10-year land battle decided
By MARY MANN
FRAN BYRNE shed a tear when she heard that 48ha at East Ballina had finally been saved for future generations. It has been a 10-year battle to protect the land, which was once being eyed by developers keen to build a residential estate on the coastal site.
"This is fantastic for Ballina, and for the flora and fauna on the land," said Fran, of East Ballina Landcare Inc, having learnt the land had been gazetted by the State Government as a Crown Reserve for environmental and cultural heritage protection.
"We're emotional about it because it has been going on for so long, and we really didn't think it would happen."
The land is in the area bound by Cronulla Street and Bellevue Avenue along The Coast Road, and extends to Links Avenue in the south and Anderson Street in the north.
It is home to more than 120 varieties of plants and 100 species of birds.
Fran said it was the only large area of heathland between Byron Bay and Evans Head, and that it was an important link in the region's wildlife corridor.
Dr Lee Andresen, president of East Ballina Landcare, said the battle began in 1997 when about 200 locals protested at the proposed subdivision and sale of the site for residential development.
They kept the protests up for about a year, until authorities relented and engaged consultants to do an environmental assessment of the site.
"This revealed its unique environmental and indigenous heritage values, worthy of conservation for future generations," Dr Andresen said.
East Ballina Landcare was formed on May 15, 2001. Its primary goal was to make sure as much of the land as possible was protected.
"For the seven years since then our group maintained constant pressure on the authorities to complete the task," Dr Andresen said.
"It hasn't been easy and there have been many setbacks, but we now see the result.
"It's not often you see a goal of this sort actually realised."
The Bundjalung people have named the reserve Allawah Bushland Reserve Allawah meaning 'resting place' in Bundjalung.
Ballina Shire Council will manage the reserve.