National Parks evicts permanents

AFTER more than 30 years of calling the Woody Head camp ground a home away from home, the occupants of five permanent caravans and one yurt have been given two weeks to vacate their sites.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has issued eviction notices ordering the part time campers to remove all permanent structures at the camp ground by 5pm March 25 or face fines and a forceful removal.
The deadline has shocked the semi-permanent residents of the camp ground who believed they had the sites for the rest of their lives.

Ian Molyneux has holidayed at his family’s caravan site in the Bundjalung National Park since he was 12 weeks old.

He remembers the days when they used to have to catch two ferries and negotiate a dirt track to get to the camp ground.

Three generations of Molyneux have stayed in the caravan almost every holiday, a family tradition they thought would continue until Mr Molyneux and his wife passed away.

Jim and Margaret Hayes also thought they had many years left at their second home, nicknamed Ratsak Lodge.

The couple live at Murwillumbah but stay in their caravan almost six weeks out of 12.

“Two of our boys married girls they met here,” Mr Hayes said.

“Now our 17 grandchildren all come here.”

It was the same story a few doors down at Janet and Rod Cherrin’s permanent site, Rum Jungle.

Like the others, they’ve been staying at Woody Head for more than 30 years.

Mrs Cherrin has kept all of the paperwork relating to the site over the decades, including the minutes of a key meeting in 1983 when a then senior official of National Parks, Geoff Martin said it was NPWS plan for all permanents to be moved out of the park.

In the minutes Mrs Cherrin said Mr Martin clarified the term ‘moved out’ with the words ‘natural wastage’.

She said the permanents took that to mean they had their sites until they died.

“We’re not against progress, we just know we have rights,” Mrs Cherrin said.

“In 1983 when that was stated in the meeting they have never rescinded it or told us anything other than you can stay here under these conditions; don’t transfer ownership and do not stay more than six weeks out of 12.

“They left us here for 30 years, so why now?

“They just don’t seem to have a really good reason.”

But a spokesperson for NPWS said the service did have a good reason to move them on.

“It’s about making sure as many people as possible have access to the park,” Lawrence Orel of NPWS said.

“When the owners of the permanent caravans are not there, other people can’t use the sites.

“We appreciate these changes are disappointing for them but we’ve also got an obligation to the broader community.”

Mr Orel said the phase out of private dwellings in national parks was publicly announced in 1997 and in that time 14 of the 17 van owners at Woody Head had removed their permanent structures.

He said since 2006 NPWS had given the owners several extensions to vacate the park so the one month eviction notice should not have come as a surprise.

“There is just no legal basis for permanent, privately owned holiday dwellings at Woody Head,” Mr Orel said.

However there was one permanent caravan at Woody Head NPWS will not be removing.

The occupant was recognised as a permanent resident of the park in 1981 when NPWS took control of Woody Head and Mr Orel said he will not be removed.

Four of the six residents being evicted had been in the process of clarifying their status with the NSW Minister for Climate Change and Environment, Carmel Tebbutt.

Mrs Cherrin said even with the looming eviction deadline, they remained hopeful they would be granted permission to stay, even for another 10 years or so.

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