Wollongong City Council should not shy away from acquiring the Bellambi sewage treatment plant site because it has been declared a special Aboriginal place, according to Illawarra land council boss Sharralyn Robinson.
In a report for tonight's council meeting, it is recommended that the council not go through with the acquisition of the site from Sydney Water because it's designation as a special Aboriginal place, combined with environmental restrictions, would place too many constraints on the site.
The report said "the ongoing management of the site also needs to have regard to the Aboriginal heritage values of the site and this may have some conflict with the end use as a public reserve".
It also recommended that Sydney Water discuss future ownership and management of the site with the Aboriginal community and the land council.
But Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Mrs Robinson didn't understand why the site being a special Aboriginal place was an issue for council.
"Seriously, I cannot understand why it being declared an Aboriginal place should make any difference to council," Mrs Robinson said.
"I don't see where it makes it any more difficult or what constraints they're speaking of. Just having it declared an Aboriginal place puts that extra layer over it as far as protection and preservation goes."
She said the council would continue their lobbying efforts to build an education and community centre on the site.
"The place I want to put the multi-purpose centre and educational space out there is where Sydney Water already had their buildings," she said.
"That's only a small parcel of land. It doesn't take up the huge area that's there."
Mrs Robinson had some concern the 8.7-hectare site may be sold on the open market if the council did not acquire it.
"It's a concern for future generations - we need some open space and Bellambi Point is such a beautiful area," she said.
"It should be there for those who want to go for walk out to the point, sit, take their children and appreciate the beauty.
"That can't be done if people are locked out of there. There's a gate on there now, if we owned it that would never be our intention - to lock people out of such beautiful, beautiful space."
A spokeswoman from Sydney Water appeared surprised that council was backing away from acquiring the site, saying there had been community expectation that the land would pass over to public hands.
Council and Sydney Water had agreed in principle to a process of transferring this surplus land," the spokeswoman said
"It was proposed that Sydney Water would retain part of the site for the operation of the existing wastewater treatment plant.
"The surplus land would be transferred to the City of Wollongong for use as community open space.
"This would be an in-kind exchange for land Sydney Water would potentially need in the future for proposed water and wastewater assets in Wollongong City."
The spokeswoman said Sydney Water would continue to discuss the issue with the council.