DEALINGS (Very Murky)
Why the special treatment for Stockland?
Stockland requested an on-site meeting when the designated DLWC officer was conveniently on leave. Stockland managed to obtain permission from a fill-in DLWC officer for a reduction of the creek buffer zone from the usually required 40m to just 5m. They must be congratulated on their seemingly superb sense of timing.
Later, Stockland declared in a meeting that 40m (or even 20m) creek setbacks would have "rendered the development financially unviable". Purchase records prove this statement to be highly debatable.
When the time came, DLWC chose not to defend its own laws in the Land & Environment court, on this and other issues related to flooding and water quality in case they lost, or due to embarrassment from previous promises made to the developers by their own officers. If only the less well-resourced community could obtain such watertight promises!
Stockland refers to itself as a "responsible corporate citizen", "producing a high-quality development". When the next large flood occurs, a Stockland representative admitted that it would be the responsibility of the emergency services to rescue, with their road access cut, the residents of 200 flood-affected houses. Flood insurance would not be available to these residents and it would be left to Council to sort out the ensuing mess and to face the inevitable law suits stemming from the original inappropriate zoning.
OF EUROPEAN HERITAGE
In 1996, BHP was preparing to sell up at Sandon Point. Their "problem" of the historic tramway had to be dealt with. On the draft Local Environment Plan (LEP), the route was shown as intact. After public exhibition of this plan, council officers secretly cut the route at the highway and tore up the tracks, eliminating heritage listing on the land for sale. Unfortunately, they were not found out in time. This was an illegal action for the single purpose of gain to the developer, to the detriment of the public's right to their history.
AND DEVELOPERS COURT
curious why during the court case, Council's legal team did not cross-examine
Stockland's witnesses, and gave no chance for presentation of evidence
relating to environmental, flood danger, infrastructure, Aboriginal heritage,
social and traffic impacts.
Regarding European heritage, two community members were called to give evidence. However, much of their evidence was censored by Council's own legal team. They were used by council as scapegoats for a fully anticipated failure of the case. It is extremely difficult to win a court case without mounting an adequate defence.
In fact, one of Council's requirements before court was for Stockland to build their own railway bridge & access road to link up with Hobart St at the highway. This impasse was mysteriously resolved in a back room while the case was running. Council emerged to allow an existing road to be used for Stockland's residential access. This cave-in would have saved Stockland a lot of trouble & money.
Unfortunately, this was only one of 19 out of 21 issues dealt with in this manner during the case- all 'resolved' to Stockland's advantage.
Stockland prides itself on the "transfer of privately-owned land back into public ownership". (Wollongong Advertiser, 13/2/02). A deal to be proud of indeed!
The legitimacy of the purchase of this same allotment of land from Sydney Water has always been a serious cause for concern. It is de facto Crown Land (originally bought with public money in 1950) and has been openly sought by the community to be returned to public open space since the 1980s. Sydney Water breached its own charter by falsely stating it had consulted Wollongong Council, the local Land Council, the community, and National Parks over the sale. It was required to do this following the discovery of the ceremonial grave of the 6000 year-old Kuradji man, found during the sale process. Sydney Water sold the land containing at least one documented burial site to Stockland, with their full knowledge of the fact.
Stockland is also manoeuvring to seize a portion of Gibson Park for access to its suburb. The community is adamant that public land should remain in public hands.
On February 12th this year Stockland attempted to start work. It had managed to obtain from National Parks & Wildlife the consent to destroy Aboriginal relics found during construction (a "Section 90"). This consent requires a majority of the five major Aboriginal organizations involved to sign in agreement to such action. 4 out of 5 of these groups did not give their approval. This situation is now subject to a court action. All work has ceased until the court hearing in March.
A wetland ecosystem on the site, namely the state-protected Sydney Coastal Estuarine Swamp Forest Complex (SCESFC) was illegally slashed in September last year. Cooksons, a factory at Sandon Point took the blame for it. It now turns out that the land is actually owned by Stockland, and on another SCESFC area, the pattern of slashing exactly matches the development layout in that area. Cooksons is soon to close and Stockland has earmarked the site for purchase.
The following (known) outright breaches of laws have occurred since September, 2001:
Space restricts the recording of dozens more dubious decisions, offences and breaches committed so far surrounding this contentious development proposal.
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