The outrageous proposal by Rockdale City Council to build a 100-vehicle car park on the beachfront of Botany Bay has been kicked into touch by the NSW Lands Department.

The department’s dramatic about-turn caused utter chaos at this week’s council meeting when the pro-car park Labor-Liberal coalition realised that the rug had been pulled from under them.

The plan to build a car park at ratepayers’ expense for the benefit of two fashionable restaurants on the bay’s esplanade has caused mounting anger in Rockdale and adjoining Labor-held electorates.

Former Planning Minister Frank Sartor, who is the local MP, lone ALP councillor Shane O’Brien and Greens councillor Lesa de Leau have been leading the charge demanding that Lands Minister Tony Kelly reverse his pre-Christmas approval of the environmentally damaging project.

This week Rockdale Council’s general manager Chris Watson received a letter from the department’s Director-General Warwick Watkins ordering the council to halt any development of the beachfront site pending the completion and approval of a new development plan.

Watkins, the former NSW Valuer-General, took his action under the Crown Lands Act 1989 which he administers.

Rockdale’s Labor mayor Bill Saravinovski refused to make Watkins’ letter public despite a barrage of protests from the visitors’ gallery. He enraged them further by indicating the council would be spending more ratepayers’ money seeking legal advice on the Director-General’s letter.

He then closed the meeting for 15 minutes for a rushed consultation with his Labor and Liberal accomplices.

After the adjournment, a motion calling for more information about the department’s intervention was deferred to the next meeting. The meeting closed down in uproar and residents held an impromptu meeting outside the Town Hall.

The feeling of the local community was summed up by an elderly resident who addressed the council saying he’d voted Labor for 60 years, but not anymore.

Kelly, who had been lobbied by Rockdale Council’s paid lobbyist “Leaping” Leo McLeay to support the car park, has clearly decided that the electoral fall-out is too great to go on ignoring.

Peter Fray

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