LALC Land in Tracker

Ulladulla Dreaming

Ulla Dulla Dreaming: A 12 year battle for economic independence.

NEW SOUTH WALES: There’s two ways you can read this story. One from the ‘glass half empty’ perspective. One from the ‘glass half full’ perspective. Shane Carriage, the CEO of the Ulladulla Local Aboriginal Land Council, is very much a glass half full kind of guy, although after battling 12 years to complete an ambitious land dealing that would provide jobs, an income and independence for his people, he’s keenly aware that what he almost ended up with was a glass neither half full nor empty, just broken. CHRIS GRAHAM reports.

This story begins almost two decades ago, when the NSW Aboriginal Land Council lodged a land claim over a 16-hectare area of bushland on the outskirts of Ulladulla, a small, picturesque town on the South Coast of NSW. The land claim was successful, and the lot – which borders national park, a residential development, and an old dairy – was transferred to Ulladulla Local Aboriginal Land Council (ULALC).

NSWALC secured the block in 1994. By the time the ULALC got it, it had been zoned residential for 25 years.

Says ULALC CEO Shane Carriage: “When we got it, we thought ‘You beauty’. We’re always looking for windows, because there’s a lot of doors, and they’re firmly locked.

“So we started investigating developing it 12 years ago.”

What tipped the LALC off to the potential value of the land was an approach from a developer – Eldersly Property – who had launched plans to develop an adjoining block, which had once served the region as a dairy.

But before that development could be completed, the company went under.

The adjoining land was bought by another company, from Queensland. At the same time, ULALC pushed ahead with its plans.

They put the development out to tender, and chose Malbec Properties, a Sydney-based developer with some serious runs on the board.

Malbec built ‘The Forum’ in northern Sydney, a $750 million mixed-use development created over the St Leonards railway station.

It was by no means a small job, and along with a very professional presentation to the ULALC members, helped forge the relationship between the two groups.

After several years of work, ULALC and Malbec finally won approval from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) in 2005 to proceed with the development, subject of course to local and state governments signing off.

For the uninitiated, LALCs wanting to develop their land can’t proceed unless they first have the land dealing signed off by NSWALC.

The process ensures that LALCs dot all their ‘I’s’ and cross their ‘T’s’ and protects members from predatory white developers seeking to rip off cash strapped land councils.

But having gained NSWALC approval, that’s where things ran off the rails.

Two government departments – the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the ironically named Department of Planning – had an interest in the proposal. NPWS because the lot was bushland and adjoined National Parks land, and the Department of Planning because no developments happen in NSW without their approval.

ULALC were directed to complete standard studies of the area, to ensure the development wouldn’t harm the environment.

“As part of the process, we did a flora and fauna survey,” says Shane.

“We found some orchids.”

Meet the Leafless Tongue Orchid, a plant listed as vulnerable in NSW. It flowers for two weeks of the year (around Christmas time) and occurs widely on the east coast, from Orbost in East Gippsland, Victoria through coastal NSW and up in to the Tin Can Bay area of southern Queensland.

A total of 12 Leafless Tongue Orchids were found during the LALC survey.

National Parks expressed concern about the threat to the plant, but it was the discovery of a single White-Footed Dunnart – a small native marsupial – that really sent the proposal spinning.

The White-Footed Dunnart occurs throughout most of Tasmania, in a small patch in Far North Queensland, and along the southern coast of Victoria and the south-eastern coast of NSW.

It’s similar in size to a house mouse, and, like the orchid, is listed as a vulnerable species in NSW.

“NPWS didn’t even know it existed in the area,” says Shane, “so they decided that nothing should happen on the entire site.”

That meant 16 hectares of prime real estate adjoining an existing residential development – and butting onto National Park land – was to be locked up.

ULALC appealed on the grounds that the survey had discovered a single dunnart – not a colony of them – and argued for the chance to conduct a second survey.

It took 18 months for NPWS to agree.

“That (second) survey took 2,600 man hours, and it was about 10 times the size of the original survey.

“We found another 130 or 140 orchids on the National Park land, which meant they weren’t too concerned about the orchids on our land.”


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  1. Jacqueline Byrne
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Land Grabbers thats all National Parks are. It just goes to show what they value, a Dunnart I know my people are endangered in this country and to think once we come under the National Parks and wildlife Act the mind boggles. It would be different if we had hundreds and thousands of acres in land in this state to play with. The governments of NSW since the inception of the Land Rights Act in NSW are shameful our claims are usually crap land the Gubbahs do not want ( only to a Murri wants it) and then we wait for decades to their departments make a decision on it Land Claims are a joke. Why is being a Murri so hard yes of course we are uniquely different but we are not stupid we all play the game hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter, our kids getting educated, our health to get better, our Elders living longer, our people and especially our youth stop being goaled. It is simple NO LAND NO PEOPLE all our losses stem from the disrespect of culture and foremost the dispossession of our Land. Our land was our whole being and it is not ownership how a Gubba sees it we feel it big difference

  2. Kirsten
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    This is highly emotive subject, and the author should have been careful to potray the facts accurately and in a way that doesnt cause misunderstanding. Attributing blame to certain parties shouldnt be done in this way either. I personally know that some of this information is misrepresented.

    Environmental laws apply to EVERYONE and are in place to protect our natural heritage for ALL future generations. Environmental assessments are not a mindless bureacratic box, which you try to get it ticked off before starting a development, but a process where you fully assess what is on the site and its true environmental value, to assess what restrictions should apply, or if development should occur at all. The results are important and not inconsequential.

    I have heard the catch cry of ‘creating local jobs’ for decades in the Shoalhaven as a justification for development yet it has never really materialised, and is usually used to pressure government agencies into approving something without due process. The develpment process can also be delayed or have to be restarted totally if the proponents, owners, developers or concept plans change.

    I was surprised at the tone of the article in which, the local Land Council appears to be mocking the findings of the Environmental Report. These reports are thorough and are conducted in a scientific manner. Given the Land Council’s claim to be connected with their land, I would naively assume the results would have pleased the Land Council. More or less, endorsing their claim to its importance. Maybe I am misunderstanding their connection with land.

    I understand their are many complexities in this issue, and am disappointed that it has been portayed in this manner

  3. jacqueline Byrne
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I do understand that enviromental law is for everyone, it is a slow, expensive process. The understanding to what LAND means to Aboriginal people is a even slower process for Governments and the
    non-aboriginal population. Lets just say Biame (God) gave us this land for us to care for it Sorry all land in this country was significant and sacred to one of the many Tribes that used to exist in this land.
    Aboriginal connection to the land means our whole being our law and lore is based on its many features geographically and the many spiritual beliefs are associated to those features. Science will not tell you these things but the people will. All the red tape associated with development makes someone rich and it is not us Murris. As for Land Claims take a trip up my way and look at all the crown land that has been fenced off and leased to the neighbouring cocky or the would be Kidman as long as it dosn’t go to the Murris “shame” walk on country and feel it and know it then talk about connection.

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