By CRAIG McTEAR
COFFS Harbour City Council has won praise from the Aboriginal community over the surf lifesaving titles planned for Boambee Beach.
The Gumbula-Julipi Elders said in a statement yesterday the council had consulted them in 'great depth' about the titles.
"The council's aim is to ensure the sites of cultural significance to the Bagawa Birra Murri (the beach's traditional sovereign owners) that are present in this area are respected and protected, and we are confident that this will happen," the statement said.
"We have been involved in the preliminary assessment work that's been carried out, and we will be consulted and informed of all the outcomes of the future investigations that they will do as planning continues with regard to this event."
The comments are in stark contrast to those of Jetty Action Group (JAG) chairman Wayne Evans, who said last month infrastructure works associated with the titles would 'desecrate sites of deep cultural significance to the local Bagawa clan of the Gumbayngirr people'.
The Gumbula-Julipi Elders have gone even further: "We would like to make it absolutely clear that neither JAG members nor any other groups associated with this group has the right, knowledge or authority to speak on these culturally sensitive issues. We take exception to, for want of a better word, the propaganda and fear-mongering that others are putting out to the community."
The Elders also say the surf lifesaving titles will bring economic, education and social improvements for the Aboriginal community.
JAG is staging a protest at Boambee Beach on Sunday.
Mr Evans said yesterday he was saddened 'that it should come to this political situation with the elders'.
"I just got off the phone to one of the elders, who bears no ill-feeling towards me and JAG," he said.
"I'm worried the elders might be being manipulated."