Councillors 'seduced' by seats

THREE illegally constructed driftwood seats have divided the tiny seaside community of Diggers Camp.

Clarence Valley Council voted last Tuesday not to remove the seats at the Diggers Headland Reserve after councillors were "seduced" by the chairs on a tour of the site.

Cr Karen Toms argued the council should remove the seats because no approval was sought for their construction and doing otherwise would set a bad precedent.

"We're leaving ourselves wide open," she said.

Mayor Richie Williamson argued that the council should back "a bit of community initiative" and leave the seats alone.

Cr Ian Tiley said the chairs represented positive volunteerism and were "too good an asset for us to knock down".

The seats, which were constructed by Diggers Camp resident and retired industrial arts teacher Alan Hanson, were shown to be structurally sound by council engineers, Tuesday's meeting heard.

Mr Hanson, 57, said he first had the idea of providing the chairs when he heard several elderly residents were "struggling" on the coastal walk about 18 months ago.

He said one older gentleman, who is now deceased, had a fall on the walk and asked the Diggers Camp Ratepayers and Friends Association if they could build some infrastructure for the elderly on the headland.

"They dismissed the request out of hand saying there would be no more infrastructure on the headland," he said. "I went to that meeting and argued that we were all going to get old and we'd all need help."

Alan said he went home and, the driftwood chair he had in his garden and concreted it in along the track.

"I didn't seek approval because I thought they wouldn't be approved anyway and this old bloke would still be left struggling on the track and even if it didn't we'd get a couple of years use out of them."

After the first seat was put into place, Mr Hanson said he received a lot of support from residents and visitors who would bring him driftwood for another seat. "This is what took the longest - waiting for the timber to wash up," he said.

Two more chairs were constructed at various points along a looping track in the following year.

Diggers boasts about 14 permanent residents and a total of 44 residential properties yet the issue has generated a petition with 120 signatures and about 40 letters to CVC.

There were 24 letters in support of the seats plus a petition and 13 letters opposed to them.

The letters of support generally point to the seats' artistic qualities and their practicality while one letter against the seats claim they violate the Crown Lands Act 1989 and were constructed without community consultation.

Mr Hanson said he was prepared for CVC to reject the seats and if the call was made he would remove them, put them up for auction and then donate the funds to CVC for construction of "officially approved" chairs

"There has been quite a bit of interest in people wanting to buy similar chairs but the timber is just too hard to source," he said.

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