Coordinator: Rhonda James
Secretary: Cynthia Brook
Treasurer: Ian Herscovitch
Committee members: Nola Firth, Brian Summers, Claire Masters
World Environment Day Festival Coordinator: Ari Ehrlich
Shop Manager: Karen Commerford
During the late 1980s an estimated $2000 million of development proposals were proposed for the Tweed Shire. One of the more prominent of these was the Ocean Blue proposal for Fingal, which was officially investigated in one of the first ever NSW ICAC inquiries in 1989 examining council and state government corruption. The inquiry never formally charged anyone, but it ruined the reputations of some councillors and senior staff, in particular Tom Hogan, the Shire Deputy President.
While all this was happening, another developer, Doug Moran made a proposal for a major Tourist/health resort on top of Mt Nullum near Murwillumbah (c. 1986-7). The resort proposal contained: helipad, golf course, artificial lake, an artist’s colony, sanatorium and spa, workers cottages, hotel, walking tracks, viewing platforms and an escalator to the summit. Doug Moran had just completed the Doug Moran Hospital of Excellence in Tugun (now John Flynn Private Hospital) and the Moran retirement village (1989 and later renamed Mountain View village) in Murwillumbah. He had also just initiated and sponsored to great praise the initiation of the Moran Portrait Prize in 1988 which placed the Tweed Shire “on the map” (one entry criteria for the competition was that the subject of the artwork must be “recognisable” i.e. no post modernism). Doug Moran died in 2011 at the age of 86.
After the ICAC inquiry, most of the controversial coastal developments proposals were withdrawn, some smaller estates were constructed, but others (which were empty blocks and concept plans) changed hands through real estate agents who speculated on the value. During this period the reputation of the Mt. Nullum project was never brought into question and so now became the premier project for the Council. The community became polarised over the development proposals, with some people forming groups to support the projects and others forming groups to oppose them.
In 1990 there were many community and volunteer groups already well-established and thriving in the Tweed Shire. There were the typical residents and ratepayers groups for every town and village, as well as business chambers and commerce groups. Landcare and other more familiar conservation groups like the wildlife carers had not yet been established. Anti-development groups were motivated by the threat of environmental destruction and the impact on their current lifestyle. These groups took the stance that they wanted the Tweed Coast/Shire to be distinct from the neighbouring heavily urbanised Gold Coast. Other people in the community formed pro-development/free enterprise groups to promote the benefits of development which included jobs, infrastructure and overall community prosperity (the media record of these groups’ rhetoric define them as anti-communist).
During this period (1987-1991) the Caldera Environment Centre developed out of another community group that was active at the time, the Tweed Valley Conservation Trust. The Caldera Environment Centre initiated, through the Legal Aid process, a Commission of Inquiry into the Mt Nullum proposal. The legal basis of this inquiry was a concern with the proposed rezoning of the land from scenic escarpment to habitat and vice versa and a proposed relocation of the wildlife corridor along with a substantive change in the definition of what developments were permissible in these zones. The Commission of Inquiry found the project unfeasible due to reasons additional to those put forward by the Caldera Environment Centre. The commission of inquiry found that the council had acted improperly by facilitating the developer to gain approval. Doug Moran shelved the project a week before the Commission of Inquiry delivered its adverse findings.
The Caldera Environment Centre survives to this day, 25 years later, while most other community groups from that time are no longer active. (Other surviving groups dating from that period include resident and ratepayers groups from the various towns and villages in the Tweed Valley).
(Sam Dawson – CEC Coordinator, October 2014)
Paul (Hop.E) Hopkins was a founding member of the CEC. Vale Hop.E Hopkins 1940-2012..