Two Port Stephens lobby groups have come out fighting against proposed plans to develop a green corridor adjacent to the Halifax Holiday Park at Shoal Bay, which is home to a local koala population.
Both the Shoal Bay Community Association (SBCA) and Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association (TRRA) have expressed their concern over the status and future use of the site, referred to as Lot 424.
They are opposed to any plans to develop the land, which they claim would require the removal of a number of trees, including some recently planted koala feed trees.
Confusion reigned at the last meeting of Port Stephens Council over the legal status of the green space following a report stating that the “[Port Stephens Holiday Reserve] Trust [had] endorsed that inclusion and development of Lot 424 should proceed but not before a community consultation plan had been developed and taken back to the trust...”
Cr John Nell, who raised the issue in a motion of notice, said he was furious that a council resolution dating back to May 2010, which endorsed a draft Plan of Management for Halifax Park excluding Lot 424, seems to have been ignored without council and community consultation.
Councillors agreed to a site inspection expected to take place later this month and deferred a decision to seek legal advice on the status of the land.
Meanwhile, the SBCA has called on the council to immediately begin negotiations with the Crown Lands Department to leave the parkland in perpetuity.
“The area is frequently used as a public parkland by local residents and visitors and any change of use would mean less parkland and the possibile removal of mature and koala feed trees,” SBCA spokesman Tim Meharg said.
“Direct access to Shoal Bay beach from Little Beach would be severely impeded, and furthermore, local residents would be negatively impacted by the noise and traffic pollution from the increased activity.”
The TRRA has also expressed a deep concern of the council’s administrative processes in dealing with the open space.
TRRA president Geoff Washington said that even before council’s resolution in May 2010, local resident groups had objected to the alienation of the public parkland for future holiday park use.
“Trust members, councillors and Crown Land officials should all have been very much aware of the terms of the May 2010 council resolution calling for public consultation before implementation. They should have also been aware of the strength of public opposition to the loss of the public open space.”