THE LONG-RUNNING matter of a collapsed retaining wall on private land adjacent to highly prized public land at Gordon Park, Nambucca Heads has frayed more than a few tempers in the Nambucca Shire’s council chambers.
The matter goes back to 2012 when Nambucca resident Kelli Leckie requested the purchase of 290 square metres of Gordon Park to repair a subsidence problem affecting her family home.
In January 2014, after months of deliberation, the Crown Lands department agreed to the sale.
Complexities intervened and in December last year the council resolved against the sale, supporting instead the idea of its lease or license for the period required for the repairs.
At their last meeting on January 28, this resolution was rescinded putting the sale back on the table.
An amendment by the mayor Rhonda Hoban and Cr Anne Smyth achieved a deferral “to a meeting where no councillors are on approved leave” as well as a full report outlining the implications of the sale in terms of, among other things, the development potential of the land and the precedent such a sale could set.
The issue swings between those who believe the sale of public land to a private citizen sets a ‘dangerous precedent’ and those who say the sale is natural justice to residents who have been made to unduly suffer.
Cr Hoban told the Guardian the amendment ensured that councillors were fully aware of the implications before making a final decision about the sale.
“Sale of the land brings with it a whole range of issues, not least because once sold, the council loses control over it," Cr Hoban said.
“While the Leckies have made it clear they want to stabilise their property, their land is zoned ‘mixed use’, which gives it development potential to a possible height of 14 metres. This would have a significant impact on surrounding properties and particularly on the amenity of Gordon Park.”
Arguing strongly for the sale is Cr Morrison, who says the matter needs to be viewed in the light of the council’s approval of a 22-lot serviced apartment development next door.
“The Leckies were collateral damage of that decision, which I also supported,” Cr Morrison said.
“When council first considered this matter, we passed it to Crown Lands for a decision – we abrogated our responsibility … and now that Crown Lands have decided its OK to sell to the Leckies, it is up to us to support that."
For her part, Mrs Leckie told the Guardian that as far back as 2003 an independent report identified stability issues with the land and made a number of suggestions for remediation.
"That was before we bought it, council has done nothing and our home continues to be affected," Mrs Leckie said.
"It will cost at least $100,000 to repair the damage. We came to the council with the solution that we purchase a small section of the land, fix the issues and continue to maintain the land.
"Crown Lands has agreed to the sale with the proceeds going to the council for the maintenance of Gordon Park.
"We are saddened by the whole bureaucratic process ... we are not developers, we just want to save our home."