Friday, January 25, 2008

Public Statement for all who care about Newcastle and its heritage



Nobbys is a significant place that is for all of us.

At first glance it may sound great to privatise Nobbys and build an 8 unit Motel style development with Restaurant and a manager’s cottage. Perhaps it could be done in a sympathetic way with some public access thrown in?

In reality, it’s over development of a unique lighthouse site and privatisation of public land and of the views to and from the headland and is particularly wrong in that it impacts on the lighthouse (A Commonwealth Heritage Place). It continues an unsympathetic attitude to an Aboriginal Dreaming Site.

Whybaygamba (Nobbys) was reduced from 62m in height to 28m for the erection of the Nobbys Lighthouse which is still an operating lighthouse after 150 years.

Nobbys and the Nobbys Lighthouse are unique Newcastle heritage items that must be acknowledged and respected in an official conservation tourist management plan for the Coal River Precinct (SHR1674).

The public must be given safe access to the headland and the area around the lighthouse.

The Development was initially approved by the NSW Heritage Council in 2005 with conditions. The Applicant did not accept the conditions and resubmitted the original development as a Crown Development Application under 116C of the NSW EP&A Act to escape independent and transparent assessment and the imposition of conditions that may have reduced the impact.

116C states: Viz: Determination of Crown development applications NSW EP&A Act 1997

116C Determination of Crown development applications

A consent authority, in respect of a development application made by or on behalf of the Crown, must not:

(a) Refuse its consent to the application, except with the written approval of the Minister, or

(b) Impose a condition of its consent, except with the written approval of the Minister or the applicant.

The effect of 116C above was that the applicant determined their own development and if any conditions were set they are not valid unless approved in writing by the applicant or the Minister. None of the officially established plans of management (EG Council’s Heritage Places Strategic Plan and POM 2000) were able to be brought to bear on the development not even the Newcastle Port Corporations own objectives as stated in the invitations for Expressions of Interest as written below:

1. To release this (currently) restricted site for public access/use and, in doing so, to establish a pre-eminent destination of historic and scenic significance for the benefit of the Newcastle community;

2. To solicit innovative, practical and economic proposals for the adaptive re-use of the signal station and cottages;

3. To protect and enhance the site’s historic, aesthetic and social fabric for the future benefit of the Newcastle community;

4. To actively promote the site’s heritage value and significance, particularly its role in the development of the Port of Newcastle, through public education and the use of on-site static and interactive information displays.

5.To ensure the safety of all users of the site.

The Joint Venture/Consortium agreement between the Newcastle Port Corp and the Nobbys Lighthouse P/L has not been made public nor have the Board’s papers and recommendations declaring the DA a Crown Development. It is certainly not clear if the DA is entitled to be a Crown DA. Furthermore there has been no explanation of why the Consortium tried to develop the site in contravention of the Commonwealth legislation and the NSW conditions of consent.

Nobbys Headland should be transferred to the NSW Parks Service so that the headland can be administered by an authority that has a legal obligation to protect and promote the heritage values of the Nobbys Lighthouse and make the headland available to the general public as a park. The lighthouse is not only an important heritage lighthouse that must be acknowledged, it is an operating lighthouse controlled by legal lease obligations with the Commonwealth Maritime Safety Authority.

Doug Lithgow, President Parks and Playgrounds Movement –

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