Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Questions and Answers: Gap Bluff Proposal

Why are new arrangements being considered for this site?

What are the buildings currently used for?

All of the subject buildings have been vacated to allow for the planning of appropriate adaptive reuse proposals. The Gap Bluff Centre, including the Armoury and Officers Mess, operated as event, function and conference spaces for many years up until 2013.

Constables Cottage and Green Point Cottage were previously used for short stay holiday accommodation, and 33 Cliff Street for staff accommodation.

What does the Sydney Harbour National Park Plan of Management say?

A number of Priority Projects were identified in the 2012 Sydney Harbour National Park Plan of Management. NPWS is progressing these projects. Project 11, Gap Bluff Adaptive Reuse, aims to realise the potential to adapt and make best use of buildings within the precinct and increase opportunities for visitor appreciation and access.

Find out more about the Sydney Harbour Plan of Management.

An Expression of Interest (EOI) for nine buildings in the South Head precinct was released in October 2013 in response to the actions in the Plan of Management.

Gap Bluff Hospitality Pty Ltd was the successful respondent to this EOI and has submitted a proposal for six of the properties:

  • Gap Bluff Armoury
  • Gap Bluff Officers Mess
  • Gap Bluff Cottage
  • Constables Cottage
  • 33 Cliff Street
  • Green Point Cottage.

The Assistant and Head Lightkeepers Cottages on South Head do not form part of the proposal.

Is this project about making money from public assets?

This process relates to finding appropriate long term, sustainable uses for a number of the buildings within Sydney Harbour National Park. Leasing or licensing of buildings already occurs in many locations across the NSW national parks system. Examples include:

  • Nielsen Park Café
  • Fort Denison
  • Audley Dance Hall in Royal National Park.

All revenue from the use of buildings within national parks is invested back into park management to support conservation and public use and enjoyment.

Some of the benefits in seeking private sector partnerships include:

  • the provision of services to the public that government is not well placed to deliver
  • significant investment by the private sector in the maintenance of important heritage assets
  • improved public access to sites and enhanced public enjoyment and appreciation
  • conservation and protection of these assets into the future.

Expression of Interest Process

What was the process for considering the responses to the expressions of interest (EOI)?

The process for considering the EOI responses was in line with the OEH Procurement Policy, including an evaluation plan agreed in advance of consideration of the submissions.

The key steps in the process were:

  1. appointment of probity advisor, Procure Group
  2. finalisation of EOI document including evaluation criteria
  3. call for Expressions of Interest
  4. preparation of an evaluation plan
  5. initial assessment of the submissions to determine whether they conformed (i.e. contained all the required information; received before the due date etc.)
  6. shortlisting respondents against the evaluation criteria
  7. invitation to interview
  8. final selection and report by evaluation panel
  9. final report by probity advisor on the adequacy of the proposal.

What other unsuccessful EOIs were received?

There were 14 EOIs received relating to different combinations of the nine buildings originally offered as part of the proposal. The submissions that related to the buildings in the proponent Gap Bluff Hospitality's proposal included privately run accommodation, group accommodation, wedding, conference and event venues, short stay accommodation and a restaurant.

On what grounds were other proposals rejected?

In order to be conforming or acceptable tenders, parties had to:

  1. meet the deadline for the close of tenders or provide adequate reasons why they could not meet the timeframe
  2. return the relevant schedules including providing referees, details of financial capability etc.
  3. address the selection criteria which were:
    • outline of proposal
    • viability of proposed uses
    • record of financial capacity to deliver
    • track record
    • sustainability

The criteria were considered in the following order or priority:

  • viability of proposed uses including compatibility with the sites' environmental and heritage values
  • record of financial capacity to deliver
  • outline of the proposal including the vision, sustainability and commercial aspects of the proposal
  • track record of the respondent
  • sustainability

On what grounds was Gap Bluff Hospitality selected as the preferred respondent?

Gap Bluff Hospitality was formally assessed and determined by the Evaluation Panel to best meet the advertised selection criteria.

How was the evaluation committee structured?

A formal evaluation panel including inter-agency members and subject matter experts was formed as part of the Evaluation Plan.

Who is Gap Bluff Hospitality?

Gap Bluff Hospitality is a company owned by Christopher Drivas. Christopher Drivas is Principal Partner and CEO of Dockside Group, a family owned hospitality company founded over 25 years ago.

The proposal

What does Gap Bluff Hospitality propose to do with the buildings?

The proposal and REF exhibited from August to November 2015 identified the following planned uses:

  • Officers Mess and Armoury: function centre
  • Gap Bluff Cottage, Green Point Cottage, 33 Cliff Street: short stay accommodation
  • Constables Cottage: restaurant

Based on the community's feedback and NSW Government's considerations, Gap Bluff Hospitality is re-examining its original proposal. In particular, the Office of Environment and Heritage expects that this will include careful consideration of potential uses for Constables Cottage.

How many people will each venue cater for and what will the proposed hours of operation be?

