Have your say on the Urunga Foreshore Master Plan

Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, is urging Urunga residents to have their say on the development of a Master Plan that will guide the future development and recreational use of the Kalang River foreshore adjoining Atherton Drive.

Ms Pavey said this section of Crown land within the Bellinger Heads State Park is a valuable public recreational asset.

“With its magnificent park settings and river views, the Atherton Drive foreshore provides a range of public recreational opportunities and has important heritage and conservation values,” Ms Pavey said.

Ms Pavey said a community consultation session will be held on Saturday 22 April at Morgo Street Reserve, opposite the Ocean View Hotel, from 10am to 12pm.  

“The Master Plan will consider redevelopment options to enhance public recreational opportunities, the future of the boathouses, vehicular access and the protection of environmental assets.

“The information session is a great opportunity for Urunga residents and the broader community to discuss the proposal with the project consultants and representatives from the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust,” Ms Pavey said.

The public can also have their say online by visiting Bellingen Shire Council’s engagement webpage at http://create.bellingen.nsw.gov.au

The Master Plan is an initiative of the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust, jointly administered by the Department of Industry (DoI) Lands and the Bellingen Shire Council.

The Atherton Drive Foreshore Masterplan project is being coordinated by DoI – Lands with funding secured through the 2016-17 round of the Public Reserves Management Fund Program.

Questions and Answers

What is the Bellinger Heads State Park and who manages it?

The Bellinger Heads State Park is a series of Crown Reserves located adjacent to the Bellingen River Estuary between Mylestom and Hungry Head.  Crown Reserves are Crown land reserved for specific purposes, including public recreation. The park includes a number of key precinct areas, including the Atherton Drive precinct.

The Bellinger Heads State Park Trust was established by Gazette notification on 4 December 2009 to manage the state park. Bellingen Shire Council and Department of Industry – Lands (through the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation) jointly manage the affairs of the Trust.

Why is a Master Plan being developed?

A Master Plan is being developed to guide the future use and development of the Kalang River Foreshore adjacent to Atherton Drive.  Some key issues the plan will cover include public access, improvements to public infrastructure, other redevelopment options to enhance recreational opportunities on the foreshore, future of the boathouses and the future of vehicular access along the dirt roadway described as Atherton Drive. 

What is the legal status of the dirt road described as Atherton Drive?

Atherton Drive is not a public road. The dirt road has been formed over time from users of the reserve. It's ongoing management and maintenance is controlled by the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust in accordance with the Bellinger Heads State Park Plan of Management.

Will the boathouses be retained?

The issue of the futures of the boathouses is complex, and one that this study hopes to clarify and provide direction on. The local heritage value of the boathouses is recognised by the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust but retention must be weighed against the value of the land they occupy as open space for other recreational uses; and the significant challenges involved in restoring and maintaining the structures to a habitable condition.

When were the boathouses originally built?

Many of the boathouses were constructed in the 1950’s and early 1960’s as single story boatsheds. These boatsheds were held under permissive occupancies (a form of tenure) by individuals, many of whom converted the structures into two story dwellings to use for holiday accommodation . There were once 40 such boat boathouses but this number has dwindled as many boathouses were demolished following the surrender of the permissive occupancies. 

It has been NSW Government policy to remove the cottages as they progressively revert to the Crown, thus adding valuable foreshore land to the adjoining recreational Reserve.

Can these tenures be purchased?

Under current legislation the Department of Industry - Lands can no longer issue permissive occupancies to prospective occupants and current permissive occupancies cannot be transferred.

Exclusive occupation of a structure on Crown land would only be permissible via a lease from the department, which are subject to a transparent and publicly competitive process. However, the department is currently not in a position to consider leasing any of the boathouses until the Master Plan is finalised. In addition, any future use or leasing of these buildings will also have to take into consideration local planning constraints and consents, market values and compliance with Government and departmental policies.

What would restoration of the boathouses involve?

There are significant environmental, economic and social challenges associated with the retention and alternative use of these vacant boathouses. A 2016 structural integrity and HAZMAT study found the vacant boathouses to be in poor condition and based on the substantial costs involved to restore then to an appropriate standard the report recommended they be demolished. These buildings currently pose a public liability risk and have been frequently subject to vandalism and squatting.

Other challenges include:

  • Restoration and maintenance costs required to make the buildings habitable and compliant with relevant building standards
  • The flood prone nature of the site
  • The need to ensure public access to the foreshore
  • Lack of sewerage connections
  • Possible requirement for development consent to undertake restoration works

Neither the Department of Industry – Lands or the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust have the financial resources available to restore and maintain these buildings to an appropriate standard.