Monday, February 11, 2008

Whybaygamba and Nobbys Lighthouse - Newcastle's Heritage Icons

Text of letter sent to Members of Parliament with attachments:

1. Submission provided to the proponents following their exhibition of the Nobbys project 20/7/2007.

2. Coal River Heritage Park Newcastle National Nomination Newcastle University Coal River
Working Party.

Parks & Playgrounds Movement

Friday, 8 February 2008

To Whom It May Concern:



Nobbys is our heritage and of National significance

The Herald ‘See for yourself’ and ‘Garret awaits report’ (2 and 5 February 2008) create the impression that three local members of parliament are indiscriminately backing the privatisation of Newcastle’s premier heritage icon - Nobbys Headland. This development application was slipped through the NSW assessment process as a Crown Development to prevent transparent assessment; apparently disregarding the Commonwealth Legislation protecting the lighthouse.

The Nobbys proposal had no real assessment at the state level and is now being assessed by the Commonwealth because the proponent was in breach of Commonwealth law. Every development whether it is in a Labor or a Liberal electorate should be assessed transparently and fairly.

Nobbys Headland is Whybaygamba, an Aboriginal Dreaming place: the abode of an immensely large Kangaroo which resides within the centre of the high rock, that he occasionally shakes himself, which causes the Island to tremble and large pieces to fall down (Christian Herald Feb 1855). We would be shocked if the Rudd Federal Government did not respect this Aboriginal Dreaming Place. Whybaygamba and Nobbys Lighthouse are Newcastle’s premier heritage icons that must be acknowledged, respected and protected in any development.

At first glance it may sound reasonable to privatise an Aboriginal Dreaming Place with an eight unit motel style boutique development, a restaurant and a manager’s cottage. But it is further disrespect of this special place. The cultural significance of the lighthouse has also been disregarded. It must stand free with clear public access to the site under a lawfully made Plan of Management. As it is Nobbys is an isolated site not much larger than a normal suburban allotment and it already contains three cottages, two garages, a lighthouse and a signal station.

The Nobbys Development Application was initially approved by the NSW Heritage Council on the 5 of October 2005 with 32 conditions, but the Applicant did not accept the conditions (The Herald 7/2/2006 pg.4). They were allowed to resubmit the same DA as a Crown Development Application under 116C of the NSW EP&A Act to circumvent any conditions being imposed.

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 Section 116C above is that the Applicant determines his own development. The official plan of management (Council’s Heritage Places Strategic Plan and POM 2000) was not allowed to be considered, nor was the Newcastle Port Corporation’s own objectives as stated in the invitations for Expressions of Interest May 2003 quoted 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.

Do you know how this private developer was allowed to act under Crown Privilege?

The Movement would be pleased if you could obtain the details of the agreement between the Newcastle Port Corporation and the Nobbys Lighthouse P/L and also the Port Corporation’s recommendations allowing this DA to be a Crown Development. Furthermore, given the importance of the Nobbys site to the people of Australia, we seek an explanation of why the Applicant tried to develop the site in breach of Sec 26 of the EPBC Act and was able to disregard the NSW Heritage Council’s conditions of consent for the widened roadway to the summit.

Whybaygamba and the Nobbys Lighthouse site should be made available to the people as is done with other lighthouse sites in Australia. This is our birthright. The lighthouse is not only the significant heritage item on the headland, it is also an operating navigation facility controlled by legal lease obligations with the Commonwealth Maritime Safety Authority. It must continue to be seen and operated as a lighthouse and the Aboriginal Dreaming Place respected.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement would be pleased if you could make time available in the near future to discuss these matters with us in the public interest and with the view to gaining national recognition of the Coal River Heritage Park nomination prepared by the University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party.

Contrary to claims made in support of the privatisation of Whybaygamba, the current proposal would deny the heritage integrity of this Aboriginal place, close off every view from the headland for exclusive use and relegate the public to an unsatisfactory viewing platform at the proponent’s pleasure. The project should be redesigned to comply with the objectives of the EOI, protect the 150 year old Lighthouse and facilitate public access as with other lighthouse sites on the Australian coast.

We are anxious to speak to you about these matters at the earliest possible date.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Lithgow A Freeman of the City of Newcastle
President Parks and Playgrounds Movement

Phone H: (02) 49431781
Mobile: 041922 6897.

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