The Guardian July 24, 2002


Sandon Point Stocklands breaks the rules and gets away with it!

by Janice Hamilton

Local residents and community groups are still hanging on despite another 
reckless decision by the NSW Land and Environment Court to let land 
developer Stocklands continue to destroy Aboriginal heritage regardless of 
warnings from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWLS). Allan 
Carriage, custodian of the site on behalf of the Aboriginal community at 
Sandon Point, took land developer Stocklands to court after the developer 
had defaced and removed relics excavated outside of their consent zone 
(contrary to section 90 of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services 
Act)

This site has been dogged with controversy since the local council and 
various State Government departments gave approval for the development of a 
major housing, development (suburb) in the Northern Suburbs of Wollongong 
on the NSW South Coast.

Mr Carriage asked the Land and Environment Court for restraining and 
mandatory orders preventing Stocklands from carrying out any further 
construction on the site, including the removal of soil stockpiled on the 
land.

The call for the orders came after it was discovered that a Stocklands-
contracted archaeologist had directed an operator to conduct a salvage 
operation in a graded scrape area less than a metre from the coastline.

During the hearings Stocklands Project Manager Paul Hedge told the Land and 
Environment Court that the salvage operation, as he called it, went outside 
the area where the company was permitted to destroy Aboriginal historical 
artefacts.

Mr Carriage's advocate Alan Oshlack put to Mr Hedge: "Do you agree with me 
that any salvage collection and destruction of relics (outside of the 
specified area) was not covered by the consent."

"This is correct", Mr Hedge replied.

Mr Oshlack: "So you admit artefacts were collected outside the boundary 
line."

Mr Hedge: "Yes!"

Mr Hedge said he did not know why a company appointed archaeologist had 
directed an operator to conduct a salvage operation in that area, which he 
described as a graded scrape.

Mr Oshlack went on to say that it was the company's responsibility to 
ensure that contractors worked within the NPWS's orders and that this had 
not occurred on this occasion.

The site archaeologist acknowledged that artefacts and other evidence of 
tool manufacturing had been found on the site.

Stocklands just keeps giving the orders to dig dig dig.

But despite all the evidence that was presented before him Justice Angus 
Talbot found in favour of Stocklands, saying there was "no logical reason 
why work should not go ahead".

He also said, "The company had permission under Section 90 of the National 
Parks and Wildlife Services Act to destroy Aboriginal artefacts in that 
area."

Further on in his finding he stated, "there is a real prospect that relics 
have been destroyed in the area outside the boundaries. But it is not shown 
to be more than an accident or error of judgement rather than a wilful 
disregard of any statutory obligation."

However Justice Talbot did admit that technically Stocklands had breached 
its licence in disturbing the relics by saying, "Clearly there is a breach 
of Section 90."

Mr Carriage was disappointed, but not defeated by Justice Talbot's 
decision.

"It's nothing unusual to Aboriginal people for the courts to do this", he 
said. But we are not going to give in over it, we're going to fight, fight, 
fight!

The blatant abuse of process and the secrecy surrounding this project 
leaves locals questioning how a court can say on one hand a developer has 
broken the conditions of consent and then on the other rule in favour of 
that developer.

How the developer even got consent in the first place also needs answering.

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