Timeline for the destruction of the Huskisson church site.

Prelude:

12/13th September 2018:  the community submits application to NSW Heritage Council and commences a petition to Shoalhaven City Council to have the property heritage listed.

2018:

27th September: developer Stephen Bartlett/Anglican church proposes DEMOLITION of the church and other buildings on the site. Shoalhaven City Council DA18/2102

18th October: Developer amends DA to remove ‘demolish and replace with ‘temporary’ movement of the Blacket Church to a new location on the site. 

2019:

4th June: SCC Dev & Environment approved DA 18/2102 to demolish the Church Hall (which incorporated the original Union Church) and some old sheds and to move the 1931 Blacket church onsite.

The limited scope of works made it difficult for the planners to claim any significant destruction of trees, overshadowing etc. etc. This splitting off of preliminary work angered local understanding as it does not reflect the true intentions for the block.

Early September: over several days the original church (church hall) was demolished.

Council officers reassured the HHA that no trees could be removed without a further DA. Letter from the developer’s lawyers to SCC, obtained under a GIPA request clearly states that the 45 degree rule applies despite the DA and furthermore that if the church is moved, its new position would permit more trees to be felled.

18th September:
5 trees cut down along Hawke Street side of block, ignoring the DA and using the ‘45 degree rule’ to justify cutting down the trees.  Ground disturbance occurred, in contravention of the DA 18/2102.

In one of the developer’s reports a surveyor reported being informed that during the demolition of the hall, two holes were filled with rubbish and covered over with soil. Anomalies were located and the report stated their size is much larger than a grave would be expected to be.

There were several requests for stop work orders and calls for an investigation of these ground disturbance issues. The HHA has been informed that investigations have taken place, but the SCC has refused to make the findings public.

2nd October: Attempt to cut down the two trees believed to be the marker trees for James Golding’s burial is halted part way through the operation when Indigenous community members remonstrate. Evan Christen is arrested for climbing into one of the trees.

2020:    

20th January:  SCC Dev & Environment votes to progress Planning Proposal, Rezoning to Gateway stage. This proposes heights up to 16 meters. SCC ignores advice of own planning staff to undertake consultation, get independent reports etc. before progressing.
133 of 136 submissions from the community objected to this over development.

26th February: The two trees believed to be the marker trees for the burial of James Golding (King Billy) are cut down with large police presence. Evan Christen and Akira Kamada are arrested for being on private property. The police and a crane are also in private property, without any permission from the owner.

23rd March: Developer/church submit a variation to DA 18/2102 to alter proposed location of relocated church on the site. Relocation to proposed new location would have maximized opportunity for cutting down more trees under the ‘45 degree rule’.

Dozens of people made submissions. NOT ONE SUPPORTED THE PROPOSAL. Proposal for this variation was withdrawn.

30th April: Planning Proposal returned from State Planning requiring many additional studies and investigations that the HHA had argued for, including a proper Ground Penetrating Radar survey and new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment.

December: Hunter Geophysics undertook a ground penetrating radar survey of the whole property.

2021:

31st March: Hunter Geophysics, ‘Geophysical Survey Report: Former Anglican Church site, Huskisson’found ‘a total of fifty-eight areas have been identified that are likely to be unmarked graves, along with an additional fifteen areas that may also be unmarked graves.’ [p.22]

29th June: The Shoalhaven City Council voted to ’proceed with the verification work (shallow scrapes to identify grave cuts) as recommended by Navin Officer Heritage Consultants on Lots 7 and 8 to verify the GPR survey results.’ This ‘scraping over the land requires an exepmption to Sec. 139 of the NSW Heritage Act (excavation permit). The HHA, the Jerrinja LALC and mny others requested that this ot be granted.

To date the reports requested by the State Government have not been finalised. Watch this space.