The Hills Shire Council has placed a Cumberland State Forest land rezoning proposal on hold until it receives clarity as to whether the forest will be declared a national park by the NSW Government.

The council ultimately voted during an Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday to delay sending the planning proposal for a Gateway Determination on the Forestry Corporation of NSW controlled sites. Hills Shire Council have called for the forest to be become a national park in order to protect various species of flora and fauna in the past

The proposal seeks to rezone land, which is not publicly accessible and contains dilapidated caretaker dwellings, into four residential lots. The sites also include portions of Blue Gum High Forest and Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest, both of which are identified as Critically Endangered Ecological Communities under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and are of high conservation significance.

Mayor of The Hills Shire Dr Michelle Byrne says delaying the determination will allow time for full consideration of the national park proposal.

“The Cumberland State Forest has become a very valuable parcel of greenspace in our Shire and will grow in importance as Sydney grows,” she says.

“The Cumberland State Forest is home to some of the country’s most valuable flora and fauna species and we would like to see it moved from a forestry land use to a national park so that generations of people can enjoy this wonderful space.  

“Reclassifying Cumberland into a national park strengthens its protection. In addition to this, national parks play a significant role in providing scientific research and conservation efforts, as well as providing the public with access to a place where they can appreciate the natural wonders of our local environment,” Mayor Byrne added.

The decision comes after the Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean MP advised Council that he had asked the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services to carry out a detailed assessment of the area as part of the process in determining whether to reclassify the urban forest into a national park.

“We love our local forest and we hope the National Parks and Wildlife Services act quickly on the Minister’s request,” Byrne says.

Council will additionally write to Mirvac, who are the developers of the former IBM site located adjacent to the forest. As part of a draft State Voluntary Planning Agreement relating to the development of the former IBM site, Mirvac has offered to dedicate 10 hectares of land to Forestry NSW.

“As part of seeking to advocate on behalf of our community, we want to understand the timing of their intended commitment to transfer the forested areas and of course ensure they honour any agreement reached with the NSW Government,” says Byrne.

The Cumberland State Forest is Australia’s only metropolitan state forest and is home to an array of fauna, flora and ecological communities.