Lake Cathie Progress Association is calling the proposed development of the old school land next to Woolworths a win for the community.
When the land was put up for sale by the State Government in October last year the Lake Cathie community rallied.
The progress association, along with the Koala Preservation Society, Bonny Hills Progress Association, Nationals Parks and Wildlife and Lake Cathie Landcare lobbied the state government to retain the land for environmental reasons. They lobbied the council to buy the land on behalf of the community.
When the auction sign was erected leading up to the sale on October 27, 2015, it was quickly vandalised.
Jojeni Investments purchased the three hectare site. Spokesman John Harvey said the intention was to build a development with a difference. He was keenly aware of the community sensitivity.
The plan involved rehabilitating half of the site to native bush, removing noxious weeds and exotic plants. The other half would be a community title development, with villas and communal facilities like a pool, tennis courts and walking trails through the restored bushland for the exclusive use of residents of the new estate.
Fast forward 12 months. John Harvey and the progress association have conversed and the proposed development heavily modified.
The rehabilitated forest and walking trail would be open to the public along with an extra 25 per cent of the original developable land. The trail would lead to the community hall reserve and wetland beyond.
This compromise means, Mr Harvey said, the progress association’s desire to see more public green space in the community and maintain the existing wildlife corridor, is achieved.
“I feel this is how a development should be done, by engaging with the community,” Mr Harvey said.
Mr Harvey has had preliminary discussions with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. He is offering to rehabilitate the ecological zone and hand the land over to the council. He would be required, and is willing, to pay the council upfront to maintain this land for 20 years if the council will take over stewardship of the land for the community.
“I’m prepared to give up a big chunk of the residential land and hand it back to the community for its higher ecological value,” he said.
“I’ve had preliminary discussions with the council and I’m waiting on a positive response from them to see if they want to take on the parkland. It’s great the community is on board but we can’t go further unless the council is on board too.
“The parkland seems to be the sticking point at the moment.
“I’m not going to spend the money on the next stage of lodging the development application if the council isn’t going to accept the offer.”
The Lake Cathie Progress Association has given the development a stamp of approval.
“This has been a tricky one,” said association president Rob Tate referring to earlier concerns about the ecological value of the site and retaining it for that purpose.
“We would like to see more facilities and an expansion of our reserves. You’ve only got to come to Lake Cathie on a warm Sunday and see the foreshore reserve full.
“We understand the need for growth but are also aware of the strain on our infrastructure and reserves.
“We have talked with John and agree that this new plan for the site is a win-win for the area.
“It would be lovely if the council retained the ecological zone. John’s going to go in and rehabilitate it. With care and proper revegetation, it could be turned back into a littoral rainforest.
“Retaining the forest marries in with the Lake Cathie Masterplan as far as our plan to improve the reserve, walking trail to the wetlands and improve the community hall.
“The best usage of the land is what John has in mind now. We are supporting it and offering John as much support as we can.”
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council issued a statement to the Camden Haven Courier on the proposed land gift and development on Friday.
“Council staff have had a pre-lodgement meeting with the proponent to assist in identifying issues to be addressed when lodging a development application (DA).
“Bushfire and ecological assessments will need to be undertaken on the site so as to inform the extent of the development and management of retained environmental lands.
“Council staff will review these assessments and any offer of land dedication as part of the assessment of the DA [development application].
“A DA would be notified to neighbours and placed on public exhibition. Any issues raised during the exhibition period will need to be considered in the assessment and decision making process.”