Concerns about reclassifying land near Bellingen Lookout

View of Bellingen township from Banbarrajilin (the lookout). Photo Janene Carey
View of Bellingen township from Banbarrajilin (the lookout). Photo Janene Carey

The place known as the Bellingen Lookout offers a picturesque view of a small town nestled in a green valley, with the mountain range as a backdrop.

But Banbarrajilin, as it is known in Gumbaynggirr, is more than just a nicely elevated spot.

For thousands of years it was part of a walking trail that Indigenous people used for travelling along the ridgelines between the coast and the tablelands.

And in the 1900s, it was where Aboriginal families camped after walking from Bowraville so their pregnant womenfolk could give birth at Bellingen hospital.

Unsurprisingly, when it looked like Bellingen Shire Council was about to reclassify land at the lookout from 'community' to 'operational', due to a development application by an adjacent property owner, there was a flurry of concern, particularly on social media.

In response, council extended the closing date for submissions, held on-site meetings with local Indigenous representatives and scheduled a public hearing for July 4.

Nathan Brennan, chief executive officer of the Coffs Harbour & District Local Aboriginal Land Council, said inspections had clarified that the top part of the reserve would be unaffected.

We only want to see a small portion of it turned into operational

Nathan Brennan

"Quite a few of us went out - myself, AJ Perkins, Uncle Mark Flanders and some representatives from Bowra and Dorrigo Aboriginal Land Councils," Nathan said. "There's a private property down on the slope and the top half is public reserve. To gain access to their property means changing [part of] the reserve from community to operational land.

"At the meeting with council it was decided we only want to see a small portion of it turned into operational. So that wouldn't be the actual Banbarrajilin site, but a site further down where he'd be looking to gain entry."

Nathan said a second on-site meeting had assessed whether the proposed house would negatively impact the aesthetics of the view from the lookout.

The red line shows the privately owned land, the green indicates the reserve and the pink (approx 200m x 20m) shows the strip proposed for reclassification to operational land

The red line shows the privately owned land, the green indicates the reserve and the pink (approx 200m x 20m) shows the strip proposed for reclassification to operational land

Prior to that meeting, the property owner was asked to erect poles indicating the highest points of the structure.

"And they looked fine," Nathan said. "You probably wouldn't even see the house if some trees remained."

The property owner also clarified, saying the request was simply about making the road up to his gate an actual road, in spite it having been the access to the block for the last forty years.

"There is no driveway being installed and nothing will change in relation to the road or the land," the owner said.

Council confirmed that it has received formal submissions from Coffs Harbour and Bowraville LALCs about the reclassification.

"The submissions suggest that the reclassification apply to the portion of land required to facilitate access to the adjoining property only," council said.

After the public hearing, council will decide "whether the proposal should proceed in its current form, an altered form, or should not proceed at all".

The public hearing will be held in council chambers at 5pm on Thursday July 4, and people wishing to speak at the meeting need to register their intention by 4.30pm on July 2.

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