Uncle Buddy Marshall is a happy man - after years of writing, waiting, and hoping, the sacred Gumbaynggirr land at Bellwood has now been officially declared as such and is protected.
"This area, from Deep Creek through to Bellwood is part of the ancient walking track of our ancestors, that starts down in South West Rocks," Uncle Buddy said.
"Faringdon Fields is not somewhere people should go, especially women and children ... it should be completely replanted and left alone. I am very happy with this outcome."
The application was made by the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council to the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy last August.
The specified area is between Alexandra Drive, Nambucca Heads and Marshall Way, Bellwood, adjacent to what has long been a proposed housing development, taking in Faringdon Fields and the controversial road planned to service the new estate.
On April 8 the council was notified of the determination made by Melissa Price, Minister for the Environment, "to protect and preserve a significant Aboriginal area that is under threat of injury or desecration".
The determination includes the 5.9 hectares of open space (Faringdon Fields) which was dedicated to Council to fulfil the open space requirements of both existing and proposed residential subdivisions in the immediate vicinity.
Under the terms of the declaration neither the general public nor council staff can access the land without receiving permission from an elder of the Gumbaynggirr Nation or the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council.
In his report to the council on April 24, the general manager, Michael Coulter, said the declaration was for a term of 25 years with a (potential) sunset after 10 years, so arrangements needed to be made in relation to the maintenance of the land in the short term and also how the land would be used in the long term.
He also highlighted the situation for the owner/developer of the nearby residential land, Waifap Pty Ltd, who had sought the council's agreement to participate in legal action to either lift the declaration or require payment of compensation.
The developer maintains that all the statutory approvals to develop the land have been fulfilled, including the requirement to dedicate the Faringdon Fields to provide for the necessary open space for existing and future residents.
The Council has said its preferred means of resolution is negotiating an outcome with the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council.
The mayor Rhonda Hoban said she was surprised the protection only extended for 25 years.
"If it is significant to protect, why not in perpetuity?" Cr Hoban said.
She said no indication of how the land should be managed had come with the declaration.
"The council still owns the land but the declaration is clear there is no access without the consent of an elder or the Land Council ... we need to talk to them about how they would like this to be managed."
CEO of the Nambucca Heads Local Aboriginal Land Council, Michael Donovan, said he was pleased with the declaration and was in the process of gathering a delegation of elders to meet with the council.
"We need to discuss our needs and the requirements we want in place. The area is a men's site, so there is the suggestion of replanting to screen the area," Mr Donovan said.
"Because of its significance, some sort of protection is required. There also needs to be some sort of signage to let people know that access is only possible with permission."