Historical Mount Keira land up for grabs

If Shellharbour's John Wiltshire had $1.1 million, he would buy this land at Mount Keira in a heartbeat, as much for the memories as the view.

John Wiltshire. Picture: KEN ROBERTSON

John Wiltshire. Picture: KEN ROBERTSON

He was one of 31 men who took part in the now famous Kemira Colliery sit-in on this site in 1982 protesting at BHP's plans to axe 400 jobs at the mine.

"We thought we were going in for one night as a bit of a protest but it stretched on for 16 days," he recalled.

Mr Wiltshire, now 58, and the other 30 men lost their jobs but the gesture, which attracted national attention, came to symbolise a nationwide coal and steel union struggle against ongoing retrenchments in the 1980s.

The mine closed in 1991 and after extensive rehabilitation and bush regeneration Endeavour Coal (a subsidiary of BHP Billiton) put the 24.5-hectare parcel on the market late last year.

After it was passed in at auction, it went back on the market for $1.3 million and has been reduced further to $1.1 million.

Agent Ted Hanson from Southern Estates said the difficulty in selling the land was more than a sluggish market at the top-end.

Most of the land is protected by E2 zoning which does not allow housing construction, but there is just over two hectares zoned E4 which, with council approval, could be subdivided into about 10 building blocks.

"This sort of zoning still often involves a lot of administrative and planning hurdles and that can put people off," Mr Hanson said.

The sales campaign has been targeting three groups: developers, a landbank owner interested in holding the land for a few years and individual home owners.

"I've been surprised by the fact so far that the strong interest is coming from individual buyers who want to build a private residence," Mr Hanson said.

Much of the colliery infrastructure still remains including the mine entrance which has been sealed up 20 metres in.

The only item identified as having heritage significance is the old powder magazine where explosives were stored.

"There are still remnants of the substantial grounds that surrounded the colliery which were immaculately maintained by groundsmen staff as the jewel in the crown of the BHP collieries," Mr Hanson said.

Mr Wiltshire said after the sit-in and losing his job as a young married man of 27, he went back to an electrical trade.

He returned to the mining industry 10 years ago and now works as a safety and training co-ordinator.

Mr Wiltshire said he strongly supported colliery rehabilitation: "There are enough working collieries to remind us of our mining traditions so it would be nice to see the mountain return close to its original state."


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