A look at the history of ‘free’ waterfront ownership in Port Stephens

The Davis family and others at the old Gibbers boat shed.

 

JUST recently a waterfront property at Tanilba Bay sold for over $1.5 million.

This price was achieved just two weeks after being listed and buyers are still swamping agents with enquiries about similar properties.

There was however, a time when you could ‘own’ your own private waterfront and even build your own ‘private’ boatshed and jetty without paying anything.

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Mallabula Point used to have several boat sheds erected on its rocky foreshore with rails leading into the water.
One even had a motorized winch for hauling in a boat.

It’s owner, George Harper, could launch his boat, run his gill net and be back home in a bit over 20 minutes!
There was also a ‘private’ jetty nearby which anybody could use.

That changed when Council notified the owners to demolish the illegal structures or they would do it and bill them.
Suddenly nobody claimed ownership and the Council tore them down.

They did however leave the jetty which, over the years was maintained by locals until a $100,000 grant from the Federal Government saw a new one built.

Other waterfront structures came under the umbrella of ‘permissive occupancy’ and without doubt the one owned by ‘Skipper’ was the most interesting.

It sat in the middle of Henderson Park where the play equipment now stands.

Old Skipper had no water or sewerage connected and used the public amenities block.

He had a pet white cockatoo to ward off intruders and sold fresh crabs which he would net in front of his house.

The Council tried to get rid of him but he refused to go.

Indeed, his brother moved in when Skipper died and dug in as well. Finally when he too passed on, the bulldozers flattened it.

The last of the boat sheds was at ‘The Gibbers’.

Our then Coast Guard tried to get possession but failed, bringing to an end a time when waterfronts were ‘owned’ by simple fisherfolk and holiday makers at little or no cost.

Sad, isn’t it?

 

By Geoff WALKER

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