Sandon Point Community Picket
Media release – 4 October 2004

Judgement Threatens Sandon Point Development.

Two court decisions vindicate the community’s 4 year battle against Stockland’s illegal activities at Sandon Point

Development at the controversial subdivision may be threatened after two decisions handed down last week in the Land and Environment Court in favour of Aboriginal applicant, Elder Allan Carriage.

In the first case, the court found that Stockland developed land at Sandon Point without court consent. The second case found that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) had improperly issued Section 90 consents, allowing Stockland to destroy Aboriginal objects.

Justice Nicola Pain on 28 September found that the Private Certifier had “acted unreasonably in issuing construction certificates” that allowed development on land not granted consent by the Land and Environment Court in 2001. Justice Pain will take further submissions regarding penalties, compensation, and the impact of development to an endangered ecological community, at a hearing later this year.

“No amount of compensation can replace the Aboriginal, European and natural heritage that has been destroyed,” activist Jill Walker said. “Ironically, the land was included in the Commission of Inquiry area, but the NSW Dept of Planning refused to consider it because of so-called ‘development consent’ which has been proved to have not covered the land in question.”

“The local community, including the picket, is fed up with having to uphold the law at Sandon Point while Wollongong Council turns a blind eye,” said Jan Miller. “If a legal agent and ratepayers with no legal training and scant resources, can prove their case, why can’t Council?” She cited letters from Council officers as evidence that Council believed works undertaken on Stage 7 had no approval. However, in a situation similar to that which took place before the LEC case in 2001, a conference between Stockland’s and Council’s legal advisors, resulted in Council’s decision not to take legal action.

On 30 September Judge Cowdroy found the Director-General of NPWS had failed to act with procedural fairness, and that “ denial of natural justice has resulted by the failure to engage in consultation” with Mr Carriage. A hearing to arrange relief and costs will also be held later this year.

Mr Carriage said he was pleased with the outcome, but said he was very disappointed about the refusal of NPWS to consult him. “I advised them many times about what was happening,” he said.

Mr Carriage’s legal agent, Alan Oshlack, said Justice Pain’s decision leaves a cloud over the legality of the whole Sandon Point development by Stockland. The Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network (IJAN) has been instructed to commence proceedings to prevent further disturbance of Aboriginal artefacts on AIR land, at the Thirroul end of Sandon Point. “There are other aspects of Justice Pain’s judgment concerning the NPWS Section 90 consents, that raise questions about Stage 7 and the water outlets. The judgement highlights matters of uncertainty for which we are seeking legal advice from Counsel.”

Mr Oshlack warned Stockland that any attempts to remove Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy will be opposed under the Racial Discrimination Act. He said a judicial inquiry should be called as a matter of urgency into the recent firebombing of the Embassy.”