Bulldozers at multi-million dollar waterfront housing development stopped after 'scandalous' allegations

Lawyers are alleging 6 hectares of land was illegally cleared at the contentious site.

Left - Police guarding the Lee Point site. Right - an aerial view of Lee Point.
Works at Lee Point have been paused following allegations of illegal land clearing. Source: Supplied/DHA

Bulldozers have stopped work at the site of a controversial waterfront housing project in Australia’s north, following allegations the developer illegally cleared land.

Lee Point, which is home to three endangered species and is an important Indigenous cultural site, was being developed by a federal government company Defence Housing Australia which plans to build 800 luxury homes at the site. Located just 7km from Darwin, the project is worth tens of millions of dollars.

It’s the third time works at the site have been paused, and environment groups have responded by calling for a senate inquiry into the development, calling it a “disaster”. The project has also garnered international attention with UK environmentalist Dr Jane Goodall calling it “simply unacceptable”.

DHA confirmed it paused work at the site on Tuesday, May 7 so it could review allegations by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) that its bulldozers illegally destroyed habitat on 6 hectares of land. It’s alleged the land was cleared without the required approvals – a construction environment management plan and an approved erosion and sediment control plan.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Traditional Owner Tibby Quall and Environment Centre Northern Territory (ECNT) have alleged DHA breached conditions of its development permit between April 30 and May 2. Environment groups have also alleged fauna spotters were not always present to monitor the works and ensure wildlife was not harmed.

Tibby Quall  in a hat (right). A family at the beach at a Lee Point brochure (left)
Tibby Quall is urging Defence Housing Australia to pause works at the Lee Point site which boasts a tourism precinct, hotel accommodation and more in brochures. Source: DHA/Supplied

This week DHA rejected Yahoo’s request to interview its chair Dr Robert Lang and acting managing director Paul Groenewegen. On Thursday this publication requested clarification of the stop work and sought further comment.

The current stoppage occurred in response to alleged breaches of Northern Territory planning laws. Yahoo has reached out to the office of NT Environment Minister Kate Wordern on several occasions this week hoping to discuss Lee Point, but it declined to comment and directed questions to the planning department (DIPL).

In a statement DIPL said it takes complaints relating to failures to following permit conditions "very seriously" and the matter had been referred to the Development Consent Authority (DCA).

"Should the DCA decide that enforcement action is required, this action may range from negotiated outcomes, warning letters, penalty notices and in the most significant cases, legal prosecutions," it said.

In a letter seen by Yahoo, DHA confirmed on Tuesday it is reviewing the allegations. Only works necessary to maintain the site to comply with environmental reforms would continue.

Executive director of ECNT Dr Kirsty Howey responded to the development, saying if the allegations were to be proven they would be “a national scandal”.

“The community’s battle to save this precious natural and cultural wonder has captivated people around the country, and it beggars belief that a government agency may have been responsible for alleged unlawful conduct at the site,” she said.

“It’s time for DHA to abandon this disastrous development once and for all, and for the Senate to investigate how this senseless ecological and cultural destruction has been allowed to happen.”

Yahoo does not allege DHA has breached any regulations.

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