Booker Bay burial site may be considered by council
The listing of the Booker Bay burial site as a local heritage item has been deferred for consideration by the council to be elected in September, according to Pearl Beach historian Ms Kay Williams.
Ms Williams said she was concerned to learn that only two significant trees on the site and not the whole site had been included in the latest update of the heritage schedule in the Gosford planning scheme.
She said that Bogan Rd, Booker Bay, was one of the earliest burial sites in the region and known to include the graves of Mr William Booker, a pardoned convict who originally settled the land, and Mr Bill Bogan, their wives, two other women and eight victims of the 1898 SS Maitland shipwreck.
Correspondence belonging to the late Ms Beryl Strom, another local historian, indicated that the site was, from 1977 until at least the early 1990s listed by Gosford Council as local heritage item 156.
Gosford library holds five files of archived correspondence to and from Ms Strom relating to the burial site and its significance to the region.
It describes how ex-convict William Booker was granted the land as part of 60 acres in 1838 and was understood to have been buried there when he died in 1850.
Booker bequeathed the land to his wife in trust for his son who never claimed it, so it was eventually acquired by Mr Rock Davis.
The land was initially subdivided in the early 1900s and the four lots on Bogan Rd known to include the burial site became the property of the Church of England in 1924.
Lot 4 was retained by the church but others were sold in the 1920s.
In 1956, lot 4 was given to the Country Womens' Association and eventually sold off for residential development.
In 1977, coinciding with the introduction of the NSW Heritage Act that required all councils to identify, protect and manage heritage through local planning regulations, Ms Strom and the Gosford Historical Research Association commenced a campaign to have the site conserved for its heritage value.
The association and Ms Strom proposed that Gosford Council acquired the land and dedicate it as a memorial park.
The proposal was reported in local newspapers of the time and gained support from local politicians who wrote to relevant NSW Ministers urging their assistance.
In 1978, the Heritage Council of NSW recommended that Gosford Council acquired the land as open space.
In 1979, the National Parks and Wildlife Service considered acquiring the land but wrote to Ms Strom to explain that it did not meet its heritage requirements.
In 1980, Gosford Council requested that the NSW Heritage Council acquired the site for its historical significance.
At that time a local newspaper article said eight victims of the Maitland shipwreck were buried on the land "whose large, well-attended grave could be viewed until a few years ago".
In 1982, Ms Strom and the association took a firm proposal to Council for the land to be acquired and become a memorial park.
Council's solution was to acquire land across the road from the cemetery site as a children's playground and memorial park.
Strom wrote to the local paper and to councillor's adamant that the Council's idea was not the same as the Historical Research Association's and "not a satisfactory alternative".
Council wrote to Ms Strom to say it could not afford the $120,000 that would be needed to acquire all four lots.
However, Ms Strom wrote back with a plan to acquire the land gradually as lots became available and proposed that costs could be offset by developer contributions for flat developments in the area.
By 1984, with the 1988 bicentennial of white settlement approaching, Ms Strom was arguing that the Council should apply for a special grant to acquire the land, with the support of then councillor, Mr Keith Whitfield, but no such proposal came to fruition.
In the early 1990s, applications were lodged with Council to further subdivide and develop the land, resulting in more correspondence from Gary Nipperess of the Gosford Heritage Association pointing out the significance of the trees and the need to ensure any building was beyond their dripline.
He wrote of the association's "long-standing interest in the site and attempts to have successive councillors secure it as a memorial park".
At that time, correspondence still referred to the site as heritage item 156.
Ms Strom wrote to Council in 1994 about a development application on the site that made no mention of the heritage significance of the item or the two significant trees.
At some time between 1994 and 2014, it appears the burial site has been removed from the heritage schedule in the Gosford planning scheme.
The two-year process that has subsequently been undertaken to update the schedule under the 2014 revision of the Gosford Local Environment Plan has acknowledged the site's significance but failed to have in reinstated as a heritage item.
The schedule will need to be updated as part of the introduction of a new Central Coast Local Environmental Plan after the election of the combined council in September.
Ms Williams said she had called the Central Coast Council's heritage program coordinator Ms Rebecca Cardy for clarification.
She said that Ms Cardy had told her that the Booker Bay site was one of the matters that had been deferred by administrator Mr Ian Reynolds until after the election of the new council in September.
The list of proposed locally significant heritage sites that Mr Reynolds agreed to forward to the NSW Minister for Planning for approval included "Item 1620170: two Norfolk Island Pine Trees Booker Bay Cemetery Site" at 44 and 44A Bogan Rd, Booker Bay.
The burial site is also listed under "Objecting properties and heritage listing recommendations" which states that one letter of support was received to list the whole site as opposed to four letters of objection and the comment "many of the owners have notified of their objection to the heritage listing".
According to the report, only the two significant pine trees will be listed, owners have been notified "and no objections to the new listing parameters have been received".
Schedule 5 of the GLEP 2014 that is published on Council's website, confirms that the only heritage items currently listed in Booker Bay are: two shops on Booker Bay Road and the site of a house called Ettalong Hall.
Interview, 7 Jun 2017
Kay Williams, Pearl Beach
Council agenda item 2.1, 24 May 2017
Central Coast Council
Website, 7 Jun 2017
Central Coast Council/Gosford Heritage page and LEP 2014
Beryl Strom Archive, 7 Jun 2017
Gosford Library local collection
Reporter: Jackie Pearson