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