Ash St./Oasis Close – Walkway To Nowhere?

Obstruction of Pedestrian Access Between Ash Street and Soldiers Point Bowling Club

 

The Ash Oasis Close Pic 800x600St/Oasis Close dispute started half way through 2013 when the resident in number 3 of the new subdivision of Oasis Close (off Ash Street, opposite Myrtle Close, Soldiers Point, see links to combined maps below) fenced off a footway, citing public liability issues. This easement had for many years given local residents pedestrian access to the Soldiers Point Bowling Club, the beach and the Salamander Hotel.

The reaction to the closure of their shortcut from locals was vociferous, 460 residents signed a petition, 170 signed up to a facebook page and when the matter was dealt with in Council, more than 30 residents waving protest placards attended the meeting, saying that elderly residents faced an extra 25 minute walk to get to the club.

Council, in its wisdom, possibly to avoid legal action, tried to placate the natives and compromise with the land owners instead of forcing compliance, which it was entitled to do under section 125 of the Local Government Act 1993 which is about abating (“Summary Removal, without having recourse to legal proceedings”) of a ‘public nuisance’ and states in part:

For example, any wrongful or negligent act or omission in a public road that interferes with the full, safe and convenient use by the public of their right of passage is a public nuisance.” 

Instead the Council resolved that it would consent to the release/extinguishment of the easement over 3 Oasis Close, Subject to certain conditions.  I won’t list them all here, but the object was to get the Resident and the Bowling Club, who also had a DA under consideration for 100 seniors units adjacent to the track, to agree to construct a new elevated walkway through a stormwater drainage reserve at No 7 Oasis close and share the cost 50/50. All well and good, so far.

This was dealt with by Council at Meetings on 26 November 2013, 25 February, 15 April, and 10 June 2014 (I have aggregated the Council minutes and the Local Govt. Act on a link below for those who want the detail) 

Unfortunately the cost estimate must have been hastily worked out on the back of a cigarette packet with a blunt pencil, because the original figure of $54,000.00, i.e. $27,000.00 each has now blown out to $134,000.00, the owners have propped at $34,000.00 each and guess who is picking up the shortfall of $66,000.00? Council is proposing to take that out of our community’s section 94 funds.  To add insult to injury it has also moved it to the top of the works funding list, displacing other long standing commitments.

However it gets worse still, TRRA inc. understands that there are still no final design drawings or specifications completed for this project yet, and it is still subject to a tender process. One of the reasons for the blowout so far is that Council did not follow its own guidelines on disabled access in the original estimate, and had to increase the width from 1.2 m to 1.4 m. Now some people are talking about lighting etc. the final cost of this could double again.

TRRA is fed up with Councils consistent failure to insist on compliance issues which should be resolved quickly, but end up escalating into an ever increasing cost and disruption to the community.  What better example in this area than the Soldiers Point Marina where Council has turned a blind eye to compliance issues for decades, and only an extensive, concerted campaign by local residents finally exposed it at the JRPP? All Council has to do is enforce its own rules.

Resident’s access could have been restored immediately by removal of the offending fence and all this sorted out in due course, they still have no access almost 12 months later and nothing is finally resolved. If this proposal ends up being too expensive, will the Council end up having to do what it should have done in the first place or will everyone loose?

The last word in this saga goes to our TRRA Secretary, who has been active in this community for many years, and has discovered another anomaly in this process, all this expense and disruption may end up in a road to nowhere, read about it here: 140704 Oasis Walkway article for Website MW  and see what you can do about it.  Submissions close 16 July 2014!

Projects on Section 94 Development Contributions (including the proposed addition of Ash Street/Oasis Circuit Walkway $148,740) HERE

Newcastle Herald 27 November 2013: Access Fight Turns Corner

Examiner 03 December 2013: New Soldiers Point Walkway Mooted

Examiner 30 October 2014: Work On Oasis Walkway Under Way

 

Map Of Oasis Cl

Oasis Close Combined Maps

Nov 2013 – June 2014 PS Council Minutes Ash St – Oasis Cl Walkway

 

 

 

 

 

Seniors Living SPSeniors Living Development Behind Soldiers point Bowling Club 

Wallalong Stays Rural !

KeepWallalongRural2

For those that are interested in following the saga that we reported on originally in October 2013 and updated through to May 2014 HERE I have aggregated the articles in the Newcastle Herald and The Examiner to finish off the story.  

Congratulations to the ‘Voices of Wallalong and Woodville’ community group who took on a coterie of high profile Developers from the ‘Wallalong Landowners Group’ including The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, multimillionaire  Jeff McCloy, Property Tycoon Hilton Grugeon, and former general manager of Hardie Holdings, Matthew Somers in a battle to ‘keep Wallalong rural.’

Despite recommendations against the proposal by Council Staff and the Department Of Planning there was heavy barracking from our Mayor and most of our Councilors (some directly involved) to contend with as well. Council even allowed the proponents to withdraw the application and resubmit it again after they reduced the development fees by $750,000.00. Details in the first story below.

You may think that this story does not affect us out on the peninsula, but it is a classic case of how our Port Stephens Council currently operates against all recommendations but in the interests of the big end of town and how sustained opposition from the local community can sometimes still end up with a good result, Look at the recent decision on Soldiers Point Marina as well. Without the weight of well articulated public opinion we could have had a different result. TRRA Inc. are not anti all development, just inappropriate development.

