The residents of the normally sleepy Tweed coastal town of Hastings Point are up in arms about their headland being taken over for the filming of a major Hollywood movie.
And even though Warner Bros have finished filming the scenes for their upcoming Aquaman movie, the headland remains closed to the public while the company undertakes ‘remediation’ work.
The site is managed by the Tweed Reserves Trust, which in turn is operated by Tweed Shire Council.
The council approved the filming on a 6-1 vote in June (Mayor Katie Milne being the sole opponent) in return for an undisclosed sum of money.
In a media release issued at the time, the council said the trust would conduct a workshop ‘subsequent to the film’ with Screen NSW local residents, community groups, council staff, and interested councillors ‘to develop a protocol for the future management of filming in the locality.’
But locals say there has been little-to-no consultation ahead of the occupation of the site by the multinational corporation and have accused the site manager of serious misrepresentation.
Progress Association public officer Jo Kennett told Echonetdaily, ‘We have had Warner Bros here filming Aquaman for 10 weeks with another five (to try to fix the environmental damage) to go, with our headland access blocked since July 5.’
‘We were informed by a large sign and then a flyer – the first anyone had heard of all this – that it would be closed from July 5 to August 16 but access has now been limited until October 15. That’s nearly 4 months with the headland closed and for the majority of that time there has been no work or filming happening,’ she said.
‘In reality they could have done the whole thing in three weeks (or in the studio or computer generated) so why our Tweed Council General Manager gave them four months, with councillors kept completely in the dark, is anyone’s guess.
Ms Kennett said there had been ‘significant environmental damage, no consultation with the community and some very questionable dealings from corporate services in Tweed Council.’
‘Our mayor, Katie Milne, has been treated so badly as she tried to protect what is a very environmentally sensitive area, included being targeted in a “Juliar Gillard” type campaign in the Murdoch press, which was just horrible.
Ms Kennett said residents and visitors alike ‘cannot believe this has been allowed to happen. Even the most pro business/development residents who thought it was all great are really angry now.’
Blocked beach access
She said Warner Bros had blocked access to the beach on several occasions, telling people they couldn’t go to surf, despite having no permission to do so.’
‘They kept saying they were nearly finished and then a week later another flyer would be posted saying they were blocking more areas for more filming.
‘The propaganda their location manager has put out there, continuously saying how much support he has when it is not true, has been appalling,’ ,’ she said
‘They built major constructions on the headland with no DA, as required by NSW law, nor do they seem to have the necessary Environmental Impact Statement.
She said that Warner Bros had initially wanted ‘to pull out (and throw away) our iconic pandanus tree at the top of the headland’ but added ‘councillors wouldn’t let them.’
‘Councillors were actually waiting for Warner Bros to come back with the community consultation so they could vote on it but they never did – they just steamrolled ahead with the support of a few in corporate services.’
Ms Kennett said, ‘there was a suspicious fire at 2am the night before they were to bring all their trucks and heavy machinery into a small beach access track (for more filming, which was sprung on us) and the next morning council agreed with the site manager that since the fire had already cleared the area they could widen the parking area.
‘They gravelled it and lined it with rocks. What was bush is now just part of a relatively big parking lot,’ Ms Kennett said.
So intense have local passions been that filmmaker Andi Green made her own film at the Point (above) in protest to the take-over of her local park by the multinational film franchise.
Marine biologist’s concerns
Ms Green also pointed us to concerns expressed by Ted Brambleby, a marine biologist and educator, and the founder and director of the Hastings Point North Star Museum of Marine Natural History.
Mr Brambleby wrote, ‘This headland provides anchorage to the most unique rocky shore ecosystem for its size on the east coast of Australia. Other than the biodiversity it sustains, this isolated little “Eden in time” is the central hub for five other unique and so far unspoiled connecting environments.
- A shallow meandering sea grass and mangrove rich estuary.
- A pristine wallum heathland ecotone extending from dunes and emerging into tea tree and climax eucalypt forest that still support an ecology lost to the Gold Coast years ago.
- A complete and undeveloped succession of beach dunes.
- A shallow eco-dynamic orb recruitment reef 300 metres offshore that has protected and sustained the headlands one off littoral and sub-littoral biodiversity for a time beyond memory.
‘This then is the critical reality and ecologically one only paradigm, that council in a spasm of profound wisdom, is unbelievably forfeiting by the precedence set in permitting its abuse from large scale site preproduction by film companies – not for the first but now for the second time in two years,’ he said.
‘In the last month this timeless yet vulnerable icon has again, by its own caretaker, been permitted to morph into something more resembling a full scale industrial construction site than a nature reserve,’ Mr Brambleby wrote.
Echonetdaily is awaiting response from Tweed Shire Council and Mayor Katie Milne.