Lake Heights residents trying to stop the sale of land which is home to a heritage listed Moreton Bay fig tree have vowed to be at Saturday's auction to show their opposition.
Neighbourhood Forum 7 convener Peter Maywald said although the heritage listing was being openly discussed, the land couldn't be developed without damaging roots which extend across the block
"I expect that there will be a healthy gathering of concerned residents turning up on Saturday morning to observe the auction, to responsibly demonstrate their anger at the lack of concern from the Berejiklian Government, to give voice to theiropposition to the sale and to impress upon any potential buyers that the community will be closely monitoring any development that occurs on the blocks," he said.
The NSW Government body which owns the land, the Land and Housing Corporation, said the auction would go ahead.
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LAHC's negotiations with Wollongong City Council to take the land for a park were not successful.
But the LAHC's spokesman would not say why the negotiations failed, or whether the sticking point was the price.
"Negotiations between the LAHC and council are confidential," he said.
"At all times LAHC has engaged in a transparent process [which] includes ensuring prospective buyers are aware of the independent, expert arborist's report on the protected fig tree."
Asked how discussions between two public bodies, over publicly owned land, could be "confidential", he did not give an answer.
Wollongong City Council said LAHC had wanted a full commercial price.
"In 2018 council was approached by the NSW Land and Housing Commission and asked if we were interested in purchasing [the land]," a spokeswoman said.
"Council considered this request and did not feel paying a commercial rate for this land would be an equitable use of ratepayers' funds.
"The strict planning controls in place mean that the heritage tree at this location would be considered throughout any future development proposals."
Leon Fuller, tree expert and author of Wollongong's Native Trees, inspected the fig this week.
"Local people would find it very hard to imagine what their street would look like without this grand old tree," he said.
"One would expect that our state and local governments would be working together to protect this tree and the green space it occupies, not haggling over its market value."
The sale is being handled by Elders' Lou Niceski.
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