"Say No To Tar" Rally Planned For Crescent Head

10 Jan 2019 10 Share

COASTALWATCH | ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS and OPINION

Residents and Kempsey Shire Council set to clash over the contentious sealing of Plomer Road

By Vaughan Blakey

It’s little wonder Australian’s trust in government is at an all time low. According to findings in last year’s Ipsos survey we’ve had a gutful of our elected leaders not being held accountable for broken promises, we’re over the fact they don’t deal with issues that really matter, and all of us are suss on how much influence business is having on decisions that affect the future of our environment and communities. Now the beautiful coastal town of Crescent Head and its surrounding communities are in the midst of being steamrolled by a Kempsey Council decision to push ahead with the sealing of a stretch of dirt road that leads from Crescent to Lime Burner’s Creek National Park, despite having previously promised to leave the area pristine and untouched.

In a story for Echo.net.au, Aslan Shand reports:

Locals are rallying together this Sunday January 13 at 8.30am to highlight their opposition to the tarring of Point Plomer Road.

‘This is one of the last two places on the NSW coast that has a dirt road leading to the headland,’ said Amy Bruce from the Crescent Head Ratepayers and Residents Association (CHRRA).

‘It’s incredibly beautiful, and so far relatively unspoiled. We’re worried that the developers are ready to pounce. We see the tarring of the road as a means of opening up the area for rezoning and development.’

While Council have assured residents that it will not be changing the zoning CHRRA point out that Council have recently changed the zoning within this area on one property to allow increased subdivision.

The tarring of the road was previously rejected in 2003 when the region’s rich heritage and significant Aboriginal sites were identified and residents and Indigenous elders are saying that the council has made the decision to tar with no consultation.

Local Aboriginal elder James Dungay decided to hand back his Certificate of Appreciation for his personal contribution to Wigay Cultural Park, presented to him by Kempsey Shire Council mayor (KSC) in 2012 over the lack of consultation.

‘I have lost faith with Council,’ said Mr Dungay.

‘Back in 2003 we had an agreement with Council regarding not sealing this road. Not one Council representative has contacted the Dunghutti community to talk to us about it this time. I feel they haven’t kept their promises to us.’

Bob Mumbler, chair of the Dunghutti Elders Council (Aboriginal Corporation) in Kempsey, says:

‘Personally I don’t want any development out there – I’d like to see Limeburners National Park in the south overlap with Hat Head National Park in the North, and extend west to include the Maria River and Frogmore wetlands. Because I want my grandkids and great grandkids to be able to see what I see today.’

This position is supported but the CHRRA who say there is a gap in the scenic protection provision around Crescent Head from Goolawah Reserve to the Limeburners National Park.

Councillors Bruce Morris and Leo Hauville moved a motion at the December 18 meeting that would have facilitated Kempsey Council engaging with the community on the tarring of Point Plomer Road. This was amended merely to a statement of local character being developed to preserve the ‘character’ of the area.

‘I think some people did not understand the motion,’ said councillor Hauville who seconded the motion.

‘The fact is we should consult the community and it is required under the Local Government Act 1993 and I disagreed with the outcome to not consult the local community and Aboriginal people.

‘What they (Council) haven’t considered are the flow-on consequences of more cars and traffic. Our motion would have facilitated looking at the speed limits on the road and an upgrade to facilities,’ he said.

‘Although the community has attempted dialogue a number of times with the KSC, their questions have not been answered in any real way, with one councillor even dismissing stakeholders as “NIMBYs”,’ said a spokesperson for CHRRA.

‘Residents are calling for the area surrounding Point Plomer Rd, an iconic dirt road that joins “The String of Pearls” from Crescent Head to Point Plomer to be recognised by the Australian Heritage Council as a place of State Heritage, owing to the large number of Dunghutti People sacred sites, endangered flora and fauna, and the cultural value of a pristine stretch of the coastline that harks back to a simpler time.’

‘After extensive consideration, Kempsey Shire Council resolved in October 2018 to proceed with the bitumen sealing of a 6.2km gravel section of Point Plomer Road,’ Kempsey Shire Council’s General Manager, Craig Milburn told Echonetdaily.

‘The funding and timeframe for delivery of the works is dependent on the success of Council obtaining grant funding from the NSW Government.

‘In a detailed report to Council, it was noted that the decision was largely based on enhancing road user safety given the traffic volumes experienced, particularly during holiday periods, and reducing ongoing maintenance costs,’ he said.

‘The Notice of Motion (Nom) considered at the December meeting was amended to enable Council to work closely with the community to develop a local character statement to help preserve the current character of the Point Plomer area.

‘Community consultation will be key to defining the desired character of the area into the future, as part of local strategic planning.’

That last line seems nothing more than lip service if current community sentiment about the road is truly considered. Perhaps the real question we should be asking is why is the council so determined to push through the sealing of the road despite overwhelming and passionate objection from their own constituents? What’s at the heart of it? Improved road safety and some savings on maintenance? Puh-lease… This may be a conversation about a road, but much more than that, it’s a conversation about coastal development, and once that door swings open, and access to all that land is made a whole lot easier, it’ll be damn near impossible to shut.

Read the full story here.

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