Next step: Recently elected Port Stephens councillor Jaimie Abbott has been credited for calling for the state government to intervene. She said she was “ashamed” at it’s delay to act. Picture: Max Mason-HubersCONFIRMATION the state government is investigatingbuying back six hectares of the Mambo Wanda Wetlands has divided Port Stephens, with mayor Ryan Palmer praising it as a “breakthrough” and local member Kate Washington describing the announcement as “meaningless words dressed up as progress”.
Cr Palmer said he had receivedwritten confirmation from Premier Gladys Berejiklian that Minister for PlanningAnthony Roberts had instructed his department to investigate the feasibility of purchasing the Salamander Bay site through the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme.
“News of the Minister for Planning stepping in to see if he can initiate a buyback is positive for council, as land acquisitions are an onerous process,” Cr Palmer said.
“This is a huge and positive step forward and we are now on the pathway to resolving this issue.
“While I recognise that this process is in its early stages and details are yet to be finalised, it’s still a breakthrough for the community to finally have the NSW Government on the same page.”
Cr Palmer thanked Cr JaimieAbbott, who put forward a notice of motion in December seeking government funding for the council to acquire the site to ensure ratepayers would not be required to pay to buy back the land – and pursue compulsory acquisition if negotiations for a voluntary sale were unsuccessful.
Cr Palmer then wrote to Ms Berejiklianasking for the government to provide financial support.
He said the council was keen to ensure the best possible outcome for the site and wouldpotentially serveas trustee when it was back in public ownership.
As previously reported, the government sold the former Department of Education land in an online auction in 2016 for$250,000 to developer Paul Unicomb, who has submitted an application tobuild housing on the site.
The parcel of land zoned E2 environmental conservationis a habitat for the endangered koala population.
Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington said the government’sannouncement was “embarrassing” .
She said it had previously suggested it was looking at options to acquirethe land.
“But it’s now obvious nothing has been happening,” she said.
“What we need is for them to announce a buy back. [Parliamentary Secretary for theHunter] Scot MacDonaldsaid 18 months ago the salewas a mistake –so why on earth have they not done anything in that time to correct that mistake?
“I can’t help but think the government is treating this as a joke.
“It’s time for them to stop this farce and fix their mess.
“We want action, not meaningless words dressed up as progress.”
Shesaid she would table apetition of 13,000 signatures on Tuesday and expected it to be debated in Parliament next week.
“Every step of the way the community has been voicing opposition to any development on the site,” she said.
“We’ll keep fighting until it’s back with us and remain confident we’re heading in the right direction.”