Port Stephens Council’s decision to defer the sale of a waterfront reserve lot on Foreshore Drive directly opposite the Mambo Wanda wetlands is to be commended.
The deferment will provide breathing space for a proper assessment of what is a most contentious sale proposal. The community is still seething from the ‘mistaken’ sale of 5.6ha of public land in the Mambo wetlands across the road, to private interests.
Council now has time to consult with and obtain feedback from the community about the new proposal, and to arrange a site inspection by councillors.
Mayor Ryan Palmer is within his rights to put land classified as operational up for sale. But the community is right to question the appropriateness of selling 109 Foreshore Drive to help fund a $65 million sports complex.
The land is a well-used corridor for the koala population of the Mambo Wanda wetlands, a population already under pressure from urban growth. Selling it will be completely inconsistent with council’s support for the koala hospital at One Mile Beach, and with its refusal of the DA for the Mambo site nearby.
The sale will create a bad precedent. Public waterfront land is a precious asset and as a matter of principle should not be regarded as a source of funds for capital works.
Green space has a value that goes far beyond what the market thinks. Green areas bring character and charm to neighbourhoods, and in the wider context of ecosystem services are essential for our mental and physical health.
The local community has always regarded this block, together with the one adjoining, as a public reserve. The park sign out front supports this presumption.
Selling off half of the de facto reserve will not just reduce its size, diminishing public access and use, but will change its whole character. The spectacular ‘introductory’ view of the bay for walkers and traffic passing along Port Stephens Drive will be lost.
Council has an obligation to pass on to future generations an environment equivalent to or better than that enjoyed by the current generation.
Rather than selling off our priceless waterfront, council should reclassify 109 Foreshore Drive for community use and focus on grants, loans, airport dividends and possibly the sale of other less iconic land assets, to help fund the sporting complex.