Bowen Mountain - 250ha land handed to Aboriginal Land Council – most zoned for residential building
Crown Land at Bowen Mountain which provides a buffer between the rear of many residents’ properties and the Blue Mountains National Park – and includes several fire trails - has been handed to Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council who can now make decisions about the 250 hectare land parcel's future use.
Part of one of the parcels of land now belonging to Deerubbin LALC
Most of the land is zoned E4 which means it’s an Environmental Living zone where building could potentially be allowed for low impact residential uses.
Buildings that could potentially go up in the area - according to E4 definition - include houses, bed and breakfast accommodation, eco-tourist facilities, environmental facilities and secondary dwellings - all subject to normal planning consent.
The large swathes of land - some 620 acres in total - have been a long time coming for the Deerubbin LALC who are the biggest private landholders – with 17,000 hectares – across seven local government areas, including the Hawkesbury, Penrith, Blue Mountains and Hills. The LALC lodged their claim for the Bowen Mountain Crown Lands back in October 2009 and it wasn’t until this last September NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, finally signed off on the transfer.
Each coloured block of land is being transferred to Deerubbin LALC. The two small red parcels of land are not included
The next phase will be a series of surveys carried out by Deerubbin LALC to fully assess their new land.
“We haven’t done any of the detailed work yet,” Deerubbin LALC’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Wright told the Post. “We haven’t really been up there much yet, but it is also an area of significance to Aboriginal people.
“We will go through a process of looking at this land and its use but there is no threat to private property and we will discuss any ideas we have with residents.”
Mr Wright said there would always be consultation and engagement with residents to put their minds at ease about the land transfer and its implications.
Most of the land is zoned E4 and some smaller parts are zoned E2.
E4 Environmental Living zoned land is land in an existing urban area like Bowen Mountain with special environmental values or scenic values. But E4 zoning also allows for low impact residential uses which do not adversely affect these values, and where this type of development could be accommodated.
E2 is an environmental conservation zone and cannot be built on.
Mr Wright said Deerrubbin LALC is involved in building new dwellings in other parts of the lands they own – including in Penrith – but stressed “there is no threat to Bowen Mountain” which the LALC sees as a “spiritual site and it has been a very intensively used area by a whole lot of people over the years. We will carry out cultural and biodiversity mapping and get a proper feel for the place”.
Mr Wright said any current access rights - for example fire trails - would remain as they are.
Hawkesbury Council’s Housing Strategy was recently passed by councillors and commits the local government area to a maximum of 1500 new dwellings across the LGA during the next five years.
Given the previous Crown Lands are now Aboriginal owned lands it’s not clear whether any potential new dwellings there would be included in Hawkesbury Council’s 1500 dwellings.
Bowen Mountain has very tight building regulations which include any new houses on the few current empty blocks of land – or houses being rebuilt – have to be constructed to strict fire hazard standards.
“Land granted under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 transfers in freehold, and any decisions regarding the future use of the land are a matter for the relevant Local Aboriginal Land Council, noting the land is still subject to relevant planning controls,” a Department of Planning, Industry and Environment spokesperson told the Post.
The tracts of land handed over to the Deerubbin LALC includes all land at the back of Lt Bowen Drive and most of Lt Bowen Road - from the back of private property lines to the National Park boundaries - and land at the rear of Waratah Street and parts of Red Gum Crescent where property lines end at bush areas – see map for more details.
Fire trail running along the back of properties at Lt Bowen Drive, now being transferred to Deerubbin LALC
The DPIE is responsible for assessing Aboriginal land claims against statutory criteria outlined in section 36 of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW).
Generally, Crown Land that is not being lawfully used or occupied, is not needed for an essential public purpose, and is not impacted by Native Title (registration application or determination) can be granted through this process.
The DPIE spokesperson confirmed that any Crown Land areas in the Hawkesbury could be subject to an Aboriginal land claim under the 1983 Act.
Deerubbin LALC’s Mr Wright said getting the land back was important to Aboriginal people.
“Every time a piece of land is given, our people walk taller,” he said.
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