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Wanton vandalism. Destruction of one of Port Stephens most precious places

Rant

dougkThu, 10/11/2016 - 2:36pm

For some years now, many North Arm Cove residents have watched, with some trepidation, the proposals, plans and  now developments occurring on the eastern side of the North Arm Cove waterway and around Fame Cove.

Fame Cove is an area of cultural significance to the Worimi people. It is valued by boaties as one of the very best anchorages in the whole country. Within Fame Cove is a Marine Park Sanctuary Zone.

The Fame Cove area was host to many rare, endangered and protected species. These included threatened fauna species such as the koala, powerful owl, squirrel glider, Queensland blossom bat, eastern chestnut mouse amongst others. The area also had a rare backhousia myrtifolia-dominated rainforest and rare flora species like eucalyptus fergusonii ssp fergusonii and macrozmia flexuosa.

Fame Cove mountain rises steeply above the Cove, one of the most significant landmarks visible from Port Stephen's southern shore. This whole site was once a shining jewel in Port Stephen's crown, once a pristine environment. But no more.

Increasingly in the past few weeks and months, North Arm Cove residents have heard the rumbling as heavy equipment further scarred the eastern shore of the North Arm Cove waterway. The coup de grace though, has been the construction (more like destruction) of a very steep and wide "road" straight from the base of Fame Cove Mountain to its peak. Heavy rains will now pollute the marine park, destroy that sanctuary zone and silt-up the anchorage. Not to mention the loss of a range of important habitat environments, the potential loss of valuable species and the visible scarring of a once-beautiful location by this wanton vandalism.

Of course none of this work seems to have had Council approval. It breaches conditions that Council had set for development of the site. We hear that Council are now collecting evidence and talking to their legal people.

Council have previously fined the owner, Tea Gardens Farms* at least twice ($8,000 each time) and back in 2012 took the owner to the Land and Environment Court. This led to a larger fine amounting to nearly $200,000 including costs But to a billionaire this level of fines can apparently be just brushed away as necessary business costs. The fines have clearly had no deterrent effect whatsoever.

Back in 2001 there were valiant attempts to persuade the then Government to acquire the Fame Cove site as a conservation area. These were unsuccessful. The optimistic hope at the time was that any development would be sympathetic to the cultural, ecological and environmental needs of the area. That hope has proved misplaced.

This destruction must stop. The owner must be held accountable. We need support from politicians, State Government departments and the media. We need the wider community to join us in voicing their outrage.

Let your state and federal MPs know your concern. Ring up Marine Parks, Fisheries, EPA, Environment and Heritage, Roads and Maritime, Land and Environment, National Parks and anyone else you can think of.  Write to the newspapers. Ask your friends to do the same.

* Tea Gardens Farms is now known as LDF ENTERPRISE PTY LTD

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Contact details for protest letter:

The Hon. Dr David Gillespie, MP,
Federal Member for Lyne,
Suite1, 75-77 Clarence Street,
Port Macquarie, NSW 2444
david.gillespie.mp@aph.gov.au

The Hon. Meryl Swanson
Federal Member for Paterson
PO Box 156 Raymond Terrace,
NSW 2324

The Hon. Mark Speakman, SC MP,
Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Assistant Minister for Planning
NSW Member for Cronulla
GPO Box 5341, Sydney
NSW 2001

Hon. Rob Stokes, MP,
NSW Minister for Planning,
GPO Box 5341 Sydney,
NSW 2001

The Hon. Niall Blair, MLC,
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water,
GPO Box 5341 Sydney,
NSW 2001

The Hon. Stephen Bromhead, MP
NSW Member for Myall Lakes
P.O. Box 272, Tuncurry NSW 2428
myalllakes@parliament.nswgov.au

The Hon. Kate Washington, MP,
NSW Member for Port Stephens,
1/82 Port Stephens St.,
Raymond Terrace 2324
portstephens@parliament.nswgov.au

Ms Carolyn McNally,
Secretary, NSW Department of Planning and Environment,
PO Box 39 Sydney
NSW 2001

Ms Monica Gibson
Director, Regions Hunter and Central Coast
NSW Department of Planning and Environment
PO Box 1226 Newcastle
NSW 2300 Parliament Office: PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Ms Louise Higgins
Executive Assistant to the Director General
NSW Department of Planning
GPO Box 5341 Sydney NSW 2001
Louise.Higgins@planning.nsw.gov.au

Department of Primary Industries
161 Kite St, Orange NSW 2800

The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC,
Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage,
NSW Parliament
Macquarie St
NSW 2000
penny.sharpe@parliament.nsw.gov.auSW Parliament
Mat
Sydney NSW 2000

The Hon. Lee Rhiannon, MP
72 Campbell St
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
senator.rhiannon@aph.gov.au

The letter below will be going out to many people in authority at state and federal levels requesting urgent help in stopping this vandalism. Anyone reading this site is invited to use all or part of that letter in any written submission they wish to make. I urge you to act very soon as the problem is getting worse by the day. Key contact details are enclosed in a second comment. Please do protest. The prime reason we love this place is under serious threat. Thank you. Tony Hann

Dear
URGENT - OUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT NEEDS YOUR HELP TODAY!

