Northbank Community Garden lease termination

Northbank Community Garden is facing an uncertain future now that the land on which it stands is being sold.

For more than a decade, the neighbouring owners John Lavis and Hilary Weston-Webb have charged only a peppercorn rent to the non-profit group running the garden.

The couple moved to Bellingen from Wollongong in 1998 intending to buy five acres, but having found themselves with 54 instead were quite happy to share.

As a teen, John had watched his father feed the neighbourhood with produce grown on their own block and on vacant land nearby.

So when he was first approached by someone wanting to use part of his land on Wheatley St to grow vegetables and herbs to supply local cafes, he was happy to agree.

But that person turned out to be "all talk and no action", John said, a charge he levels at a few of those who've been involved with Northbank Community garden since it began in 2008.

The heyday of the garden, in his view, were the years from about 2010 onwards, when Steve Smith and Jester were around.

"They cleaned things up and started growing things," John said. "The two of them knew a bit about gardening and they organised things.

"Most of the trees and things you see over there now were done by them."

Steve and Jester moved on a couple of years ago and the garden deteriorated, becoming a haven for weeds, homeless people sleeping in their cars, and those who used it as a place to socialise and drink.

More recently it's been invigorated by people with new projects, but that may not be enough to save it.

Two years ago, wishing to downsize and simplify as he and his partner are ageing, John offered to sell ten acres to the garden committee for $10,000.

But despite the low price, it proved impossible for them to organise the purchase.

Caroline Joseph said this was because state government ordinances covering the land, which is adjacent to the Bellingen Wastewater Treatment Plant, meant that it was really only feasible for a neighbour to purchase it.

And that is what has happened.

Dominic Bertucci, who was in the news last year with plans to subdivide and create an affordable housing development, is buying part of the property, including the community garden's land.

Three months ago, John told the garden committee that Dominic was to be the new owner and gave them a Notice of Termination, requiring vacant possession by November 25.


The garden committee has called a public meeting for Thursday November 14, at 5.30pm for a 6pm start, to discuss the future of the community garden.

The meeting will be held at the Northbank Community Garden, 100 Wheatley St, or if raining, in the luncheon pavilion at Bellingen Showground.