In the week that ICAC splashed Wollongong corruption across the world's media, we are taking local action on one little piece of that corrupt legacy.
Vic Vellar (father of Frank Vellar of ICAC infamy) wanted to build himself two mansions in the protected escarpment bush above Corrimal in the nineties. He did a deal with Wollongong Council: he could build two houses in specially rezoned safe areas in exchange for giving a big parcel of bushland to the public. The National Parks and Wildlife Service now administers that land he gave back.
Council promised residents we would still have access to the bush after the Vellar development was approved. They would create a ten-metre wide public access easement from the end of Glenlea Street to the donated land. What we have ended up with is locked gates and "keep out" signs. So far, Council has been unable to answer if they ever got around to creating the easement.
On Saturday we are starting the process of opening up public access. We will be clearing one of the old trails as a footpath to the public bushland. We have asked Council and the NPWS to cooperate in building a permanent trail, but we will start that process ourselves.
More helpers are welcome - come to the end of Glenlea Street at 3.30 on Saturday 11th, bring gloves, wear long sleeves and pants to keep the leeches off, and do something practical to stop the spread of noxious weeds, symbolically flourishing in the soil of corruption.
Meanwhile, the abandoned mansions sit lonely in the bush. Vic built them right in the environmentally protected zone, where he wanted them but far away from where he was allowed to build them, and no-one on Council enforced the provisions of the development approvals. Where they were built and how, makes them a continuing risk to our safety in these ways:
¥ They are built on land at high risk of slippage, endangering the houses down the hill.
¥ Vic flaunted the conditions for storm water management, bulldozed the existing "berm" system of flood prevention, and jerry-built two driveways that became two creeks in 1998, channelling the floodwaters through our backyards.
¥ The two houses have now deteriorated into a safety hazard and - never having been given completion certificates Ð must now be bulldozed on those grounds alone.
Council has done nothing about these risks. Last month at Council, Administrator Kibble re-announced an enquiry into the background of letting them be built up there. Residents are watching Council's response on this issue closely.
Will Reynolds, a life-long Corrimal resident, said: "I encourage all residents to support this important work this Saturday. It's a practical part of the bigger picture: are the State Appointed Administrators here to clean up the Council or is it business as usual in Wollongong?"
Please call Will Reynolds on 4284 4040 for further information and comment. He will be available for interview on the track site from 4.15pm on Saturday.