4 March 2023

'KEEP OUT': Legal threat to Dalmeny residents who trespass on development site

| Katrina Condie
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Bushland from above

A parcel of bushland west of Dalmeny that is earmarked for development. Photo: Ann Christiansen.

Members of the South Coast community group, Dalmeny Matters, have been threatened with legal action if they continue to enter a privately-owned parcel of bushland that has been earmarked for a residential subdivision.

Solicitors representing a Sydney development company have sent a letter to the group threatening legal action at a Supreme Court level in response to efforts by volunteers to collect data on threatened species living within the 159-acre (645,700 square metre) site west of Dalmeny.

Dalmeny Matters spokesperson Sally Christiansen said the “heavy-handed letter” claimed the group had been encouraging locals to trespass on the private land, and it also asked for the names of members.

She said local residents had been walking through the area for many years, and most would not know the land was privately owned as it was not fenced and there was no signage.

“As you would likely be aware, any entry onto land which is privately owned without the consent of the owner is trespass and may be considered a criminal offence,” the solicitor’s letter read.

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“Any such entry would also be considered tortious trespass such as to give rise to Supreme Court proceedings.

“Such proceedings would be costly and may involve an award of damages. If our client is forced by the conduct of your officials and members to take such action they would also seek their costs of any such proceedings.”

Ms Christiansen, who lives in Dalmeny with her partner and two children, said members were “pretty shocked to receive a threatening letter like this”.

“It is the first contact the community has had with the developer. It’s not exactly a great start!” she said.

Dalmeny Matters hopes the owner of Lot 54, who is working with Eurobodalla Shire Council on development plans for the bushland, may be willing to work with the community in good faith.

“It is so important for us as a community to be able to engage with the developers about the future of our home,” Ms Christiansen said.

“We are stakeholders in this – we live here.”

Map of site

The owners of Lot 54, in the pink area, have warned people not to trespass on their land. Image: Dalmeny Matters.

Following concerns about loss of habitat for local wildlife, Dalmeny Matters has set up an iNaturalist project for Dalmeny, which will help build a picture of the biodiversity of the area, including sites proposed for development.

The iNaturalist app allows users to record species by taking a photo or recording a sound and automatically captures all observations within a defined area, and the Dalmeny Matter’s project encompasses the development area, adjacent state forest, public land and residential land.

“We want to have as thorough an understanding of the bushland – the plants, birds and animals that live there – as possible, so that any planning can be done in a careful and responsible way,” Ms Christiansen said.

“We have vulnerable species such as yellow-bellied gliders, gang-gangs, grey-headed flying foxes and glossy black cockatoos here.

“It is scary to be contemplating the loss of such a big area and all that it could mean for the character and wellbeing of our community.”

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Local volunteers have taken part in iNaturalist training funded by a bushfire recovery grant awarded to the Coastwatchers Association by the State Government and have begun logging their photos and recordings in the area.

Dalmeny Matters has replied to the solicitor’s letter stating members were “ready, willing and able to attempt to facilitate an appropriate arrangement with your client to facilitate the progress of the iNaturalist project”.

Ms Christiansen said contributing would help the community to “feel involved and respected as part of this process”.

“It would show us that the developers care about the community and the area; that they are not just a big faceless company that threatens community members or hides behind scary lawyers.”

However, the solicitors have requested Dalmeny Matters to tell the community that “our client does not consent to any unauthorised member of the public attending on their private property for any purpose”.

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While locals may consider themselves in with a chance to help save local wildlife and a bit of their lifestyle by the iNaturalist project, it won’t make any difference. Why? If there is a developer from Sydney and a bucket of money involved, development is guaranteed. There is no real care for the natural environment all over Australia as evidenced by this proposal even being considered. Nothing has changed at the Federal level, and nothing will change with the next state election as there is no mention made of trying to control these sort of developments. I’m sure we will hear of the need for more housing in the area, or local jobs or something or something or something. The result of this will be the loss of nearly all trees and any wildlife you find, small blocks, intense development, no public facilities, no schools, no shops and increased traffic. Thats the way it always is.
The aim of these projects is to make as much money as possible by the developers. I suspect there will be a limited land release over an extended period and advertised to investors out of area and brought up in the majority by people with already enough money and looking to make more.

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