Land use clash looms
By SALLY GORDON
MARK Lawson is unconvinced a pile of discarded sea shells recently discovered on his property at West Yamba is the site of an aboriginal midden.
Members of the environmental group Valley Watch came across the shells during an inspection of the site more than a month ago.
Valley Watch and the North Coast Environment Council have since engaged a Birrigan Gargle Aboriginal Land Council site officer and an aboriginal archaeologist to investigate.
The shells, spread over 700 square metres, are on the shorefront of Oyster Bay, the south side of Mr Lawson's 18.2 hectare property, which is west of Carrs Drive.
Mr Lawson, who is looking at large-scale development of the site down the track, claims the oyster shells on the foreshore were introduced as landfill.
He said that after reading the Maclean District Historical Society's Fishing Industry Lower Clarence River, The Early Years and speaking to Yamba Oyster farmer Trevor Phillips and resident Ollie Moore (nee Carr), there was clear evidence the site had been subject to years of industry involving oyster cultivation and manufacturing.
"Since the mid-1800s in West Yamba and along its waterways there were six different industries conducted including a thriving manufacturing industry," he said.
"During that time the surrounding land was cleared and the land levels were raised along the foreshore in the immediate vicinity of the area identified to contain oyster shells, for use as a roadway.
"The muddy soils were filled using oyster shells to support horses and buggies."
Mr Lawson said that during the second half of the 1800s an oyster industry developed which was carried out by dredging the waterways for oysters.
When the supply of these oysters was threatened, a new oyster industry was founded which involved cultivating oysters on mangrove branches.
Mr Lawson claims manufacturing also took place using burners to process oyster shells into lime for making cement.
Despite his claims, Mr Lawson could be in hot water with authorities over land clearing on his property, if the midden is authenticated.