A leafy reserve in Sydney’s east, secretly declared Aboriginal land, will have “developers circling like sharks”, a radio station has warned.
An exclusive investigation by Daily Mail Australia this week revealed that despite Little Bay locals using and maintaining the land between their homes, it was quietly handed over without consultation.
One resident said it was a matter of “passing the parcel” of land from the council, through the state government, to its new Aboriginal owners, who can now sell it to developers who could build up to ten homes on the site.
Homes on the streets surrounding the reservation sell for about $4 million.
Residents who have used the land for decades are likely to be barred from entry, despite cleaning, mowing and maintaining the property that was once a garbage dump for auto parts and was infested with rats and snakes. .
And their only hope now to overturn the decision is a costly battle in the New South Wales Supreme Court.
Denise Hope says if the developers move out after Land Council members come in and say ‘close your doors’, she will sell out after living next to the reserve and helping to look after it for 40 years.
Lesley and Colin Brown have tended and cleared the land (above) outside their back door, keeping it free of snakes and cuts, but fear they will now be locked out of the quiet plot.
Randwick Council was the manager of the 3,495 square meter Crown land, but neighboring residents said it never did anything about the land which had been used as a rubbish tip.
They said they have spent thousands of unpaid hours maintaining the land and stopping red-bellied black snakes from using it as a corridor to the suburb.
When it came time for the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council (ALC) to make a claim to the land, the Crown Land Office consulted Randwick Council about whether the land was being used.
The Council, which did not consult any of the 13 landowners who use the area for recreation, beehives and social gatherings, later told Crown Lands the land was free for the taking.
Residents told Daily Mail Australia they don’t believe Randwick even visited the land, and simply “sealed it off without batting an eyelid.”
The New South Wales Crown Land Office said, under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, that “if the land is used, occupied or is likely to be needed for an essential public purpose, the claim of land will be rejected.”
“(But) in this case the evaluation found no evidence that a relevant tenure existed.”
The La Perouse ALC made the claim in 2016, with the local council telling Crown Lands that use of the plot was “almost exclusive to private properties returning to the reserve via the access gate”.
George Manolias has kept beehives on the land, which neighbors cut down, but Randwick Council said no one was using it.
New South Wales law says that if “the land is used, occupied or is likely to be needed for an essential public purpose, the land claim will be rejected”, but the council claimed there was no use of the land.
Any decision to grant land to an Aboriginal Land Council can only be reversed by involving lawyers in a costly battle in the New South Wales Supreme Court.
Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham said Daily Mail Australia’s exclusive story about the ‘little piece of heaven’ in Little Bay declared property of the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council 19 days ago will have an almost certain outcome.
“They’ll try to rezone it and then the developers will circle around like sharks,” he said. said in the air.
The land, whose undeveloped value is around $7 million, is equivalent to 10 medium-sized residential blocks, although the parcels on neighboring Grose Street are much larger.
The New South Wales Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure told Daily Mail Australia that “use by the general public could not be demonstrated to be more than theoretical”.
After consulting Randwick Council, he discovered that there was “no general access road and no evidence that the land was being used by the general public”.
Residents and Daily Mail Australia have asked Randwick City Council if it was unaware of its current use. The Council has the power to rezone land for development.
Neighbor Sharon Brogan (left) has helped care for and clean the land that was a rubbish dump infested with rats and poisonous snakes before residents pitched in and cleaned through their driveways (right).
A Department of Planning spokesperson said the parties could “seek a judicial review of the determination in the Supreme Court if they believe an error has been made”.
The Department assesses whether any proposed sale of the land “balances the social, economic and environmental considerations of the site.”
However, residents would be forced to hire lawyers to challenge the decision in court, and until last month they were unaware that the land claim had been filed seven years ago.
Locals were shocked on January 20 when two men dressed in Aboriginal Council T-shirts turned up to inspect the land.
Walking through the land, one of the men surprised residents by saying that “the land had been granted to the Aboriginal Land Council the day before.”
Most of the 13 houses on Grose and Reservoir streets and Marconi Place have doors or gates that open onto the land, so residents pitch in to take care of it, saying “the city doesn’t do anything.”
As well as keeping “snakes at bay”, residents also cleared lantana, weeds and threw car parts out of the ground more than ten years ago, and local Sharon Brogan said “it’s been good for our community and we’ve taken care of it.” “.
George Manolias said he had obtained council permission to keep two of his hives on the reserve and had provided honey to his neighbors for years.
While Kamper’s electorate does not fall within the statutory area boundaries of the powerful La Perouse Land Council, some of Australia’s most expensive real estate does.
The Perouse ALC covers the local government areas of Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick, and parts of the City of Sydney, Sutherland and Bayside LGAs.
The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA) allows local Aboriginal land councils to claim Crown land owned by the New South Wales Government and transfer it to them in title. completely owned.
La Perouse ALC Executive Director Chris Ingrey said the Grose Street land was zoned “recreational,” but residents fear it will be rezoned and sold to developers.
This is the case with another piece of land nearby 350 m from Grose Street that was donated to La Perouse ALC, rezoned and is now the subject of a $30 million development of an 83-apartment property on a 1.16 hectare site.
Locals fought a losing battle to restrict the scope of development on the Jennifer Street site, with Randwick council spending almost $1 million in legal and consultancy fees to oppose it in the NSW Land and Environment Court. South.
A consortium of developers made an original expression of interest to La Perouse territorial council in 1999 about the Jennifer Street space and helped identify other parcels of real estate that the territorial council could claim, with the agreement that they would develop them together.
That didn’t happen and the development has since changed hands.
Lesley Brown, whose property is on the Grose Street site, said the ALC men who surveyed the Grose Street site in January had discussed building “terraced houses” on the land, but “the site is smaller than Jennifer Street and access is a problem.” ‘.
Denise Hope, who has lived there since 1982, said that if the land were sold to developers, she and her husband would sell it and move because “it couldn’t support the development.”
The La Perouse Land Council says it “plays a key role in protecting and promoting cultural heritage in the area” but agreed it has several land grant applications in the pipeline.
One of the Grose Street residents said the grant was “a warning to everyone across New South Wales: this could happen to you tomorrow”.
The NSW Department of Planning said continued “resident” access to the land will be a matter for La Perouse ALC as the new owner of the land.
However, ALC men who surveyed the land in January told residents they would now have to “close the gates” and not treat it as an extended backyard.