Wolumla Residents Action Group dusted off

Jeff Smith and Wal Mullard of WRAG are pictured in 2012 on the Wolumla site that was to become the Central Waste Facility.
Jeff Smith and Wal Mullard of WRAG are pictured in 2012 on the Wolumla site that was to become the Central Waste Facility.

THE continuing saga of large-scale development proposed for the small rural area around Wolumla has prompted the “dusting off” of a formerly vocal advocacy group.

The Wolumla Residents Action Group would be well known to Bega District News readers for its campaigning against the Bega Valley Shire Council’s Central Waste Facility before its construction in 2013.

It’s a battle WRAG said went on for more than 10 years before it was “caught between a rock and a hard place”, too disenchanted to contest the approved development application and turning its focus to making sure council adhered to conditions imposed. (click here for story)

While consultation between WRAG members and the council continues to this day over the CWF, in late 2012 the group itself was folded into the emerging Bega Valley Shire Residents and Ratepayers Association.

That arrangement has since dissolved, and with the NBN satellite facility now up and running on the CWF’s Wanatta Lane site, and the potential for a flying school for Chinese student pilots at Frogs Hollow, residents thought “enough was enough”.

“It’s really disappointing – we’re a dumping ground for any unwanted proposal,” WRAG’s former – and current - president Jeff Smith said.

“If you proposed a flying school like this for Merimbula I don’t think people down there would stand for it – it wouldn’t get off the ground.

“They look for a small community that’s more easily coerced,” he said.

Mr Smith said while the CWF and NBN facilities are done deals nearby residents have to live with, none of the developments – current or proposed – were in keeping with the rural lifestyle and farming community.

“The NBN looks like a pimple on a pumpkin; the waste facility is not conducive to the rural beauty of the area.

“And the Frogs Hollow flying school will be an absolute nightmare for anyone underneath it.

“You continually worry about the next nightmare someone will push your way,” he said.

The flight school is still only a proposal at this stage, with the company behind the idea still courting potential investors – it is yet to even purchase the land, let alone prepare a development application for the council’s perusal.

However, Mr Smith said there was enough concern and unanswered questions to warrant dusting off WRAG.

Mr Smith is pragmatic enough to say the CWF has shire-wide benefit and the NBN satellite ground station Australia-wide benefit.

“But the flight school will only benefit a handful of shareholders,” he said.

“Council should be able to look at that and say ‘no, not appropriate’.

“I’ve spoken [about the flight school] to a few other Wolumla residents who lived here through the CWF battle and they look at me in horror, saying “not again”.

“We hope that councillors aren’t development-crazy enough to throw us under the bus again.

“We’re still pushing to get a guarantee no further development will occur on the waste facility site,” he said.

“There was talk from the council about an industrial development some time ago and there are whispers this is the location being considered.

“It’s totally inappropriate, again, but nothing would surprise me.”

With the flight school not on the council’s radar or up for formal community consultation yet, Mr Smith said “all we can do is voice our objections through papers like yours and via Facebook”.

“We’d like to let councillors know people won’t stand for it.”

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