Last March, the National Planning and Building Commission (housing) approved the Apollonia project, including the construction of 3,000 housing units and a 50,000-sq.m. industrial zone. The site formerly housed an Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI) plant, and the land beneath it is polluted and zoned for purification and rehabilitation. The project was approved after many objections to it were submitted by environmental organizations, such as Adam Teva v'Din the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, in addition to the Herzliya municipality and residents of the area. One of those residents is zoologist Dr. Dror Ben-Ami, who lives in the Nof Yam neighborhood. Ben-Ami founded a research institute at the University of Technology Sidney in Australia that promotes nature preservation, and is a guest scientist at Tel Aviv University. "Everyone who lives in the area knows that there are gazelles and jackals there, but when the stage for filing objections to the project arrived, we discovered that there were also surveys by the Herzliya municipality, the Tel Aviv region, bird watchers, and other surveys showing that this specific site was the most important in the Tel Aviv district for the variety of its species. At the same time, a survey was issued by those submitting the project showing that the area was environmentally unimportant. A construction project on land with environmental values was also being promoted at the Nafto'ah Observation Point in Jerusalem, and I'm glad that the decision-makers realized this, and last week returned the plan for discussion."
"Globes": The Apollonia project has already passed the objections stage.
Ben-Ami: "Right. Objections to the project were filed by the environmentalists, Adam Teva v'Din, the Herzliya municipality, and the residents. The purpose was to bring the values of the area to the attention of the decision-makers, because it is necessary to realize that this piece of land is overshadowed by the massive construction nearby. When the objections were being heard, however, no one paid attention to our objection by the researcher. Outgoing Ministry of Environmental Protection Avi Gabai supported the project and told us personally that he is not the right person to talk to for preserving nature at Apollonia.
"Former Herzliya Major Yael German always insisted that the land should be purified first, and the project was halted, but Gabai pushed it forward successfully, because he was part of Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon's mechanism for going ahead with construction at any price. We have nothing against construction, but not at any price, and here we felt the minister had a conflict of interest. It was his job to preserve the environment, and it didn't happen. They neglected nature for construction of luxury housing on the Herzliya shoreline. He had an absolute conflict of interest, and I'm probably glad he resigned."
Gabai resigned, so what happens now?
"After the project was approved and the objections dismissed, I petitioned the Court against its approval, and the residents of the Nof Yam neighborhood, the environmental organizations, and the Herzliya municipality also filed petitions. Now we have hope, after the precedent of Palmachim, in which a project was canceled for environmental reasons, and the return of the Nafto'ah Observation Point project for discussion."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 5, 2016
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