Private usage of public land a concern in Port Stephens

The rotunda at Bannisters and flood lights pointing into koala habitat are all on public reserves managed by Port Stephens Council – Council is currently investigating the use of this land.

 

ALL along the foreshore of Port Stephens there are a range of public reserves and parks, allowing public access for all.

Yet some residents have taken it upon themselves to construct private structures on these reserves.

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Some of these installations create trip hazards, others are visual eyesores and many hamper access to these public spaces.

Some permanently install furniture and lighting.

Port Stephens Councillor John Nell told News Of The Area, “Sea walls require approval from land owners (Lands Department) and Council and vertical sea wall maximise the wave impact and are totally ineffective.

“Council pulled out the remains of a vertical sea wall, just north of Kangaroo Point some years ago.

“The only thing that works is a rock wall at roughly 45 degree angle,”

“However, it should be noted that there are a few properties on the southern shores of Port Stephens that have their boundaries out in the water.

“I think that the same thing applies to all properties at North Arm Cove.

“Regardless of ownership, Council approval is still required,” he said.

A Council spokesperson said, “Any coastal protection works that are located on Council land would require landowner’s consent and development consent in order to be lawfully constructed.

“This process only applies to new structures and does not authorise existing or illegal structures.

“Where structures have been constructed without approval, we have a range of compliance actions available to resolve the matter.

“We are generally not supportive of coastal protection works on Council land until a comprehensive Coastal Management Program has been developed and endorsed.

“We are currently collaborating with the NSW Government to develop this program.

“Our Council has recently taken action against contractors and landowners constructing unauthorised coastal protection works.

“This has resulted in rectification works and fines issued to the parties involved.

“Each instance is dealt with based on the circumstances and location of the encroachment onto public land.”

One entity using public land for business use is Bannisters, which has left Cherylle Stone of Soldiers Point outraged.

Cherylle told News Of The Area, “While some smaller businesses struggle to pay to use public land; it appears that the use of the public land between Bannisters and the foreshore is an arrangement where there is financial gain for Bannisters through what appears to be Council allowing use without formality or payment.

“Bannisters uses the public land for guest amenity, recreation and events such as high value weddings conducted in the Rotunda which sits on the public reserve.

“Meanwhile individuals wishing to conduct weddings in Council parks require a permit and pay a fee to Council for the land use,” she said.

Not-for-profit organisations pay for land use of Council parks and reserves for a raft of activities including education, and social and cultural activities which provide positive lifestyle experiences for residents and visitors to the region.

In relation to the rotunda and flood lights adjacent to Bannisters, a Council representative stated, “We are currently investigating the use of the land within the reserve.”

Locals are concerned that while Council is advocating the sale of land including 109 Foreshore Drive, they are allowing a big business to profit from the use of public land without paying for the land use.

Some believe that an audit of public land use and management would save land like this waterfront publicly owned bushland block from clearing for profit and109 Foreshore Drive from sale.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

 

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