In a win for "people power", Raymond Terrace's historic Boomerang Park has been saved from future housing development.
After years of uncertainty surrounding its future use, Port Stephens councillors voted to "put to rest forever" the notion of developing seniors living in the iconic park at Tuesday night's council meeting.
A notice of motion (NoM) signed by councillors Ryan Palmer, Paul Le Mottee and Ken Jordan calling on the council not to proceed with a planning proposal was hailed as a great outcome for members and supporters of the Boomerang Park Preservation Group.
Councillors unanimously supported the NoM to not proceed with the planning proposal for Boomerang Park. (Absent from the meeting were Crs Jaimie Abbott, Glen Dunkley, Sarah Smith and Giacomo Arnott).
Boomerang Park Preservation Group member Dave Davies commended the councillors on their decision to preserve the park for community use.
"Yes there is a need for more affordable seniors housing in the CBD, but not as part of Boomerang Park," he said.
Councillors Palmer, Le Mottee and Jordan said their decision to shut the door on the planning proposal was made after listening to the community and the Raymond Terrace and Heatherbrae Implementation Panel.
Their NoM has also called on the council to "identify areas in the CBD for much-needed seniors living".
Council had first raised the possibility of developing a section of Boomerang Park for housing in July 2105.
In February this year councillors decided six votes to two to bury the proposal but a rescission motion two weeks later saw mayor Ryan Palmer use his casting vote to revive the issue in order to "allow for the proposal to be considered by the implementation panel, and for alternative sites to be investigated for seniors living".
"These investigations identified a number of constraints that required further consideration," the NoM presented to the November 26 meeting of council said.
"At this time, it is considered that other sites within Raymond Terrace would be more suitable and viable options for seniors living and should be investigated."
Mayor Palmer acknowledged in a Facebook post there had been great debate about the need for seniors living and protecting the park.
"This was an issue put on the table before my time but after consultation with groups and individuals it is time for this proposal to go."
Cr Le Mottee said that population increases was one of the biggest challenges facing councils.
"A population increase of just 1.7 per cent per year, which is what we've averaged for the last 50 years or so, is all it took to double the population in 48 years," he said.
"People will continue to argue against the need to increase [housing] densities in just about any way but nothing is stopping the people from coming. This council has listened to a wide range of people and decided to look at a range of other options to increase densities such as increased height limits in the CBD and promoting shop top housing."
The Housing for All Australians (HAA) organisation is promoting the need for people to think differently." An example they gave at a conference earlier in the year was 'Ok council, there is a sporting field. Next to that there is a car park which is necessary for people to park when playing sport. Why can't the airspace above the car park be given to a social housing provider to house some Australians? You won't lose your sporting field, you won't lose your car park, you will only lose the airspace above it that no one was using anyway'."
Cr Jordan said that alternate sites for seniors living in the Terrace would remain on the council agenda.
"The last few councils have taken Boomerang Park from a 'ghost town' into a used space [including a] men's shed, croquet court. play equipment, walking paths, community garden and more," he said.
Cr Arnott, a longtime campaigner to save Boomerang Park, said he was "pleased to see that the hard work of our community has finally won over those who have spent so long supporting development on the park".
"Now that the future of Boomerang Park looks to be secure, I will be working with the community and council to make sure that this park is the amazing community asset the people want it to be."
"This vote has settled the future of the most historically, culturally and socially important pieces of parkland in Raymond Terrace." He also paid tribute to the hard work of members of the Boomerang Park Preservation Group and the Raymond Terrace Parks, Reserves and Tidy Towns Committee.
State MP Kate Washington said that Boomerang Park is of great significance to the families of Raymond Terrace, and the former council's plans to sell it off was never welcomed. "Thanks to the tenacious advocacy of our community, council has finally put an end to this appalling proposal."
Heritage practitioner Chris Richards said it was "fantastic news" and pleasing that the councillors had listened to the community.