The exhibited proposal outlined planned visitor numbers and hours of use for each venue.

Given community feedback Gap Bluff Hospitality is now re-examining these aspects of the proposal. The Office of Environment and Heritage expects that this may include consideration of clear daily limits supported by booking and site management arrangements.

How will traffic, parking and noise impacts be managed?

There are 100 parking spaces already available on-site at the Gap Bluff Centre. NPWS also currently provides more than 70 public car parking spaces in Watsons Bay and Camp Cove.

Potential traffic and noise issues were considered in detail as part of the exhibited REF. The detailed assessment for parking was prepared by Ason group and is Appendix B (PDF 2.5KB) in the Review of Environmental Factors. The detailed assessment for noise was prepared by PKA Acoustic Consulting and is Appendix C (PDF 2.2KB) in the Review of Environmental Factors.

Following expert and OEH review of these aspects of the proposal, and issues raised in submissions, Gap Bluff Hospitality has been asked to reconsider parking and traffic implications and ways to avoid or minimise potential environmental and community impacts. This will be addressed in the revised REF.

How will heritage values be maintained?

The proposal makes provision for adaptive reuse of existing buildings, giving them a new purpose and life that is compatible with their significance. This is consistent with good heritage practice and sustainable use of existing resources, and is supported by the Sydney Harbour National Park Plan of Management and the South Head Conservation Management Plan. A Heritage Impact Statement and design plans were included in the exhibited REF.

Gap Bluff Hospitality is further reviewing the heritage impacts of the proposal, in particular in relation to Constables Cottage, as part of revising the project and preparing a new REF.

Will public access be maintained?

The existing levels of public access to the National Park will be maintained. People will continue to be able enjoy walking through the park, picnicking and enjoying the scenery and views.

Will the beach be used for functions?

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) does not manage the Camp Cove beach. The beach is managed by Woollahra Council. Council has policies and procedures in place for managing events and photography on the beach.

Will the proposed lease be for the whole of South Head?

Any proposed lease will not be for the whole of South Head. Any lease would be to property boundaries of Constables Cottage, 33 Cliff Street and Green Point Cottage and to the entry and exit roads and landscaped areas of the other Gap Bluff buildings. The precinct's bushland areas will not be part of the lease. Under the proponent's proposal the entry and exit roads will still be available for public pedestrian access.

What opportunities will the community have to comment on the proposal?

Community input to the future of these sites is a key part of the planning process. Strategic opportunities for adaptive reuse within the Gap Bluff Precinct were initially canvassed during public consultation on the Sydney Harbour National Park Plan of Management.

A community information evening also occurred at the beginning of the Expression of Interest process. At that time it was agreed that there would be further opportunity for comment on proposals developed by the successful proponent, prior to any final decision to proceed.

The detailed Gap Bluff proposal was on public exhibition for comment from 20 August until 10 November 2015. Community information and consultation meetings were held on 19 August and 15 October at the Gap Bluff Centre.

It is expected that a modified proposal will be put on public exhibition towards the end of 2016 and open for public comment.

Who approves a lease?

Who will make the final decision on who is granted the leases for the site?

The Minister for the Environment will consider whether to grant the lease after considering outcomes of the Expression of Interest process, the Review of Environmental Factors, and consultation with the community and National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council.

When will a decision be made about a lease?

Gap Bluff Hospitality has been asked to revise its proposal to take into account issues raised in public submissions and expert review.

A modified proposal and Review of Environmental Factors will be placed on public exhibition later this year. After this, the REF will be determined by the Regional Operations Group of the Office of Environment and Heritage. The Regional Operations Group is separate and independent from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

If the proposal is determined to proceed, then advice will be sought from the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council on a proposed lease, as required by the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The advice of the Advisory Council will be considered by the Minister for the Environment before deciding whether to grant a lease. This is not expected to happen until 2017.

What is the role of the local council?

Woollahra Council is an important stakeholder in any future proposals for Sydney Harbour National Park. The National Parks and Wildlife Service regularly liaises with Council regarding a range of park management and surrounding land use issues. Woollahra Council has previously been briefed on the process and will be briefed on the detailed proposal and invited to provide comment.

Development consent from Woollahra Council is not required for the proposal. This is acknowledged in the zoning of the land as E1 National Parks and Nature Reserves under the Woollahra Local Environmental Plan.

Consequently, environmental assessment is required under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This requires all matters likely to affect the environment to be considered prior to deciding whether to proceed to grant approval. The Review of Environmental Factors (REF) is the mechanism used to document the assessment of potential environmental impacts, and measures proposed to minimise and mitigate impacts.

While not required to do so, the REF process also includes consideration of plans and policies that would be relevant if the proposal were occurring outside the National Park. In this case, it includes consideration of relevant environmental planning instruments and Council's development control plan (DCP).

Gap Bluff Hospitality has been requested to address any concerns raised by Woollahra Council in its submission and to make reference to relevant local planning documents and policies.

Page last updated: 10 October 2016