Aboriginal embassy to appeal court decision

Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Bulli. Traditional owners are fighting a proposed 181-lot residential super development by

The Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) is set to appeal a July 26 Land and Environment Court dismissal challenging the proposed Stockland 181-lot residential super development at Sandon Point, in the Wollongong suburb of Bulli, New South Wales.

Then-NSW planning minister Kristina Kenneally, the night before she was appointed premier, approved Stockland’s controversial “McCauleys Beach” development on December 2. The decision went against the advice of several departments and State Emergency Services concerns that in the event of extreme flooding they would be unable to evacuate resident safely.

Roy Dootch Kennedy, on behalf of SPATE, sought to invalidate in court Kenneally’s approval to Stockland for the residential development.

The traditional owners have accused the government and Stockland of being complicit to deliberately and completely destroy all evidence of cultural significance of the site.

The developer refused to consult the Aboriginal community about the development, although it was a requirement in the preparation of the Sandon Point Environmental Assessment Report.

The ruling open’s the door under part 3A of NSW’s development act for developers to virtually ignore or get around any requirements mandated by the planning director in the preparation of environment assessments for big projects.

Kennedy said: “This place is a very sacred site for Aboriginal people and those Traditional Owners and those Elders held in regard by our people were not consulted as was required. I am having this decision appealed even to the High Court if necessary.”

Al Oshlack of the Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network, who represented Kennedy in court, said he had received instructions to appeal.

SPATE has called a demonstration for August 15 at 2pm on Sturdee Avenue, Bulli. *

* Clarification: This article originally included the following sentence: “The developer [Stockland] refused to consult the Aboriginal community about the development [at Sandon Point near Wollongong Illawarra], although it was a requirement in the preparation of the Sandon Point Environmental Assessment Report.”

However, the most recent judgement in the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales on July 26 (“Stockland vs Kennedy”), ruled that Stockland had carried out the level of consultation legally required of it.

The court ruled that, “there was notification to Aboriginal groups through the public exhibition process and that a number of Aboriginal groups responded and made submissions”.

The court found: “There was no mandatory requirement for more. Sensitivity to the special status of Aboriginal people may be thought to have warranted more direct communication with them. But that goes to the merits of the decision, which are irrelevant in these proceedings.”

The court finding is being appealed and the Sandon Point Aboriginal Embassy (SPATE) said on August 5 that four of the five main Aboriginal stakeholder groups remained opposed to the development.

SPATE said it believed: “There has been no proper consultation with the Illawarra Aboriginal Community regarding the Stockland project.”

SPATE said groups opposed to the development included: Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council; Korewal Eloura Jerrungurah Tribal Elders Aboriginal Corporation; and Wadi Wadi Coomaditchie Aboriginal Corporation, along with a number of other community groups.