The 87 residents of Coalcliff are gearing up for the fight of their lives as they battle to save the escarpment.
It’s believed plans are afoot to allow homes to be built on the old Cokeworks land just north of the bridge. But the fight is about more than a housing development. It’s a battle to save the local environment.
Coalcliff Residents Association President Pat Goodchild has done his homework and says allowing that land to be re-zoned would mean the whole escarpment could be opened up for development.
Wollongong Council has spent millions of dollars and more than two years work finalising their current Local Environment Plan. That plan sees the escarpment, and the Cokeworks land, zoned E2, which is Environmental Conservation and RU1- Primary Production. That zoning protects Maddens Plains and the escarpment right along the Northern Illawarra coastline.
You can check out the zonings HERE
Mr Goodchild says if the zoning is overturned to allow development at Coalcliff- it could set a precedent- affecting all the land zoned E2 within Wollongong Council’s jurisdiction – which means we could see housing right up the escarpment.
“Everyone has strong reservations about any plan to change the zonings and develop the Cokeworks,” he says, “but developers have deep pockets. Rehabilitating the site, and changing those current zonings would cost many millions of dollars. That can only mean they will want to sell a lot of houses for a return on that investment. ”
Under the Council’s current LEP, now the mining has finished, the land should be returned to RU1 zoning, which is one house per 40 hectares.
“Millions of dollars has been spent protecting this land. If the Cokeworks at Coalcliff overturn this zoning it will be open season on all the privately-owned sectors of the escarpment. There will be no way to protect it and once it’s gone, its gone.
“There is no need to put housing on the escarpment,” says Pat. “We fought against Coal Seam Gas and we won. Every time someone comes up with an idea to make a fortune out of our environment we have to fight it. We can’t give in to this because there’s so much at stake.
“We are fighting for the whole Northern Illawarra and for future generations.”
According to research carried out by the Coalcliff Residents Association, there are millions of tonnes of coal waste on the site which would have be removed. “A court case in 1999 involving Kembla Coal Company found waste from Helensburgh mine was dumped here at Coalcliff. There’s a mountain of the stuff on the land leading down to the creek. That would all have to be removed. All the mine entrances would have to be re-capped and the methane removed- it will be a bottomless pit to rehabilitate the land so they must be considering a significant development to recoup all that outlay. Plus, sections of the site are heritage listed.
“We need Wollongong Council to remain involved in this campaign,” says Pat. “If it’s ‘called-in’ by the State Government we don’t have a chance of stopping it. We just hope that because Council has spent millions and years developing their LEP they will stand by it and enforce the zoning on the land.”
The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Wednesday June 21 at Coalcliff Community Hall and everyone is welcome.