 1996. It was to include: 400 units of residential on the west side of the existing Club building, 250 units on the east side, plus hotel, conference, retail, and indoor-sporting facilities... as shown in this diagram:

Most concerning to community observers was the intended selling-off of the junior playing fields (in the interests of the senior teams) to make way for the 400 units on the west side.

An outburst of anger from sporting and environmental groups caused the Club to scrap its plan for "a housing estate" on the junior playing fields (Leader, 6.12.01).

The community's anger arose from realisation that the Sharks Club had only gained its 10 hectare site in 1968 with great help from Sutherland Shire Council - that is, help from the ratepayers of the whole Shire.

For 30 years the site has been prized as providing ideal conditions for a football club and has been the envy of other clubs. Ideal because it brought together four great assets: (1) a home ground, (2) two junior grounds, (3) club premises, and (4) two parking areas, one for the club and the other for the playing grounds.

Ideal conditions enjoyed by the Sharks now:

Home Ground Junior Grounds Club Pemises Park Facilities
  1. The third sell-off bid, 2002. Unable to sell-off its western (junior) playing fields, the Sharks Club presented a revised-down Proposal to Council, limited to the east side of the site, i.e. the Club parking area. It proposed:
    • 5 blocks of residential units (240 units), 4-7 storeys high
    • 1 hotel block (110 suites)
    • 500 sqm of retail and commercial space
    • 850 sqm of conference, seminar, exhibition facilities
    • Extensions to the existing Club building
    • 2 levels of parking.

    This was considered by Council's Environmental Services staff in a Report (EHC 193-03) which strongly criticised many aspects of the Proposal and summed up the whole as a "gross overdevelopment". The Report, considered by a committee of Council on 20 January 2003, prompted the Club to make yet another revision-down of its proposal.

  2. The fourth sell-off bid, February 2003. The Club presented a revised Proposal to the Council's Special Meeting of 17 February 2003; namely, to build on the Club's eastern carpark:
    • 5 blocks of residential units (about 210 units), 4-7 storeys high
    • 1 hotel block (about 60 suites)
    • 500 sqm of retail and commercial space
    • 850 sqm of conference, seminar, exhibition facilities
    • Extensions to the Club's existing building
    • 2 levels of parking

This is where matters stand at present. A majority of councillors resolved to allow the Club to continue with its planning/rezoning proposal (in consultation with Council). But a long process lies ahead.

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Question: Why does the Sharks Proposal keep changing, i.e. in 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003?

Answer: Because it is fundamentally flawed, prompting successive attempts to justify the unjustifiable...
  • to sell-off land provided for sport/club use
  • to sell-off land provided by Council at bargain rate
  • to build high-rise units that will impact on the Bay
  • to build a "gross overdevelopment" hostile to Shire planning.

A complex rezoning/development process lies ahead

The Sharks must first seek a rezoning of the carpark area because its current zoning prohibits residential building there - the foreshore fifth of the area being 6(a) Public Recreation and the rest 6(b) Private Recreation.

When the matter was debated by Council in December 2001, some Councillors said such a development on the waterfront "is not on". Others said that any expansion should be limited to "only the club, associated hotel and conference facilities" - no residential! A majority, however, decided to let the Proposal move along a complex 5-step rezoning process: "It is not giving them an approval. It is just getting the process moving", (Leader, 13.12.01). The process includes:
  • First, Council requires the Sharks to dedicate (to Council control) a 25m foreshore strip for "public open space" for revegetation and cycle/pedestrian use.
  • Council will then prepare a draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) and later a more specific Master Plan, these having been preceded by discussions with the Sharks regarding provisions of the Shire's planning rules.
  • The draft LEP must be sent to five public authorities, which may object to impacts of the Sharks Proposal (i.e. sent to Department of Land and Water Conservation, Fisheries, Waterways, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Environmental Protection Authority).
  • After dealing with possible objections, Council will ask State Government for permission to place the LEP on public exhibition.
  • Public exhibition will be for at least 28 days.
  • Council staff will then summarise public comments, and report them to a full meeting of councillors.
  • If the new LEP is approved by a majority of councillors, it will be forwarded to the Minister for Planning for his consent.

A further big hurdle will confront the Club's Proposal. The Minister's judgement will be made in the light of the results of a Botany Bay Strategy Environmental Study, initiated 3 September 2002. The NSW Government has suspended all rezoning/development until this study is completed. Then, "any developer will have to meet the strict requirements formulated by this new regional strategy" which will "protect all of our precious waterways" [including Woolooware Bay]. (See Planning Minister's Media Release, 3.9.2002.) The Minister will not make a judgement on the Sharks' Proposal until the criteria produced by the BBSE Study have been announced.

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