Sandon Point Community Picket today called for the findings of the COI to be fully implemented and for any development proposals on the land to be outside the environmental protection areas recommended by Commissioners Cleland and Carleton. This follows a proposal to build an aged care and nursing home facility by the Anglican Church which would required a rezoning of Cooksons land, which was supported by Wollongong City Council’s Environment and Planning Committee on Monday night.
Community member Alex Peterson said, “The Commissioners identified 4 hectares of Cookson’s site as land for environmental protection. This land was investigated in detail in the Commission of Inquiry and it must be protected as the Commissioners recommended.” "A nursing facility would be an acceptable alternative use for the site but any proposal must be compatible with, and within the areas defined in the COI findings”, he said.
The Commissioners considered the visual amenity, ecological, riparian and Aboriginal Heritage values before strongly recommending that 4ha of the most visually prominent land between Woodlands Creek and the Cookson factory be protected and rezoned as 7(a) Environmental Protection. It is also an Aboriginal cultural heritage area and includes a Class 1 bird habitat, and is a sacred Aboriginal women's place, according to Elder Allan Carriage. The COI recommendations are minimum requirements and further studies should only be made with a view to protection, not destruction.
The community had been striving to protect this and other key areas of open space at Sandon Point for well over a decade.
Community activist Jill Walker said she hoped that “Anglicare would act in harmony with our environmentally aware community and demonstrate that they support Reconciliation by not continuing to try to go against the COI findings.
She was critical of Council’s decision saying "How dare Wollongong Council even think of rezoning the land the community has fought so hard to protect? Think how much time and effort went into the COI and now they go ahead making secret deals before the Minister has made his decision. We have waited 14 months for the decision – if this goes ahead it will all be meaningless" she said.
If the developable area of the Cookson site is not big enough for this proposal that is no excuse to sacrifice our environment and surrender land that has been identified as significant to the integrity of the whole Sandon Point site.
We need a government and a council who will adhere to the COI findings, – once this land is developed it is lost forever, and that is a cost we can’t afford.