By Tim Peach
On July 11 2022, the unexpected happened. The planning proposal for 17 Hawke Street – the old Huskisson Holy Trinity Church site - was withdrawn by the developer.
The proposal had been for the land on which the former old Huskisson Holy Trinity Church stands rezoned to allow a development up to 16 meters. This developer driven planning proposal needed to be signed off by the state government planners and the Local Environment Plan altered to suit. Sixteen meters could have allowed for five stories and resulted in construction taller than anything else in the area.
Suggested developer proposals for the site once it was rezoned included cutting down trees, digging down for carparking – actions that would have destroyed the heritage values of the site, interfered with unmarked graves and delivered a built environment landscape that very few people want to see dominating Huskisson. The community has fought strongly against this possibility for the last four years.
Right now there is nothing on the table, and no rezoning has occurred. If the landowners have other proposals for the site, the whole sorry business of trying to develop the land will have to start again from scratch.
A ground penetrating radar survey required by the state planners delivered a report indicating that there are a high number of graves scattered across the site. An Aboriginal report on the Aboriginal significance of the site has never been produced or made public, as far as the Huskisson Heritage Association is aware.
We do not know what Hawke Street Pty Ltd, the owners of the land, are thinking. Two of its shareholders are owners of the Huskisson Hotel, Stephen Bartlett and Jure Domazet, who is managing director of the large Canberra developer DOMA Group.
So we do not know what the next step will be. A lot of water has passed under the bridge in terms of expense to the developer and hard work by the community. We all know a lot more than we did four years ago, and it must be assumed that neither side will simply ‘go away.’
In the meantime, a lot of people are celebrating the withdrawal of the planning proposal as a win for the community. The Shoalhaven Council has now called for a workshop with the community, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal where ideas and possibilities will be canvassed.
Feature image: These very happy activists are some of those who will continue the now four year running Saturday morning vigil on the site. Photo credit: Huskisson Heritage Association Inc