'Don't do it!': Protesters 'scare off' buyers for heritage fig tree land - Illawarra Greens

'Don't do it!': Protesters 'scare off' buyers for heritage fig tree land

The land is owned by the NSW Government's Land and Housing Corporation, and has been put up for sale twice in recent years after negotiations with Wollongong City Council to take the land for a park failed.The council said LAHC wanted a full commercial price for the lot.

Three councillors - the Greens' Cath Blakey and Mithra Cox and Labor's Ann Martin - attended the auction. All three said they thought the council should be able to buy the land and turn it into a public space.

Cr Cox said she would ideally like it to be passed to council in a "land swap" so that public money did not need to be paid twice to acquire the property.

Read the article by Kate McIlwain in The Illawarra Mercury, 27 June 2020

'Don't do it!': Protesters 'scare off' buyers for heritage fig tree land

'Don't do it': Several dozen protestors turned up to witness the auction, bearing signs taking aim at the NSW Government for selling off the land. Picture: Adam McLean.
 'Don't do it': Several dozen protestors turned up to witness the auction, bearing signs taking aim at the NSW Government for selling off the land. Picture: Adam McLean.

Several dozen protestors turned up to witness the auction, bearing signs taking aim at the NSW Government for selling off the land.

"Don't do it," someone shouted.

"This tree is not for sale!"

Elders Property auctioneer Lou Niceski competed with boos and jeers as he asked for any buyers to register.

 Elders Property auctioneer Lou Niceski competed with boos and jeers as he asked for any buyers to register.

Mr Niceski told the crowd there were several people who had come with the intention to put forward a bid and "save the tree", but that they may have been "scared off" or "bamboozled" by the protesters.

"Let me just say that the people here today who are looking at the property will save the tree and will keep the tree, so you should help these people," he said.

"There's legacies with parks, people buy it and then they donate it back to the community. How many parks do you know in Wollongong that have got names on them."

The tree will now be listed for sale via private treaty.

The land is owned by the NSW Government's Land and Housing Corporation, and has been put up for sale twice in recent years after negotiations with Wollongong City Council to take the land for a park failed.

The council said LAHC wanted a full commercial price for the lot.

"In 2018 council was approached by the NSW Land and Housing Commission and asked if we were interested in purchasing [the land]," a spokeswoman said.

"Council considered this request and did not feel paying a commercial rate for this land would be an equitable use of ratepayers' funds.

"The strict planning controls in place mean that the heritage tree at this location would be considered throughout any future development proposals."

Three councillors - the Greens' Cath Blakey and Mithra Cox and Labor's Ann Martin - attended the auction.

 Three councillors - the Greens' Cath Blakey and Mithra Cox and Labor's Ann Martin - attended the auction.

Three councillors - the Greens' Cath Blakey and Mithra Cox and Labor's Ann Martin - attended the auction. All three said they thought the council should be able to buy the land and turn it into a public space.

Cr Cox said she would ideally like it to be passed to council in a "land swap" so that public money did not need to be paid twice to acquire the property.

Cr Martin said she had already approached the council about what could be done to acquire the land.

"Initially the council talked to [LAHC] about a land swap and they didn't want to play, and then we made an offer based on our view of the value, and their response was 'no it's got to sell at commercial'. Now this has happened I think we should come back to the table," she said.

"By default, this is a public park already, and we have a precedent where we have other lots that have just got a fig tree on it."