Friday, 6 September 2019

Destruction of tree cover at Woombah Woods Caravan Park still not resolved


"We're literally on watch to call them [council officers] if we see or hear anything. The clearing started without any regard to rules, regulations or the Woombah community." [Emma Mills, Woombah resident quoted in Coastal Views, 16 August 2019] 

 ABC News, 9 August 2019: 

PHOTO: Council approval to develop the site was granted in the 1980s. (Supplied: Emma Mills)


There are fears important wildlife habitat is being destroyed as a developer tries to reactivate a 35-year-old site approval on the New South Wales north coast. 

About 30 large trees have been felled at the Woombah Woods Caravan Park near Iluka this week. Property developer William Hu paid about $2.7 million for the park earlier this year.......

PHOTO: William Hu has plans to expand the caravan park. (ABC North Coast: Bronwyn Herbert) 


He said he planned to remove every tree on the site to make way for more than 60 new cabins. 

"It is my legal right to clear all the trees within the approved footprint," Mr Hu said. 

"I'm a businessman. I want to make money. 

"But I also want my whole community to make money or live in a better environment." 

Clarence Valley Council planner Des Schroder said a temporarily stop-work order had been issued for the site. 

"The reality is that DAs (development approvals), as long as they're commenced, are valid forever," he said. 

"They have started work, the first stage; the question is whether they need DAs for further stages. 

Trees have been cut down in the Woombah Woods Caravan Park.

"That's the point for investigation ... if there needs to be a contemporary ecological survey done, even if the trees are allowed to be cleared. 

"There is significance from a koala point of view ... there is potential maybe for koala food trees or for a corridor." 

Emma Mills lives next to the caravan park and said the area was home to a significant koala population. 

It was also adjacent to a section of the Pacific Highway upgrade where the Roads and Maritime Service had taken measures to keep wildlife off the road, she said. 

"They have just recently installed a koala grid because there is an active koala colony just the opposite side of the highway," Ms Mills said. 

"They have indeed put a highway underpass for the koalas just to reach the eastern corridor, which we form part of. 

"We also see countless birdlife, kookaburras, parrots, black cockatoos, wallabies, bandicoots, possums." 

Stu Stark, who lived in the park for 18 months while building a house nearby, also said he saw and heard koalas. 

"We only saw a couple — they are very hard to spot, but they make a really loud noise at night time," he said. 

"I'm not sure if that's mating, I'm not sure what it is, but we heard plenty of that when we were living over at the caravan park." 

Mr Hu said long-term residents of the park told him they had never seen koalas on the site. 

The developer said he bought the park because he liked its feng shui, and he hoped to buy and develop other similar facilities. 

"This is my baby, my first caravan park. I want to build it up to the standard of William Hu," he said. "I'm going to do more after this one."

Clarence Valley Independent, 14 August 2019:


Mr Hu said that the clearing of the trees was to make way for new cabins and he was acting on advice from consultants who assured him a 1984 approval for development meant he did not require further council approval for the trees removal. 

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) issued a notice “to cease any further works until at least Council completes necessary investigations and provides further advice”. 

The removal of the trees (thought to be grey gum and tallow wood) was raised by the ‘Association of Iluka Residents’ (AIR) last Wednesday. 

President of AIR, Tony Belton claimed the trees were “a significant koala habitat” and that it was thought many of the trees may be around 100 years old.


Mr Belton said the developer is claiming that a DA approval issued over thirty years ago is still relevant, but his argument surely is now invalid, as the science is now showing that koalas in Northern NSW are threatened and under great duress due to habitat removal, displacement and connectivity obstruction. 

“It’s ironic that the major Pacific Highway upgrade being undertaken a mere one hundred meters away (from this caravan park) has had many kilometres of koala fencing and under road tunnels and grids to accommodate the recognised koala habitat and connectivity at Woombah. 

Possibly hundreds of thousands of Federal tax dollars have been spent on this infrastructure in and around Woombah as part of the highway upgrade. 

Surely this is contradictory policy in 2019,” he said. 


As of 3 September 2019 no further tree clearing has occurred at the caravan park and it is understood that the temporary stop work order is still in place.

Given discussions between the Queensland developer and council are confidential, concerned Woombah residents still know little more than those facts contained in the initial media reports.

However, it does appear that the developer's vision for this caravan park may possibly be far removed from conditions contained in the original 1984 DA consent document.

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