A genuinely eclectic mix of local identities, surfers, coal miners, steel workers, retirees, professionals, students, families, the employed and unemployed, locals and blow-ins. Over the years, they have galvanized into an unusually cohesive and culturally-enriching group. The strength of their commitment has resulted in a 24- hour on-site picket/ information centre which has been operating for one year. The community's Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) blockade of earthmoving and construction equipment that was to be brought on site (before a court hearing had finished), was done in the face of 60 police, and security guards who toted guns and dogs. This display of their resolve demonstrates the depth of their fury at the manner in which this development proposal has been managed from the outset.

At McCauley's beach, the Embassy is staffed 24 hours a day, and has been in existence for over a year. Here, indigenous people have come at the request of the most senior Law Man in NSW, 94-year old elder Uncle Guboo Ted Thomas. Their role is to keep watch over the land- in particular, a known sacred burial site. The Embassy's objective is to obtain United Nations accreditation. Roy (Dootch) Kennedy is the main spokesperson for SPATE.

Stockland Constructors Pty Ltd is part of a multi-billion dollar investment company specialising in commercial, retail and residential real estate developments. Nick Greiner, a former NSW premier, is vice president on Stockland's board of directors. He famously resigned as Premier as a result of an inquiry by his very own Independent Commission Against Corruption. After leaving politics, he accepted a position on the board of a giant multi-national tobacco corporation- perhaps a little ironic given his heavy personal involvement in the ground- breaking Quit Smoking campaign. - No doubt his experience comes in handy in such a political stoush. Stockland employee, Nick Duncan heads the Sandon Point development project.

(Till Recently, ruled by the Labor Party)
Historically of dubious repute, the council was taken to the Land & Environment Court by Stockland for not approving their development within a set time limit. The council is headed by mayor George Harrison who was declared to be 'unconscionable and was willing to lie under oath' by a State court in a separate matter. The council is also in dispute with Ray Hannah, a multi-million-dollar purchaser of additional land at Sandon Point. (His land was previously owned by ex-mayor, Frank Arkell.) Hannah claims that Council revoked the zoning approval for a caravan park and housing estate that they "guaranteed" him at purchase. This particular part of the Sandon Point site was subsequently acknowledged to be regularly flood and sea-affected and as such, is undevelopable. As of March '02, the status of Ray Hannah's land remains unresolved.

A fully intact, ceremonial grave of great cultural significance was archaeologically exhumed following its discovery in the McCauley's beach dunes, after a big storm in March 1998. It contained a perfectly undisturbed skeleton, surrounded by ceremonial and sacred objects. This man was a Kuradji ('Clever fella'), buried up to 6000 years ago. Another skull was discovered 30 years earlier, by amazingly, the same sharp-eyed residents who spotted the Kuradji's grave. There is local knowledge of up to 8 more skeletons having been dug up during the installation of sewerage pipes in the 1970s. The trail of their whereabouts has, for the moment, gone cold.

Five major and four minor groups lay claim to having sacred and enduring cultural links to the site. These groups do not always see eye-to-eye, due to familial ties and other political differences.

The area's governing union body placed a black ban on the Stockland site in March last year. SCLC leaders, Arthur Rorris & Peter Wilson also acted as go-betweens during the recent community blockade of the site.

The following state authorities are involved in granting permission for development of the site: National Parks & Wildlife (NPWS); Minister: Bob Debus, Dept of Land & Water Conservation (DLWC); Minister: Kim Yeadon, Dept. of Urban Affairs & Planning (DUAP)- [now called Planning NSW]; Minister: Andrew Refshauge (Deputy Premier). Despite years of recommendations that have been consistent in their content, these departments are suddenly conveying changes in their advice regarding Sandon Point. This, coupled with the unwillingness to prosecute Stockland over laws they have already breached on site, has placed question marks over their ability to oversee any proposed development.

Ruled by Bob Carr, this government subscribes to a policy of urban consolidation. This policy is driven primarily by a lobby group of property developers who are most generous with their 'electoral' donations. Stockland is an active member of this lobby group, and is no slouch when it comes to smoothing the financial ride of any political party. The recent buyback announcement of a site earmarked for development at Balmain proves that the State government does have the power to intervene at Sandon Point.

In September last year, the South Coast Labour Council instigated a round-table dispute resolution forum. It is supported by the Deputy Premier and is chaired by Rick Farley, an experienced negotiator. Representatives from Stockland, the community, SPATE, Wollongong Council, & SCLC agreed to participate in an attempt to 'find a way forward' in the stalemate situation. The fate of this forum is unclear at present, due to Stockland's attempt to start construction work at the site in mid-February.

David Campbell was previously mayor of the local council that oversaw the controversial rezoning of the entire Sandon Point site for residential use. His recent denouncement in state parliament, of the development and zoning policies of the current local council, indicates he is beginning to feel some political heat in his previously safe seat. (A 9% swing was recorded against him in the 1999 state election.)

A historically safe political seat has allowed Dr Stephen Martin to be locally ineffectual and 'fiddle while Rome burns'. The recently-held national election saw him suffer the nation's largest swing of votes against a sitting member. (He had to resort to preferences for the first time ever.) Prior to the last Federal election he had been heard to mumble unfamiliar words sounding something like 'constituency' and 'representation', although having (just) survived the election his lips are beginning to once again grow over.

This is a separate, but closely related issue. Wollongong Council's lack of effective response to residents' concerns of unsuitable developments in their area has resulted in the drive to create a new local council, based on the area covered by the old Bulli Shire. Along with other issues, the council's underhanded and shoddy handling of the Sandon Point proposal has been a major contributor to residents' burgeoning support for secession.

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