“I CAN breathe again.”
That's how Bill Ryan felt yesterday when permanent residents of Sawtell Beach Caravan Park were told a plan to phase out long-term accommodation at the Park was being withdrawn. But the news may only be a stay of execution for residents, with the Department of Lands unable to guarantee it wouldn't happen again.
Yesterday, a meeting led by representatives from the Department of Lands and Coffs Harbour City Council ended in applause following the announcement, with Sawtell residents finally able to smile after weeks of uncertainty since the plan came to light earlier this month.
Initially the draft Plan of Management for Sawtell Reserve proposed a phase out of long-term accommodation through natural attrition, but that strategy has been withdrawn following a campaign by the residents and the Advocate.
Residents' spokesman, Terry Read, said it was good news but the fight wasn't over. “They can't guarantee it won't happen again, that this type of strategy won't be proposed in five or ten year's time,” Mr Read said.
Fellow resident Margaret Britain called the news 'a stay of execution'. “Everyone will be older in five years time and it will be harder to fight if a phase out is proposed again,” Ms Britain said.
Northern Alliance of Park Residents Association (NAPRA) president Faye Urquhart said the battle for Sawtell may have been won yesterday, but the war continues.
“This is happening at Woolgoolga, at Park Beach, and we've recently been contacted by residents at Mylestom as well,” Mrs Urquhart said.
“We need the legislation to change to ensure the rights of residents are protected, and if they try this again in five years time we will fight them again.”
Coffs Harbour City Council director of corporate business, Craig Milburn, said the Department of Lands had 'a change of heart'.
“The Department of Lands gave the meeting an assurance that the option is to be removed and all residents will be protected under their current leases,” Mr Milburn said.