Port Stephens councillors vote to defer future of Boomerang Park for three months

Seniors or affordable housing at Raymond Terrace's historic Boomerang Park is back on the agenda after Port councillors on Tuesday night overturned a previous council decision that had blocked the park's future rezoning or reclassification.

The new decision allows for the planning proposal, originally approved by the previous council, of a section of Boomerang Park to be progressed. A decision was deferred to May 28.

At the February 12 meeting, councillors voted 6-2 to shut the door on the potential for development at Boomerang Park, however a rescission motion signed by councillors Ken Jordan, Paul Le Mottee and Chris Doohan saw the controversial issue back on the agenda.

At Tuesday night's meeting two councillors - mayor Ryan Palmer and Sarah Smith - crucially changed their vote to overturn the February 12 decision and dampen the celebrations from members of the Boomerang Park Preservation Group, many of whom were in the public gallery.

They supported the rescission motion with councillors Jordan and Le Mottee. Councillors Doohan and Glen Dunkley were absent to force a 4-4 ballot.

Mayor Palmer, who used his casting vote to secure a three-month deferral, said his decision was in no way an endorsement of the planning proposal.

"I am still of the mind of how I voted last time, but I do see merit in discussing other options," he said. "The Raymond Terrace implementation panel which will drive the [Terrace/Heatherbrae] strategy is yet to meet and we should allow them the opportunity to comment."

Cr Smith said that she was forced to change her vote after having received more information following the February 12 meeting. "I did not have all the information to make an informed decision," she said.

"I don't agree that the park should be developed for commercial use but I also can't write off the need for more affordable seniors living in the Terrace."

Cr Le Mottee said that his stance on the issue had not changed. "There appears to be options [for seniors living] on the horizon, one to consider is if the council depot is moved what will happen to Boomerang Park? It makes sense to defer this for three months so other affordable housing options can be investigated," he said.

Cr Jordan said that the scaremongering about chopping up Boomerang Park had not been helpful. "The depot site could become an option … but we should also be caring for our senior community. Let's not shut the door on our elderly and see what other options are out there," he said.

Once again councillors John Nell, Steve Tucker and Jaimie Abbott talked about retaining the culturally significant Boomerang Park for community use and ensuring it remained off limits to developers.

An impassioned plea by 'Save Boomerang Park' campaigner Giacomo Arnott to uphold the council's previous decision was later marred by another heated verbal exchange with Cr Jordan.

Cr Arnott drew approval from his supporters as he described the five years of hard campaigning by a group of Terrace residents who passionately cared about their park.

"I have never had one person talk to me about a demand for seniors living," Cr Arnott said. "All the investigations have been done, the cultural and heritage value of the park won't shift and I have never seen the park used more by cyclists, walkers, joggers and skaters.

"It seems to me there is an appetite by councillors to retain the park as is … it is ridiculous to be waiting another three months."