Community groups oppose Austin Butler reserve sale
An alliance of 13 community groups have joined with Member for Gosford Ms Liesl Tesch to again oppose the sale of part of the Austin Butler Reserve in Woy Woy.
Ms Tesch has urged residents "to continue to fight to protect the significant stand of paperbark and she-oak trees" on the land.
The community groups have written an open letter to Central Coast Council Administrator Mr Rik Hart, CEO Mr David Farmer and Minister for the Central Coast Mr David Harris, published in this issue of Peninsula News.
Central Coast Council decided to proceed with the sale of the land to the adjoining Peninsula Plaza shopping centre at its August 22 meeting.
It decided to act on "asset sale" resolutions of July 2021 and March 2022 to reclassify the land from "community" to "operational" to allow the sale to proceed.
In approving the council staff recommendation, Administrator Mr Rik Hart also resolved to hold a community consultation about the sale - giving options to keep the land in council ownership or sell the land with the proceeds spent on a "greening program".In a media release, Mr Hart said the option for the council to retain the reserve would "stop the sale process".
The 4000 square metre reserve includes 44 mature paperbark and she oak trees that are the last substantial area of natural shade in the Woy Woy town centre.
The groups who have joined forces include seven Peninsula groups and six with broader interests.
They include the Peninsula Residents Association, the Peninsula Environment Group, the Grow Urban Shade Trees group, the Pearl Beach Progress Association, Residents for Responsible Ettalong Development, Save Our Woy Woy and Mingaletta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation.
They were supported by the Community Environment Network, the Australian Conservation Foundation Central Coast group, Koolewong Tascott Progress Association, Save Central Coast Reserves, Wildlife ARC and WIRES.
The groups stated: "The Woy Woy Peninsula can't afford to lose one more mature tree.
"Our community is already recognised by Central Coast Council as a heat island."
In a joint media release, the groups have criticised the "trade-off" offered by Mr Hart of keeping the reserve or having a greening program.
The ACF group chair Mr Mark Ellis said: "Keeping Austin Butler and street greening the Woy Woy Peninsula should not be mutually exclusive."
Grow Urban Shade Trees group spokesperson Ms Jen Wilder said: "We don't think a much-needed urban greening program should be conditional on getting rid of this rare remnant of native woodland."
The Peninsula Residents Association has called for implementation of the Council's Greener Places Strategy, including a review of planning provisions, as well as a strategic planning review of the Peninsula to provide a substantial long-term plan for greening the Peninsula.
The groups also criticised the lack of detail about the proposed use of the land.
Community Environment Network chair Mr Gary Chestnut said the council resolution was probably in breach of the Local Government Act.
"This land was dedicated to council for community recreation and there has been no resolution to discharge that dedication, as required by the Local Government Act (Section 30(1))."
"It is far from best practice for a council to pre-empt the outcome of a community consultation on a reclassification or a rezoning of public land.
"These actions have created multiple conflicts of interest for the council," Mr Chestnut said.
Media release, 2 Sep 2023
Jackie Pearson, CEN