Urunga residents angry about Atherton Drive plans

For Derek Ridgley, the options on the table for the redevelopment of the old holiday cabins and foreshore area at Atherton Drive, Urunga, are lacking in so many ways.

“The consultation process so far has been deplorable with a number of key stakeholders, including ourselves (the third biggest training club in NSW with 60 members), not being notified” the Commodore of the Urunga Sail Training Club said.

“And suggestions to close the access road miss the point completely about how important access is for so many of the stakeholder groups.

DEREK RIDGLEY: It's not much - but it is all we have

DEREK RIDGLEY: It's not much - but it is all we have

“There is only one small beach here, it is the only one on the river that is easily accessible and it is the only place that people can launch from. As well as our sail boats, there are canoes, kayaks, rowing sculls and the dragon boats.

“Another big issue not adequately addressed in the options is riverbank erosion  – every time there is a flood we lose more of this precious foreshore.

“Basically we feel that our right to access is also being eroded.”

Another resident, Bruce Miller, said he attended the June 28 meeting and was surprised to see only ‘one badged staff member from GHD (the consultants)’ there to answer questions. 

“There was a lack of advertising, a lack of signs, no instructions on the procedure for the night and no count of attendees,” Mr Miller said.

“So far this is a poor effort with no answers or information and no facts to back up any assertions … it is not very confidence inspiring.”

One of the riverside cabins on Atherton Drive, Urunga

One of the riverside cabins on Atherton Drive, Urunga

The area is under the administration of the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust, which operates on behalf of the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation.

A spokesperson acknowledged that only one community consultation sessions had been held so far, with another two occasions cancelled due to rain.

A meeting has now been scheduled for next Tuesday, July 25, 6-8pm at the Urunga Senior Citizens Hall.

GHD town planner, Shaun Lawer, said three options had been presented and the process now was all about gauging community reaction.

“We will not proceed to the next stage until these options have been discussed with the community,” Mr Lawer said.

“And these options are not set in concrete by an means.

Riverbank erosion is a major issue

Riverbank erosion is a major issue

“The options for the road access (including partial or full closure) are there because there is no funding to maintain the road and parking issues need to be addressed.”

He said that maintaining the Bellinger River Sailing Club and river bank stabilisation were both fixed parts of the plan, as were the 2.5m shared cycle and pedestrian path (to be funded under the council’;s mobility plan) and a wharf structure “somewhere – to fish and possible to tie up to”.

“Access to the boat ramp and the sailing club will absolutely be maintained.”

Another thorn in the side of negotiations with the community is the perceived lack of transparency of the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust.

Originally the Trust was a volunteer community organisation. When it was disbanded some years ago, the community was told that community members would be included in the new structure. This never happened.

A spokesperson for the Department of Industry - Lands and Forestry said the current Bellinger Heads State Park Trust was made up of representatives from the Department of Industry – Lands and Forestry and Bellingen Shire Council.

“The Department is currently reviewing the management structure for the Trust and potential community involvement in management of some parts of the State Park,” she said.