'If we have to battle the state then that's what we will do': Fullerton Cove residents query Williamtown Special Activation Precinct land acquisition

BATTLE-HARDENED: Lindsay Clout out the front of his Fullerton Cove Road property says many families are concerned about new compulsory land acquisition proposals from the state government.
BATTLE-HARDENED: Lindsay Clout out the front of his Fullerton Cove Road property says many families are concerned about new compulsory land acquisition proposals from the state government.

If nothing else, the residents of Fullerton Cove are battle-hardened.

For the past 12 or more years they have fought off plans for coal seam gas exploration and endured five years of PFAS contamination leaking onto their properties from the nearby Williamtown RAAF Base.

They have also had to tolerate heavy truck movements from nearby sand mines.

Now there is the threat of compulsory land acquisition, as part of the proposed Williamtown Special Activation Precinct (SAP).

Details of the proposal - covering more than 10,000 hectares of land within Port Stephens - released by the state planning department in December reveal "potential acquisition needs".

"Any land to be acquired will be informed by technical studies and the draft master plan process. The Regional Growth Development Corporation will undertake any required acquisitions in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1991, which sets out legislative requirements to ensure a fair process for compensation in the event of land acquisition by an authority of the State," the document states

Fullerton Cove resident Lindsay Clout said that while many aspects of the SAP relating to jobs and the growth of the manufacturing industry were pleasing, the 'land acquisition' plans had caused renewed fear for property owners.

The Williamtown SAP investigation area takes in just over 10,000 hectares
within the Port Stephens LGA, incorporating Williamtown RAAF Base, Newcastle
Airport and Astra Aerolab precinct as well as the rural suburbs of Williamtown, Fullerton Cove and Salt Ash. The final boundary will be determined once the investigations are completed and the draft master plan goes on exhibition.

The Williamtown SAP investigation area takes in just over 10,000 hectares within the Port Stephens LGA, incorporating Williamtown RAAF Base, Newcastle Airport and Astra Aerolab precinct as well as the rural suburbs of Williamtown, Fullerton Cove and Salt Ash. The final boundary will be determined once the investigations are completed and the draft master plan goes on exhibition.

"The SAP should have been well received, but it has gone down like a lead balloon," Mr Clout said. "The issue is many residents have just spent five years fighting Defence and prior to that its was coal seem gas. If we have to battle the state then that's what we will do. We will take them on if they have any ideas of screwing us over."

The Williamtown SAP program is being led by the Department of Regional NSW, planned by the Department of Planning, delivered by the Regional Growth Development Corporation and works closely with Port Stephens council. It impacts Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove properties.

"It aims to create more jobs and drive investment in regional NSW. With Newcastle airport and the RAAF base at its doorstep, a Williamtown SAP will attract new and existing businesses, and bring together specialised opportunities for Defence contractors, small and medium enterprises and research and development institutions. Early estimates show that the precinct could create up to 4,300 new jobs," a spokesperson said.

"Precinct master planning is underway with a range of technical studies and engagement with council, businesses and community."

Two community pop-up sessions were held at Williamtown Community Hall in December 2020, with more to be held this year to ensure locals' ideas and feedback are taken into consideration.

"The precinct's draft master plan is expected to go on public exhibition later this year, and will include a proposed boundary, land uses and potential acquisition needs."

Mr Clout said that many people were prepared to embrace change provided they were consulted. "It is interesting they talk about community input but there is no structure yet to offer us any input, such as a community reference or focus group."

State MP Kate Washington said that the uncertainty brought about by the new proposal was unfair on families living in the PFAS zone.

The SAP program is funded by the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund, dedicated to major and transformative infrastructure projects in regional NSW.

For more information go to nsw.gov.au/williamtownsap.

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