Did you know that MidCoast Council does not own many of the roads in the non-urban area?
Most of the roads on the northern and eastern side of the bitumen road leading into North Arm Cove and north of Merriwa are owned by a company called Alathan Pty Ltd. This company also owns the roads north and south of Woolbrook near the old tip. The total land area is 67ha. Presumably most of the non-urban landowners in this area have a right of way for access to their properties.
The private ownership arose when the land was being sold by land developers in the in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. According to old records, there were three estates that had non-urban land which was offered for sale, Estate Number 1, Estate Number 2 and the Edwards Estate. Estate Number 2 has the private roads and was designed by the land developer Henry Halloran- see the attached map. Estate Number 1 is the section west of the village and south of the bitumen road into North Arm Cove. It is the old Burleigh Griffin designed part of the Cove. The Edwards Estate is the remaining bit near the Pacific Highway and was also designed by Halloran.
Ownership of the roads in Estate Number 2 has passed through several entities including “The North Arm Cove Landowners Limited”. It appears that Alathan became the owner in 2008 or there abouts.
It was intended that people who bought the land in Estate Number 2 would pay an annual fee which would cover maintenance of the roads and any surplus would create a fund to lobby the Council for rezoning of the land. After a while, this caused a lot of anxiety for the new landowners as they not only had to pay the Council rates, but also the road levy, for land which could not be developed for housing. The issue was even raised in the NSW Parliament. A copy of the Hansard record is below.
The roads are now in a very poor state. The question of public liability for those who use the roads, including local village residents out for a walk and non-urban landowners, is not clear.
Representatives from Alathan gave a presentation to Council when the Draft Rural Strategy was on the Council agenda a few weeks ago.
Legislative Assembly Hansard – 25 November 1998
NORTH COAST LAND INVESTMENT
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle) [9.04 p.m.]: I refer honourable members to an advertisement in the Daily Mirror of Tuesday, 13 November 1982, the feature "Moneywise North Coast Investment". Under the headline "A Little Piece Of Paradise" the advertisement stated:
Over the past few years, the price of land at choice coastal spots like Tea Gardens, Soldiers Point, Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay, just beyond Newcastle, has escalated alarmingly . . .
With that in mind, it’s easy to predict what is going to happen to the remaining blocks in a large parcel of land at North Arm Cove at Port Stephens.
In the first few months since the North Arm Cove plots were put on the market more than 700 have been snapped up.
One appealing thing about these blocks is that the buyer gets Torrens Title with his property, just as a suburban landowner does. The only difference is that the North Arm Cove man cannot put up a building straight away.
Then there are the succulent prices. The North Arm Cove plots are going for between an incredibly low $5,950 -
and upwards. The advertisement points out also that in the Port Stephens area land was sold from between $30,000 and $150,000 for prime water frontage. At that time it sounded like a wonderful opportunity. Of course, the advertisement promoted Port Stephens city, which was a 1919 proposal by Walter Burley Griffin. The following appeared at the bottom of the advertisement, underneath the map:
This map is the original sub-division plan and dimensions should be checked against the deposited plan. Other notes contained on the plan are of historical interest only and should not be considered as an indication of any proposed development.
Of course, thousands of people took up the opportunity to purchase this cheap land, thinking they would be able to build dwellings on it. My constituents Maria and Gerry Mafredas responded to the advertisement. Mrs Mafredas explained to me that her husband saw this as an opportunity to have a country place to go to with lovely fresh air near beautiful Port Stephens, and that it would be a great retirement place. She told me that, unfortunately, Mr Mafredas died three months after they purchased the land.
Mrs Mafredas diligently paid the Great Lakes Council approximately $200 a year in rates until this year when, on 30 October, she received from Leary and Company, solicitors, a notice of intention to commence proceedings. According to the solicitors she owed North Arm Cove Landowners Limited $1,169.82 for road maintenance. The letter stated:
We act for North Arm Cove Landowners Limited and have been instructed that the above amount as referred to in the attached Invoice remains unpaid.
Mrs Mafredas had no knowledge of this until the letter arrived. Great Lakes Council told me that many people were in the same situation. The council said it too owned some blocks of land and had approached the North Arm Cove Rezoning Association, which issued a statement of levies charged to my constituents from 1984 to 1997 totalling $1,396.50. There is no evidence of road building or road maintenance. I understand that the Mafredas block sits in the middle of this mythical development surrounded by hundreds of hectares of forest. Certainly that are shows no signs of road building.
I ask honourable members whether they have constituents in similar situations. Are they being defrauded by groups like the North Arm Cove Rezoning Association, which was formerly the Port Stephens City Progress Association that was leading the way to rezone the North Arm Cove. My understanding is that this proposal will not go ahead. Thousands of people have invested their funds in the scheme. They are now being charged a road maintenance levy for roads that have not been maintained. This is an absolute fraud on these people.