Port Stephens MP Kate Washington seeks 10,000 signatures to trigger parliamentary debate on koala habitat buyback

CALL TO ARMS: Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has urged concerned residents to sign a petition and force a parliamentary debate on a buyback. Picture: Supplied
CALL TO ARMS: Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has urged concerned residents to sign a petition and force a parliamentary debate on a buyback. Picture: Supplied

Signatures will be collected to urge the state government to buy back a slice of koala habitat in Salamander Bay.

The petition concerns a six hectare parcel of land adjoining the Mambo-Wanda Wetlands that was sold to a property developer in August last year.

“The government ignored the deep concerns of local residents and sold off the koala habitat to a property developer,” Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said.

“The only way to protect this land is to see it returned to public ownership.”

The petition was launched at the proposed site of the development  on Thursday. The property owner Paul Unicomb has asked Port Stephens Council to approve plans for a dual occupancy on the site. Under state planning laws it is a permissible use of the land as long as the applicant gains the approval of the council. 

“Residents have been focusing on getting council to reject the DA, but the only long term protection for the site will be through returning the land to public ownership,” Ms Washington said.

Liberal Councillor Jaimie Abbott has condemned the government’s sale of the land.  Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot Macdonald has said it was a mistake. Ms Washington noted that both had stopped short of calling on the state government to buy the land back.

“It should not be up to residents to fundraise to fix the government’s mistake. Nor should we have to pay for it through our rates if Port Stephens Council chooses to step up,” Ms Washington said.

“This is a mess made by the Minister and he’s responsible for cleaning it up.”

If the petition gathers 10,000 signatures it will trigger a debate on the floor of the legislative assembly.

“I’m very grateful to everyone in the community who has been vocal on this from the time the ‘for sale’ sign was erected. We are all still reeling in disbelief that our precious wetland was sold off by a government that purports to protect vulnerable and endangered species,” Ms Washington said.

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For a copy of the petition, residents are encourage to contact MP Kate Washington’s office on 4987 4455 or portstephens@parliament.nsw.gov.au.

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