History of Development at South Catherine Hill Bay

The mining period

Back in the days when the mine was operational, the understanding between the local population and the mining company was that, once mining was finished, the land would be remediated and then handed back to the State. The assumption was that it would be returned to bushland or incorporated into a State Recreation Area. In the mid noughties, mining ceased, but the mining companies realised that there was interest from developers in developing the land, and so the land was sold, and attempts were made to achieve planning approval on the lands to the south and north of the old Catherine Hill Bay village. At that stage the villagers were (understandably) shocked as the understanding they had held for decades had been overturned.

2000s period, up to approval

Prior to 2002 the land south of Catherine Hill Bay, the site of the now Moonee estate, was an operating mine owned by BHP-Billiton. When profitability declined, BHP-Billiton sold the land and it came to be owned by Rose Group. Over the period from 2002 to 2008, Rose put up a range of plans for development, all of which were rejected by local council, the Department of Planning and other bodies. In 2008 the then Minister for Planning approved the Memorandum of Understanding that Rose Group be allowed to build up to 600 houses on the site. Through the late noughties period, Rose put up further plans for consideration – many including features such as building houses down Hale Street, large buildings on the ridgeway along Montefiore Street and on the headland. The old Catherine Hill Bay community protested against these proposals as being inappropriate in the context of the historical village of Catherine Hill Bay, which the community believed should be preserved. In 2010, Catherine Hill Bay was given the highest level of state heritage protection when the historic township was placed on the State Heritage Register, and the community saw this as a huge step towards being able to protect the heritage township into the future. Against this backdrop, the approval given to the Beaches subdivision in 2012 was seen as appropriate because the rules governing the development were designed with heritage protection in mind. The Catherine Hill Bay community fought for this proposal to be approved for this reason. Now in the early 20s, the combined Catherine Hill Bay community, incorporating residents of the old village and the Moonee village, are seeking for the developer to fulfil their promises which were set out in the governing documents approving the Moonee subdivision. In particular, the community are asking for facilities which were meant to be built in the early stages of the development, including public space such as the village green and coastal reserve and walkway, and community shops.

Key documents

21 June 2010 - State Heritage Inventory Report

This document captures the reasons why Catherine Hill Bay Cultural Precinct was placed on the State Heritage Register and is considered to be of historical significance. Extracts include: ‘Catherine Hill Bay village is the oldest collection of buildings in Lake Macquarie, retaining distinctive historical townscapes and land/seascapes with scale, fabric and interrelationship of the features largely retained and in good condition.’ ‘The boundary established by the Independent Heritage Advisory Panel for the Catherine Hill Bay Heritage Cultural Precinct encompasses the distinctive dwellings and coal mining infrastructure of the villages of Catherine Hill Bay and Middle Camp. The original buildings, most of which are small vernacular cottages dating from the1890s to the 1920s form pleasing streetscapes evoking the settlement’s origins as a nineteenth century mining village. Although few buildings belong to a recognised style or period, each is distinctive, and all display a high degree of consistency in terms of size, scale, form, setbacks, siting and materials. The urban pattern of the Catherine Hill Bay Cultural Precinct can be appreciated in its bush and coastal setting, particularly on the northern approach. The Precinct is set in a landscape, now largely dedicated as a National Park, which is distinctive both for its coastal topography which creates a natural visual catchment and for its evidence of coal mining dating from the 1890s.

The Catherine Hill Bay Cultural Precinct is now rare, as an intact surviving example of “Company Town” development. In Lake Macquarie such developments generally evolved more informally than the company town infrastructures elsewhere in the Upper Hunter and other parts of Australia.’ ‘The village is distinctive for its coastal topography as well as its bush backdrop. The area retains its open and underdeveloped character, with slowly regenerating coastal scrub, and is highly sensitive, visually, to any new development due to a high degree of visibility from various vantage points across the landscape.’ ‘From the south, at the corner of Clarke and Montefiore Streets, the dramatic landforms of the headland and beach dominate rows of small houses stepping down the hill. From the north, along Flowers Drive through Middle Camp, the jetty and headlands are visible. Against this striking backdrop, the character of the streets derives from the low-scale built form and highly consistent pattern of predominantly single storey weatherboard cottages. This reflects the historical association with the coal company.

Although the varied and dramatic juxtaposition of broader sea-land landscapes, ranging from exposed ridges and cliff forms to sheltered sloping gullies, does not lie within the Cultural Precinct, this setting contributes powerfully to the sense of the built environment’s modest scale.’

The full document can be accessed here. Certain items are highlighted for reference.

13 May 2011 – approval of Rose Group development

This document was produced by the Independent Panel appointed by the Department of Planning to oversee the approval of the development application. Some key items in this document include:

  • There is a focus on protecting the heritage village from a visual perspective by maintaining height restrictions of the new development, particularly on the headland and the ridgeway
  • There is also a strong theme of the headland and coastal reserve area being accessible to the public
  • Stage 1 includes the building of a Village Park – the first greenlink*
  • Stage 3 includes the construction of the coastal reserve including the walkway*
  • Key elements of the approval addressed public submissions which raised (amongst others) impact on the heritage significance and existing character of the area, visual impact, ecological impacts, stormwater, lack of public transport, services and employment, and cumulative impacts,
  • Discussion of the staging so that vegetation is advanced when the housing on the headland is built, providing screening from the heritage village and scenic coastal area.

*NB these elements were amended via later modifications. Current proposals (not yet publicly available) defer these elements indefinitely. For information, to date there have been 7 modifications to the originally approved plan. Approval was given but with certain conditions to be met.

The full document can be accessed here. Certain items are highlighted for reference.

18 July 2012 – Development Control Plan

This document was prepared by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure and its purpose is to set out the vision, objectives and development controls for the future development of Catherine Hill Bay (South) – the Moonee subdivision. “the DCP intends to protect the aesthetic and cultural heritage qualities of the existing village and its landscape setting and ensure that the development does not adversely impact these qualities.’

The DCP contains planning controls associated with:

  • The Village Green
  • The Coastal Walkway and coastal reserve
  • Establishing public domain spaces
  • Providing pedestrian paths and cycleway
  • Ensuring the new development is undertaken in a manner sympathetic to the heritage significance of heritage items, including a heritage impact statement required for any development within the Major Development SEPP Conservation Area (the headland) including the impact on the heritage significance of the Cultural Precinct
  • In the appendices there are visuals of the various parks and village green including BBQ and picnic areas

The full document can be accessed here. Certain items are highlighted for reference.