Claim on Jetty land and parks

By BELINDA F SCOTT

COFFS HARBOUR Local Aboriginal Land Council expects an early decision on its claim for four parcels of land at the Jetty, including the Jetty Oval and part of Englands Park.

The co-ordinator of the LALC, Chris Spencer, said the four lots involved in the claim did not include Englands Park tennis courts or the mangrove area on the bank of the creek.

Mr Spencer said the claim had been made in January after the newly-elected Coffs Harbour LALC committee had deemed it an opportunity to increase the council's assets, and was not necessarily a reaction to the Harbourside Concepts plan.

The concepts plan suggests these areas could be sold and developed for housing to fund the dredging of sand from the harbour, an idea which has aroused strong opposition from the public.

Mr Spencer said claims over Crown Lands under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 were the only way in which local Aboriginal land councils could increase their holdings, but there was every possibility this claim would be refused by the Minister for Lands.

But he said if the claim was successful, there was also every possibility the land council would look at leasing the land back to Coffs Harbour City Council for public use.

"A lot of Aboriginal people use the sporting facilities there and we don't want it to be seen that we are claiming that land for negative publicity ? it's all about increasing our asset for the betterment in the lives of our members," he said.

He said land councils could state specific reasons for claiming areas but did not have to and in this case they had not put forward specific reasons.

The Coffs Harbour LALC lodged a successful land claim for land between Ferguson Cottage and the North Coast rail line and is currently negotiating a lease on the land occupied by Ferguson Cottage as part of a heritage listing proposal.

A new local history of the Bagawa people and early Orara Valley settlers, Oorrara, records some of the history of Aboriginal occupation of the Jetty. Coffs Harbour's Gumbular Julipi Elders helped the Orara Valley Historical Society to compile the book.

Oorrara records that all three tribes of the Gumbaynggirr gathered for the muttonbird season on the banks of Coffs Creek (Bangalor).

A spokesperson for the Department of Lands said yesterday the land claim for the Jetty Oval and England Park was under investigation.



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