Stockton Beach Tin City

About this Item
SpeakersBaumann Mr Craig; Stewart Mr Tony
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV

Page: 24877

Mr CRAIG BAUMANN (Port Stephens) [1.33 p.m.]: I advise the House of an act of bureaucratic bastardry that will ultimately destroy a tourist icon in my electorate unless the Government intervenes immediately. In June I advised the House that Tin City is a cluster of small tin huts located on Stockton Beach. The beach stretches more or less from Newcastle to Anna Bay in Port Stephens. Those huts have been owned and used by fishing families since the thirties and have come to be an iconic part of Stockton Beach. The huts are a must see on Stockton Beach tours. They have provided emergency accommodation for fishermen and four-wheel drive parties caught in suddenly deteriorating weather when travelling 12 kilometres to safety along Stockton Beach is just not possible.

The huts' owners have radio contact with rescue services and have assisted these services in beach rescues, which fortunately are rare, but have the potential to cause injury or death. The owners have an emergency response plan in place, produced in consultation with the Westpac Rescue helicopter and other rescue services. Stockton Beach is a favoured movie set and is regularly used for desert scenes in movies and commercials. In fact, parts of Mad Max were filmed on Stockton Beach and a young Mel Gibson camped in the huts. It should be noted that Stockton sand dunes are the largest shifting sand dunes in the southern hemisphere, so one can imagine that the build-up of sand around these huts can be quite significant.

The Tin City owners keep a four-wheel drive, fitted with a blade, which they use to shift the sand away from the huts as required. The owners are intimate with the area around the huts, the surrounding dunes and the beach ecology because they have been observing and protecting the beach for nearly 80 years. They have always worked well with the traditional owners and respect and protect archaeological heritage in the area. However, earlier this year Tin City users received a letter from the National Parks and Wildlife Service that stated:

      Unregistered vehicles and attachments not approved by the RTA are not permitted within the Worimi Conservation Lands. Removal of sand by the use of machinery to alleviate sand encroachment on the huts will need written consent by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.
My approach to the office of the Minister of the Hunter elicited the response:

      I am advised that the Tin City site is owned by the Worimi Lands Council and managed by NPWS. The occupants of Tin City have ownership of the Huts and responsibility for their daily care and control, including moving any sand that may threaten the structure. I am advised the requirement for vehicle registration relates directly to issues of public liability.

      … The vehicle in question may be eligible for conditional registration.

I thank the Minister for her interest and concern for the future of Tin City. Unfortunately, inquiries made by my office to the Roads and Traffic Authority seeking conditional registration have come to nought. The owners are attempting to find and obtain a suitable registered vehicle to take over the sand moving duties but sand build up can occur quickly and they must be able to protect Tin City in the meantime.

On 7 August, I visited Tin City to find sand pushed against the walls of some of the huts to eaves height, windows were smashed in by piled sand and it was obvious that the prevailing wind would soon blow sand onto the flat hut roofs which could lead to their collapse. My advice was that the owners protect these huts at all costs, and they spent the rest of the weekend, clearing sand away from the hut walls. A few days later the local National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers threatened the owners with fines and confiscation of the vehicle. Other than obviously wanting to get rid of Tin City, the management of Stockton Beach by the No People and The National Parks and Wildlife Service is deplorable.

Bitou bush has stabilised the frontal dunes for many years. We all know that bitou bush is a noxious weed that should be exterminated and the National Parks and Wildlife Service has attacked this extermination with vigour. Unfortunately, nothing is being used in its place to stabilise the frontal dune and provide habitat for native birds which have lost nests in the extermination. Stockton Beach is a favourite for tourists to Port Stephens and the commercial beach tourism operators are professional, knowledgeable and extremely respectful of the ecology and archaeology. Their vehicles and equipment are new and in perfect order. I am not sure how profitable their business is but the National Parks and Wildlife Service must think they are raking in profit as they attempt to treble the per passenger fee payable to the service.

It is easy to use a private member's statement to kick the Government to death but I am not critical of this Government yet on this issue. I have had admirable support from the Minister for the Hunter and Tourism and I hope that the threat to Tin City is not via Ministerial direction. On behalf of all those who treasure the unique settlement known as Tin City and those that respect and treasure one of the greatest beaches in Australia, I ask the Minister for the Environment to intervene urgently to save our precious environment.

Mr TONY STEWART (Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.38 p.m.]: I am pleased that the member for Port Stephens is not critical of the Government.