The White-Footed Dunnart.. a native Australian marsupial, also listed as vulnerable in NSW.
“It has been a massive struggle. The Department of Planning just sat on their hands and didn’t seem to want to make any sort of decision. As much as we pushed them, and the developer pushed them as well, it made no difference.
“Would it have made a difference if they were dealing with Mirvac, Lend Lease or Macquarie Bank? I doubt they would have got held up like we did.”
Shane also hopes that the NSW land rights system takes note of what occurred.
“Initially, when we first started this project, NSWALC was a problem because it had nothing in place to deal with a development like this.
“We would ring up and they had no idea how to answer our questions. They didn’t have a commercial unit back then, they weren’t thinking about the big picture stuff.
“So we started doing stuff ourselves, then they started to put steps in place.
“I think some of the things we did forced NSWALC’s hand a bit.
“With the Commercial Unit (at NSWALC) now, they’re helpful, definitely.
“Sometimes I think they’re a bit pedantic, but maybe under the Act they’ve just got to be.”
Shane acknowledges that many of the land dealings which had progressed in the past had “been bad”. But he thinks reforms have gone too far.
“Before, you had no protections. Now I think it’s too much. It can be really restrictive, and it can take forever to do anything.
“I definitely understand how that came about – there was nothing in place before the rules changed, so it was just open slather.
“You read the horror stories about Koompahtoo and other land councils where it was just shocking, and you understand why it is the way it is today.
“But it’s too weighted now in the other direction. Somehow or another we have to straighten it out so it’s level, so there’s protections in place but so that it’s not impossible to get things done.”
Shane doesn’t know exactly how much the development will make for Ulladulla LALC – there’s a lot of variables, but the figure is in the millions.
And nor are they entirely sure what they’ll do with the profit. At least not yet.
“We have more plans in our Community Land and Business Plan which are about development,” he says.
“And we’ve got our own education trust. We want to put a bigger amount of money in it and maybe open the scope a little bit wider.
“We’ve bought other blocks of land, and we bought one with a house on it. The block of land itself is nearly 2000 sqm so we might look at putting units on it, maybe keep a couple for our elders.
“It depends on the market as to what we might do.
“We do need a more appropriate LALC office, a culture centre and museum.
“There’s plenty of stuff we want to do. Maybe buy some more houses for our members, look at smaller houses as well to house singles.
“We’ve got other land we’d like to look at developing as well, but maybe being able to do it ourselves the next time.”
In particular, ULALC is looking at other major developments with eight blocks of land in particular.
“Five of those are really close to town. They’re pretty well the last blocks of land in Ulladulla.
“We’re sitting on a major asset, and we have about another 100 undetermined land claims in the system.”
Which is a whole other story, because if you think National Parks and the Department of Planning can stall things, the undetermined blocks of land on ULALCs books are tied up in the NSW Department of Lands.
Many of them have been waiting on a government decision for more than a decade.
Still, Shane is confident the ULALC and its members has the mettle to get the jobs done.
“None of what has happened would have been possible without the assistance and encouragement of the Board and Members to keep going even when it all seemed impossible.”
So watch this space.
* Chris Graham is the managing editor of Tracker magazine. If you have a positive LALC story you’d like to see in LALC Land, email him on firstname.lastname@example.org