Lets hope that these decisions are not revisited in the future, but big money does not give up easy.

NSW Government Planning & Environment: Gateway Decision- Full details

Newcastle Herald 11 April 2014: Property Moguls Benefit As Council Slashes Fees

Newcastle Herald 4 May 2014: Wallalong Plan Inconsistent With Guidelines

Newcastle Herald 13 June 2014: Wallalong Rezone ‘Needs More Work’

Newcastle Herald 13 June 2014: 3000 – House Wallalong Development Knocked Back

Newcastle Herald Letter 17 June 2014: Keep Wallalong On The Down Low”

Examiner 18 June: Residential Wallalong Development Rejected

The Last word to V.O.W.W. Bob Beal:

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“Port Stephens Council has persisted with this fantasy for years, creating concern, worry and uncertainty for residents. It has ignored the advice of its own planners and those of the NSW department of Planning. It has ignored the wishes of the community. It has ignored common sense . The only voices it has NOT ignored are those of the would-be developers singing a siren song of money. The lower Hunter has the best agricultural land, fine soil and plenty of water. It has 200 years of sustainable farming behind it, and as much again ahead of it. When the coal industry finally peters out in a decade or so, the penny will drop: we have world food demand soaring, we have clean productive agricultural land and a transport network of that reaches around the nation and the world. Our future is in agricultural production, not coal and not reckless urban development that swallows our best farmland”

Newcastle Herald PSC Election Investigation

Newcastle Herald February 28 2014: EDITORIAL: Questions From An Election   (More Links below.)

Bruce Almighty 300 x 167The Newcastle Herald has had investigative reporters looking into the conduct of the last Port Stephens Election since the financial returns were made available from the N.S.W Electoral Funding Authority late November last year. Their revelations only confirm what TRRA suspected just prior to the election and wrote about subsequently on this site. HERE

These people deliberately avoided any fair scrutiny by their constituents, boycotting all the TRRA forums set up for that purpose.  If they had taken the opportunity provided to tell the people what they were doing in a transparent manner, they may have avoided the opprobrium that they are now going to face in the electorate.

The TRRA Executive were interviewed, provided material from our records to the reporters to assist their investigation and have made an extensive submission to the Electoral Authority on this issue.

We are very concerned at the ‘develop at any cost’ attitude of this Council and their record is there for all to see. Many of their development decisions have been  made against the recommendations of staff and statutory authorities. A lot of them were regurgitated from the previous Council’s rejections and given the go ahead. This was also obviously part of the Grand Strategy.These bad decisions will no doubt have legal ramifications and will probably come back to haunt ratepayers long into the future.

TRRA is not suggesting that this group has done anything illegal with their plan per se, although The EFA is investigating the possibility that the donations made to other candidates by the Mayor and others may be in breech of the Electoral Funding Act, because if the donors are connected in any way with the liquor industry or are designated as developers, they may be classified by the act as ‘Prohibited Donors’ under recent legislation bought in by the current government.

It is one thing to ‘game’ the rules for your own advantage, but it is another to game the ratepayers. The scale and expense incurred in this exercise and the politics behind it were not apparent to the average voter and the gloating afterward has made a lot of people feel that they have been duped.

Our biggest concern is, that now that the precedent has been set, it will become apparent to wealthy individuals that elections can be bought or manipulated by organised groups gaming the system and harvesting preferences from unwitting voters who are obliged to vote on a large complex ballot paper, but just want to get it over with by ticking a box.above the line.

There needs to be a change of rules or a massive public education campaign to prevent  further distortions like this occurring in the future.  The perpetrators of this underhand scheme have now been publicly exposed, and although they think they are very clever they should be seen for what they really are by the ratepayers of Port Stephens.

A word of warning to those who hold these people up as ‘go getters’ that ‘cut through’ and ‘get things done’.  Take a good look at ‘what’ is being done, and ‘who for’ and what corners are being cut to get it done.  That is what TRRA do best and we put it on this site for you to decide.

140301 Lewis Cartoon

 

 Mayor of Port Stephens Bruce Mackenzie rejects criticism of his “like-minded” Council. N H March 1st, 2014.

 

Here are the electronic links to all the stories in the Herald in the ‘Bruce Almighty’ series, from Friday 28 Feb 2014.  Some of the articles have interactive pictures at the top, and comments at the bottom, they are worth a click, we will continue to update  this aggregation as the story unfolds………. Great investigative reporting Donna, Michael & Greg!

Bruce MacKenzie’s 31 running mates

The secrets to Bruce MacKenzie’s political staying power 

OPINION:  Vote catching can be tough to grasp

Macca ‘Bloc’ Drives Key Port Decisions

Mayor MacKenzie proud of council’s financial health 

Residents raise heat on mayor MacKenzie

OPINION: Ambiguous alliance undermines Port council

LETTER: I didn’t vote for Macka, or did I?

LETTER: The power of a mayor’s vote

OPINION: Decision to shelve section 94 fees ‘curious’

LETTER: Rhetoric masks backlog

Voters will remember, mayor MacKenzie warned

LETTER: Election strategy unconscionable

Mandate lost in system rort

Defiant mayor has no election regret, poll

Option three: Candidates to run for Port Stephens Council.