Dream Gumma property turns to nightmare after neighbour disputes

Peter Wright with fellow easement user Daniel Wright (no relation) outside Peter’s Gumma property.

WHEN Nambucca Valley man Peter Wright bought his 150-acre property (Lot 157) in Gumma four years ago, he hoped to regenerate it, use it for primary production and as a depot for three small trucks he operates in his earthmoving business.

He also thought he would build a home for his family on the picturesque block.

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Like many properties in the Nambucca Valley, access to the bush block was through an easement on the neighbouring property (Lot 24).

The easement was also used by residents of the local residential estate, Warrell Waters Estate, to access a boat ramp (also on Lot 24).

As the Estate is not located on the easement, these properties hold a different contract (a Right of Access) with different conditions for use to the properties (like Mr Wright’s) located along the easement, a fact which would later cause much confusion in the community.

Mr Wright’s property was also sold as an ongoing quarry which presumably had been utilised in the past by semi-trailers to truck the sand it contained out to Macksville and beyond along Warrell Creek Road.

Mr Wright set up beehives on the block, registered as a primary producer and established an agribusiness: a small campsite and BBQ area.

However, before long, his neighbours complained to a variety of authorities.

Nambucca Valley Council acted quickly to warn him that the campsite was illegal and subsequently issued a large fine.

Mr Wright closed the campsite and disputed the fine.

On the day of his court case, Mr Wright claims Council dropped the fine only to issue another one the following day, backdated to the date of the original fine.

He went back to court and again the fine was dropped on the day it was due to be heard.

He has since received legal advice that his campsite is legal, but he has not operated it to this day for fear of upsetting the community.

Daniel Walsh, Manager of Development and Environment for Nambucca Valley Council, confirmed that fines were issued and withdrawn.

“For legal reasons it was decided not to proceed with the cases,” he told NOTA.

Mr Walsh said the original site allocated for the farmstays was in a flood zone, however he confirmed that many rural properties were given exemptions from seeking DAs for small campsites.

He conceded that it may well be the case that Mr Wright’s property was entitled to host a small campsite at the appropriate location on the block without seeking approval.

Mr Wright then filled in the old quarry on Lot 157 and regenerated it, believing that his trucks would still be welcome on a regenerated quarry site.

Neighbours complained to Council that he was using the block for industrial purposes without permission, forcing Mr Wright to find other lodgings for his three small trucks until he could put in a change of use Development Application (DA) for a small truck depot to be located on the land.

When the DA was lodged, Council followed protocol and informed the neighbours.

Quickly the community sprang into action again.

Neighbours letterbox-dropped houses along Warrell Waters Road and beyond, warning them that many more heavy vehicles would soon be using the 80km/hr Gumma Road from early morning until late in the evening, claiming risks to children, wildlife and the environment.

The Wrights attempted to do their own letterbox drop, clarifying that a maximum of three light weight trucks (the largest six tonne) would leave at 6.30 am and not return until evening.

Despite this, Mr Wright said some of the misinformation around his operation continued to circulate.

Mr Wright said he was told by neighbours that he was not allowed to use the boat ramp on Lot 24, despite his property holding the same ‘right of access’ as others in the area, and that he could not invite visitors to use the easement and therefore visit his property.

Mr Wright claims residents would reportedly police the gate to the easement and ask visitors to identify themselves, denying access and sometimes engaging in heated discussions with anyone they didn’t believe should be visiting.

When members of this group of neighbours were questioned about this behaviour, a spokesperson claimed to have been given legal advice, paid for by Council, which indicated Mr Wright did not have 24-hour access to his property.

Council’s Daniel Walsh confirmed to NOTA that incorrect legal advice was likely shared with members of the public, however subsequent advice had proven Mr Wright did have round-the-clock access to his land.

“We have been transparent about the process for this DA,” Mr Walsh told NOTA.

Another claim was made that Mr Wright had cleared land to make his campsite, however Mr Wright was able to show documentation to NOTA and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) that the previous owners had already cleared this space to make a small fishing shack.

No fines were imposed but multiple calls to the EPA were made by well-meaning neighbours.

