An Aboriginal land claim over one of the last remaining beachfront bush reserves at Kingscliff, which has been fought over for years by residents wanting it kept as public open space, has to be settled first before any development goes ahead there.
Tweed Shire Council was told that any move by councillors to preserve the 40-hectare block of Crown land between south Kingscliff and Salt, known formerly as Lot 490, would have to wait till a claim by the Tweed-Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council over the land was determined.
Councillors at their meeting on Thursday resolved 4-3 to look into buying the land off the state government as well as signifying council’s preference in preserving the site as a public open space and recreation reserve.
Pro-development Crs Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne opposed the move and also lost a bid for council to make no decision until the land claim was settled.
Late last year, in a shock to Save Our Lot 490 campaigners, the state government controversially changed the status of the block east of Casuarina Way (the beachfront) to ‘Government Property’.
That move was seen by campaigners as trying to thwart the locals’ ambition, given it followed a petition that in a short time drew more than 10,000 signatures.
The beachfront part of the land had been originally earmarked for leasing as a resort by Leightons Properties before the company suddenly pulled the pin on the project early last year.
Save Our Lot 490 spokesman Jerry Cornford told Echonetdaily the group was ‘delighted that council has taken up the fight on behalf of all those 10,543 who’ve now signed the petition’.
Mr Cornford said many of the petitioners, from both the Tweed and interstate, ‘hold the view that coastal reserves are for everyone and not just the fee-paying few’.
‘Our group will support council in any effort to preserve Lot 490 in keeping with the expression of the resolution and we hope that the state government will be as responsible as council in representing the views of those who elected them,’ he said.
During debate on the issue, Cr Longland, who moved with deputy mayor Michael Armstrong the notice of motion for council to indicate its preference for the land, said it was timely and reflected much ‘community concern and agitation’.
Cr Longland said the land was a vital green buffer between Kingscliff and Salt, and maintaining direct public access to the beach from there was crucial, especially with the nearby Kings Forest residential development soon to start.
He said the Aboriginal land claim would be settled first but it was timely for council to present a ‘contemporary’ position.
Cr Armstrong said the resolution expressed community wishes and the next step would be to buy the land.
Cr Polglase said the move was premature and council should not signal its intent till the land claim had been settled.
Cr Bagnall said he had concerns the move could be seen as ‘pushing in front of’ the Aboriginal land claim’ and ‘another land grab’.
But Cr Katie Milne said she had been told there was strong support in the Aboriginal community for the land to remain in council hands rather than in the state government’s ‘which indicates the level of trust they have in council’.
Mr Cornford told Echonetdaily the Save Our Lot 490 group now looked forward to a public meeting to discuss the future of the land which council last year had proposed so its own plan for the site which includes ‘soft’ recreation facilities such as picnic and barbecue areas, can be presented.