Plan of management to be developed for Farringdon Fields

The Farringdon Fields in Nambucca Heads are currently off limits to the public due to their proximity to a significant Aboriginal cultural site.

THE Farringdon Fields and the adjoining culturally significant Bellwood Sacred Site were again under discussion at the meeting of Nambucca Valley Council last Thursday in Macksville.

“This is a highly significant site (not just) throughout the area of New South Wales, not but also Australia,” Gumbaynnggir Elder and Nambucca Valley Councillor Martin Ballangarry told the Council.

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According to Keegan Noble, Nambucca Valley Council’s Environment Project Officer, the Farringdon Fields, an area of 5.9 hectares, was destined to be three playing fields under a long term development plan.

However, an amenities block is the only component of the plan which has been completed.

The fields are located adjacent to Bellwood Sacred Site, an initiation site of great significance which, in Gumbaynnggir culture, women and children should not visit or even discuss.

So, although they were identified as a future sportsground in 1995, the fields have not been used for this purpose since.

Besides the cultural concerns, drainage issues affect most of the fields because the land was once a coastal wetland.

A determination by the Federal Government in 2019 that the significant Aboriginal area is under threat and must be protected and preserved, means that no person can enter the area without approval from a Gumbaynggirr Elder or the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Currently Gumbaynggirr Elders have granted permission to Council and their staff to carry out maintenance activities in the area.

In 2015, Nambucca Valley Council resolved to create a master plan to revegetate the existing grassed areas of the Farringdon Fields but this plan was never adopted.

In September of last year, Council received notification that the NSW Department of Planning and Environment – Heritage NSW intended to declare the Bellwood Sacred Site and Farringdon Fields an Aboriginal Place under section 84 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Council resolved to support the proposal so long as they could continue to access the area to complete infrastructure and land maintenance.

Currently the ‘Place’ declaration has not yet been made.

Last week councillors again voted to create a plan for the management of the area including the fields.

They resolved to consult with Aboriginal stakeholders and the Gaagal Wanggaan Board of Management in drafting this plan.

An adjoining section of bushland is still in the hands of private owners and according to Mayor Rhonda Hoban, making this public land is a long and complex process that is already underway.

“We’re asking the Federal Government to fund the purchase of the land that presumably will later be added as culturally significant,” Mayor Hoban explained when asking that this also be considered in the creation of a’ Plan of Management’ for the fields.

When completed, the draft ‘Plan of Management’ will be exhibited publicly for the community at large.

The NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water has chipped in with a grant of $30,000 towards revegetation of the area and Council has pledged to match this with funds from the Environmental Levy.


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