We are witnessing on our doorstep at North Arm Cove what to us is a most shocking case of environmental vandalism.

Where is this happening?
The land, known locally as Fame Cove, lies between Bundabah and Pindimar on the north shore of Port Stephens. It's a large rural property registered to a company called Tea Garden Farms Pty Ltd. The 400 hectares of once pristine bushland forms a backdrop to the last stretch (about 6 km) of unspoilt waterfront in the region.

What's happening?
Over a period of many months, this land has been subjected to what we consider to be blatant environmental destruction. Bulldozers are operating sometimes 7 days a week. A contractor seems to be under instructions to cut vast swathes through the bush, clear the undergrowth, fell trees and burn the vegetation.
Roads have been constructed which we believe far exceed Council D/A specifications and are in breach of SEPP71. They appear not to follow approved paths across the land and some may have been constructed without permits.
A road is being cut now straight up the side of Fame Mountain which we understand is not approved and has no apparent link with previous development plans for the area. It will however create a major passage for soil run-off and the tragic silting of the beautiful Fame Cove itself during the next bout of heavy rain.
Since the present owner purchased the land, it has been overrun by goats which destroyed much land cover. A dam was built which breached its wall, flooding and polluting the adjacent creek and waterway. Major earthworks have been ongoing for two to three years and extend down to the waterfront.

Who's responsible?
The owner and director of Tea Garden Farms is a Mr Phillip Dong Fang Lee. He owns large tracts of land here and around NSW including very valuable real estate in Sydney. He is believed to be wealthy and well connected with very senior party members in the Chinese government.
In our opinion, Mr Lee has demonstrated a brazen disregard for planning regulations, the environment and for the authority of the local council.
He has been fined for three regulatory breaches already. Each time he seems to respond by employing professional advisers (architects, etc.) to develop conforming plans in order to appease the Council and the community. These advisers are then dismissed, it appears, so as to provide breathing space for him to proceed on his destructive course as fast as possible pending the next attempt at intervention by the Council. We can only conclude that the fines are clearly just part of the cost of doing business and are no deterrent to him as a billionaire.

What's at stake?
The Fame Cove area was and may still be host to many rare, endangered and protected species. These included threatened fauna species such as the koala, powerful owl, squirrel glider, Queensland blossom bat, eastern chestnut mouse amongst others. The area also had a rare backhousia myrtifolia-dominated rainforest and rare flora species like eucalyptus fergusonii ssp fergusonii and macrozamia flexuosa.
Fame Cove Mountain rises steeply above the Cove, one of the most significant landmarks visible from Port Stephen's southern shore. This whole site is the last remaining jewel in Port Stephen's once pristine environment.
Fame Cove is an area of cultural significance to the Worimi people. The Cove itself is beautiful and forms part of a Marine Park Sanctuary Zone.

Why bother now?
Much damage has been done and large areas are now irreparably damaged. But there is still a lot to protect, especially the waterways around the Cove. Further damage will only contribute to further silting and pollution.
We believe the MidCoast Council is currently considering legal action, but we also believe it will avoid this path if possible. It seems the Council investigates, warns, may fine, but usually backs off till the next infringement. It's difficult to believe that Mr Lee doesn't know this.

How can you help?
We are not objecting to Mr Lee's right to use and develop his land if he adheres to Australian Law and follows appropriate planning and environmental regulations. But this activity seems to us to be a serious dereliction of his duties as a landowner and may even be criminal.
The bulldozers and the vandalism must be stopped now. The owner must be held to account.
We the locals can't do it. The Council seemingly can't do it. We need you to help us to put a permanent halt to this apparent destruction. And we are asking you in the process to demonstrate that Mr Lee is subject to the same laws as we are.
Please familiarise yourself with the details by contacting Lisa Schiff, Director of Planning, MidCoast Council on 02 6591 7222 and then rally whatever resources you can to stop this man now.
Thank you and regards,

Copies to:
The Hon. David Gillespie, MP, Member for Lyne
The Hon. Kate Washington, MP, NSW Member for Port Stephens
The Hon. Stephen Bromhead, MP, NSW Member for Myall Lakes
The Hon. Mark Speakman, MP, NSW Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Rob Stokes, MP, NSW Minister for Planning
The Hon. Niall Blair, MLC,NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water
The Hon. Meryl Swanson,MP, Federal Member for Paterson
Caroline McNally, Secretary, NSW State Department of Planning and Environment
Louise Higgins, Executive Assistant to the Director General at Department of Planning NSW
Monica Gibson, Director, Regions Hunter and Central Coast, NSW Department of Planning, Newcastle
The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MP, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Lee Rhiannon, MP, Senator
NSW EPA
NSW Dept of Primary Industries
MidCoast Council - Directors Lisa Schiff, Glen Handford, Administrator John Turner
ABC Newcastle
Papers - various

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