A city council decision not to buy the Bellambi Point sewerage plant site should not be viewed as a reflection of the council's attitude to the Aboriginal community, Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery says.
Councillors have backed a staff recommendation to instead encourage Sydney Water to discuss future ownership and management of the site directly with the Aboriginal community.
"It is the water board's task to bring that land up to a suitable standard and then give it back to the Aboriginal people so they can manage it, not this council," Cr Bradbery told Monday night's council meeting.
"This council does not want to be in the middle, and that is where we have gone wrong in the past.
"I can see where this is going and I don't want another Sandon Point."
A report from council staff said the area's declaration as a special Aboriginal Place in June this year, as well as environmental restrictions, would place constraints on the site, meaning the initial valuation of $3.36 million would be "significantly less".
Instead, the council should encourage owner Sydney Water to "discuss future ownership" of the site with the local Aboriginal community to ensure its cultural significance was maintained, the report recommended.
During public consultation on the site, 180 submissions were received, with the majority supporting the site being open space, with tables and shelters, paths and cycleways added. There were 11 submissions for a marina at the site.
However, there were fears from some councillors that if the council didn't buy the the 8.7-hectare site it may be sold on the open market.
Cr Jill Merrin said the Bellambi Point site was "an amazing piece of land" and an acquisition on behalf of the Aboriginal community would show council "values our ancient history".
"It is very much something that the council should take on; we can work with the Aboriginal population to manage and protect this site for future generations," Cr Merrin said.
She was supported by Cr George Takacs, who said the council did not have too many opportunities left "to show the Aboriginal community we are working towards reconciliation".
"There is a danger that someone else will come in and take this land," he said.
However, the council resolved in a vote of 7-4 not to continue with negotiations regarding an acquisition.