A two-decade and often bitter campaign by Hastings Point residents against a controversial 45-lot housing development has paid off with the planning department recommending refusal this week.
The department said the development, known as Lot 156 Creek Street, would result in an ‘unacceptable risk to life, health and property’ within the flood-prone coastal village and was incompatible with the adjoining natural and built environment.
For years the Hastings Point Progress Association had fought the development, warning if it went ahead, four metres of fill would be dumped on the site, creating a dam and flooding homes along Creek Street by stopping water from escaping directly into Christies Creek.
Residents had said some of those most at risk where elderly residents living in the retirement section of the North Star Holiday Village.
Past and present owners of the prime creekside location have been involved in the long-running war with residents who had complained about unauthorised works and vegetation removal during the past 20 years.? The most recent owner of the property, Brisbane developer Walter Elliott, kept animosities simmering after he strung up a barbed-wire fence around the property shortly after acquiring it in 2000.? Mr Elliott claimed it was to confine dogs belonging to the live-in caretaker, Athol Youngblutt, brother of Tweed councillor Phil Youngblutt, but residents said it cut off their access to the creek and posed an injury threat to wildlife.? However, Tweed Shire Council, which had opposed the development, had ordered staff to issue a $3,000 fine for the unauthorised fence, adding to another $3,000 penalty the council also issued after a small army of workers began slashing and spraying vegetation in an environmental zone adjoining a local creek.
Solicitor and progress association spokesman John O’Reilly said he received the news while sitting at an internet cafe in Moshi, Africa, where the charity support group he founded, Committee Assist, works with local communities to care for orphaned and abandoned children.
‘I was nearly in tears after all this work, and unfortunately had no-one to share it with. Very relieving I must say. It has been a struggle and a huge amount of work to fight this one and I just want to thank you for supporting me and taking the time out from your busy schedules to take the interest in our battle here and lend your assistance. I will contact you all on my return and I am sure we will have a big shindig when this is all over.
‘Now it is just a matter of keeping pressure on PAC (Planning Assessment Commission) to do the right thing.’
Mr O’Reilly previously told The Echo the long-running saga began with previous owner Nev Wintour more than 20 years ago. Mr Wintour used bulldozers and a dredge to expand the site to its present size by altering the course of Christies Creek before police were forced to physically remove him from a dredge after he ignored orders to desist.? He said alterations to the natural landscape in the 80s and 90s had been horrific and involved in-filling a section of creek as part of a huge land theft which had aggravated flooding in that part of the estuary, nearby homes and the holiday village.? Longtime resident Julie Boyd, who had said ‘it’s called Creek Street because when it rains it become like a creek’, told The Echo yesterday that she was elated and that many residents would soon celebrate the victory after returning from holidays this month.
Ms Boyd said it was also a coincidence that the day residents were told that ‘Lot 156 had been comprehensively knocked on the head’ it ‘just happened to also be the 66th wedding anniversary for Tess and Vic Brill, an ‘incredibly feisty couple who have been the absolute backbone of the Hastings Point Progress Association for many years, with ‘Vic prone to jumping in front of trucks on occasion at protests. He had his 90th last year.’