On one occasion, Mr Wright alleges he was charged a fine of $300 by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) for accidentally damaging mangroves while clearing away toxic weeds that had taken over the property before he purchased it.

“They (DPI) acknowledged that it was accidental and the fine would have been in the thousands if they thought I’d done it on purpose,” he told NOTA.

Mr Wright also claims he and his guests were filmed by neighbours whenever they entered or left the property, and said he had trouble accessing his beehives or completing work for other residents along the easement.

With the constant confrontations and complaints becoming intolerable, Mr Wright said he and his family attempted to keep a low profile in the community.

“I’m a peaceful man and I don’t want to make trouble for anyone,” he told News Of The Area.

A neighbour who shares the easement as part of his driveway, Daniel Wright (no relation), told NOTA, “Peter has been a good neighbour who does what he can to help others in the community.

“This has all been very difficult for him.”

However, the trouble did not stop there.

While Mr Wright’s DA was on display at Nambucca Valley Council, it attracted 32 submissions and a petition from members of the public.

Put into a difficult situation over the unpopular DA, Council received a first round of legal advice denying Mr Wright carriageway on his property.

Mr Wright responded by seeking his own legal advice which he shared with Council, stating that he did have right of carriageway.

Council sought further legal advice and this time agreed with Mr Wright’s solicitor.

In the Nambucca Valley Council’s General Meeting on 24 April, the matter of Mr Wright’s DA was discussed.

Several residents of Warrell Waters Estate attended and attempted to speak on the matter, although their application was submitted after the Council’s deadline.

“I see you have sought some clarifying legal advice. Are you able to talk to that? There are 32 submissions from the community,” Councillor Susan Jenvey asked the Council’s Daniel Walsh regarding Mr Wright’s application.

“Council sought legal advice for the area of contention – legal access to the land,” Mr Walsh replied.

“There is a Right of Access Register on the land and a Right of Carriageway, and the legal advice came back that the development does have legal right over that Register of Carriageway, so the intention is to determine that development application under delegated authority based on that legal advice.

“A truck depot is permissible in the RU1 Zone,” he said.

In layman’s terms the Council’s latest legal advice states that Mr Wright can use the easement whenever he needs it, as can anyone seeking to visit his property.

There are two different rights granted over the same easement, a Right of Access for the residents of the estate, and a Right of Carriageway for the properties (such as Mr Wright’s) which must use the easement to access their properties.

Daniel Walsh confirmed to NOTA on Tuesday 30 April that the Wright’s truck depot DA has been approved and the details of it will be displayed online.

The DA has taken more than six months to be granted, incurring significant costs to ratepayers and Mr Wright, who had to house his trucks elsewhere.

Another anonymous complaint was even lodged then withdrawn that he had been parking trucks outside his home in Valla Beach.

“What everyone doesn’t understand is that this DA will actually limit my business,” a frustrated Mr Wright told NOTA.

“Under this DA, I would need to apply for a new DA to add another truck to my fleet, to increase the size of my trucks or anything else.”

As for speeding through the tiny neighbourhood of Warrell Waters Estate, Mr Wright assures NOTA that he has put GPS trackers in his trucks and speed limited them to 40 km/hr in this zone so he would receive a text message on his phone if one of his employees should break this traffic rule.

“The trucks would be leaving around about 6.30 every morning and back only at night when most people in the street are in their houses anyway,” he said.

Mr Wright showed NOTA around his property, which currently is home to much wildlife and native vegetation after the regeneration of the old quarry.

He explained that for some time, an employee who was flood affected had lived in an old bus on the property, free of charge, but had since moved to a new home.

This living arrangement was also allegedly reported to Council as ‘a commune’ by neighbours.

Hoping to be left in peace, Mr Wright said the events of the past few years have taken an immeasurable toll emotionally and financially on his young family.

However, Mr Wright told NOTA he holds no ill-will toward any of his neighbours but would just like to set the record straight.

“I love this land and I want to protect it.

“I just want to get back to work and put all this behind me,” the farmer and business owner said.


The Warrell Waters Estate, where one property is burdened by an easement used by many others.

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