Quiet convoy to enter Black Rocks Sports Field on Sunday

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THE POTTSVILLE Men’s Shed Convoy of Support will walk, ride and roll to Black Rocks on Sunday, February 26, after two local conservation groups called on Tweed Shire Council to prohibit access to the sports field due to koala breeding.

Dave Norris of the Threatened Species Conservation Society contacted Tweed Shire Council yesterday to request entry to the Black Rocks Sports Field be cancelled and the event held at an alternative location due to koala breeding.

“The Threatened Species Conservation Society respectfully request that entry into the sports field be cancelled and celebrations be held at an alternative location in order to prevent disturbance to resident koalas during their breeding season,” Mr Norris said.

Pottsville resident Penny Hockings, who is the organiser of the event, said that the “Convoy will proceed as planned on Sunday” and she also provided clarification that the Pottsville & District Men’s Shed members were not involved in organising the event, as was incorrectly reported in other local media.

“I will clearly state up front that the Convoy is proceeding as planned. The community is extremely passionate about these causes and will not be silenced any longer,” she said.

“Pottsville & District Men’s Shed are not organising this event. I am coordinating this event on behalf of the broader Pottsville Community. While the relocation of the Men’s Shed to Black Rocks Sports Field is certainly one of the reasons for the Convoy of Support, the issue is also the inability of the community to use their community Sports Field. No members of the Men’s Shed are involved in organising the Convoy.

Ms Hockings also addressed concerns around noise at the event and emphasised that the majority of Pottsville residents are pro koala.

“The Convoy is not a protest, demonstration or rally. There are no speakers, and therefore no electrical equipment, there is no entertainment. It is purely a gathering of the community for a chat,” she said.

“I strongly disagree that a peaceful gathering of the community will have any impact on the Koalas, especially as they live closer to the Pottsville Beach Public School with 700 or more rowdy students, traffic and bells five days a week and yet are still seen happily living there. They also surround the estate aptly named Koala Beach.

“The false insinuation and accusation has been made that Pottsville Community do not care about their Koalas. This is completely baseless and untrue.

“The large majority of the community are angry and frustrated at the continual misrepresentation of the facts and the history of the Field. They are also fed up with not being allowed to utilise their local Sports Field for community activities.

“The Field wasn’t even koala habitat prior to development of the estate as is evident in early aerial photographs. Many trees have been planted in the Field precinct and the community are supportive of planting more – just not at the expense of their Sports Field and the significant investment by the developer and ratepayers.

Meanwhile Troy Green, General Manager of Tweed Shire Council, has responded to the request to change the location of the gathering saying that the community has the freedom to associate on the Sports Field.

“You will note that the Freedom to Associate can have certain restrictions placed on it, but none of these qualify for the planned meeting,” he said.

“Council has reviewed its ability to place restrictions on the assembly and advise that:

  • Black Rocks Sport Field is community land, which is open and accessible for community use.
  • Under the Sport Fields Plan of Management governing the use of Sportfields, there is no provision or reason for restricting access for the community.
  • There is no decision or resolution of Council that provides me delegation to restrict access to the Sport Fields indiscriminately for these purposes.
  • The only time Sports Fields are closed is due to wet weather and during these times the fields are still accessible to the general community, just not available for organised sport.
  • Questions have been raised by others about restricting alcohol at the Assembly – under the Local Government Act restrictions on alcohol on community land require the concurrence of the Local Area Commander and are generally imposed based on historic anti-social issues in certain localities.”

Mr Green said that Council has attempted to contact the organiser of the event to make an application for a community event.

“We are seeking a request of the organiser to make a community event application,” he said.

“There would be no reason to not allow it to proceed but if application is made Council does have the ability to place certain restrictions on the event to ensure the orderly conduct of the Assembly.

“In summary, Black Rocks is community land and under the current plan of management there is no power vested in me to disallow the assembly to any particular community group. The only way the sports field could be closed would be through an urgent meeting and resolution of council to do so.”

Councillor Warren Polglase said that council should allow the event to go ahead.

“This is so wrong big brother attitude by council. The event is just a gathering of people let the people have there say,” he said.

The Northern Rivers Guardians said they supported the request by Dave Norris and called on the community to keep noise to a minimum to protect the koalas.

“If you celebrate your temporary site approval on Saturday, please be mindful that the native wildlife at Black Rocks sports field is fragile and you will need to prove to the community that you can be trusted to keep noise to a minimum,” Northern Rivers Guardian President Scott Sledge said.

“The wildlife there has no other home, and you do, so please take your festive noise to the nearby beach park at Pottsville.

“I hope you are sincere in wanting to work with people to protect koalas, so I ask you to respect their need for quiet in this wildlife corridor. There are other places for celebrations of a noisy kind.”

Men’s Shed Convoy of Support details

On Sunday, February 26, the Convoy of Support will depart from Pottsville Beach Public School.

Walkers will leave at 9.30 am, followed by bikes and cars at 10am.

The Convoy will travel the route from the Men’s Shed’s temporary location to the approved proposed location at Black Rock’s Sports Field for a BBQ lunch.

Pottsville Meats and Black Rocks Bakery are providing the BBQ items in collaboration with two other small local businesses. The Pottsville Lions Club are cooking the BBQ and local Coffee Patrol Mobile Unit will also be there.

All recently elected Council members have been invited and over 300 people are expected either at the BBQ lunch, walk or drive.