A call to arms has been deployed by Shoal Bay residents in a concerted effort to ensure that the open reserve adjacent to Halifax Holiday Park, known as Lot 424, remains in public hands.
The move comes after confirmation this week from Port Stephens Council that a new draft Plan of Management for the reserve, that residents fear could pave the way for the site's development, would be placed on exhibition from July 18 for a period of 42 days.
Carmel Foster, council's corporate services manager, said that the council had completed the draft plans for Halifax and Shoal Bay holiday parks. "Community members can view the documents on the council's and the Department of Industry websites, as well as in hard copy at Raymond Terrace and Tomaree libraries.
"We'll also be holding two public meetings for each park on Tuesday, August 6, and Saturday, August 10. After consultation, the council is expected to consider the recommendation in October. If the recommendation is adopted, it will need to be sent to Crown Lands for approval by the minister."
Residents' spokesperson Rick O'Shea said that the reserve was an important community amenity, tourist attraction and wildlife habitat corridor.
"The residents clearly would request that the state government respect the wishes of the Shoal Bay community and have the reserve re-gazetted for public recreation," he said.
"This community needs more green space and the Premier herself recently released a statement saying 'planting trees and creating new parks is just as important as building new roads, rail, schools and hospitals'."
Residents say the green corridor is also home to koala habitat trees and were horrified to learn that the reserve extended beyond the open space and into the Shoal Bay bushland.
Last November it was revealed that Lot 424 was part of the Halifax Crown Reserve and had changed its purpose to 'caravan and camping park'. Outspoken councillor on the issue, John Nell, said that he would never support camping grounds, nor the removal of trees, at Lot 424.
Mr O'Shea said there had been enormous interest since last November's bombshell and urged residents to have their say from July 18.