HORSE PLAY: Patriarch Michael Newman with one of the miniature horses
HORSE PLAY: Patriarch Michael Newman with one of the miniature horses

Family plans dream bootcamp for kids


A MILITARY family is planning a $2 million environmental education facility for disabled and disadvantaged children at Wardell, fulfilling the life-long dream of the family patriarch.

The land was purchased by Luke Newman and his wife, Deb, two years ago, and the project is being driven by the not-for-profit family company John Atherfield House Proprietary Ltd.

Michael Newman said his son, Luke, had poured all his wages from the last seven years into making the vision a reality.

"It's a totally selfless act," said Michael.

"It's my dream and they are going to carry it out. I'm a sick, old pensioner and he's got the money."

Surrounded by water, the 6.576ha property contains coastal rainforest remnants and extensive wetlands, and plans include a specially designed, low-wash catamaran which could carry up to 24 passengers on ecology tours of the Richmond River.

The development application before the Ballina Shire Council shows a camping compo- nent with 40 tents, including accommodation, and up to 10 framed safari tents, a mess hall building, a half-sized Olympic swimming pool, two ablution blocks, three residences and a storage shed.

As well as developing the campsite, revegetation and rehabilitation is planned for the site, which has long been used for farming and other activities.

The DA application says the facility will cater for a variety of groups, including schools, TAFE, university and day visitors and will be staffed by a registered nurse, and a mixture of ex-military and ex-police personnel.

Camps will be run by two secondary teachers specialising in local history, PE, personal development, science and social science.

With sons formerly in both the army and air force, Mr Newman said military personnel had volunteered to help teach the special needs children about bush tucker, animal husbandry, aquaculture, selfesteem and life-skills education.

He said there were already nine types of bush tucker on the property, but native species proliferation work would increase it.

"Luke's military friends have agreed to lend their time to do boot camp-type things for the kids that have never been in the bush," he said.

Meanwhile local children also would benefit from the facility, as Wardell School could use the swimming pool rather than having to bus to Ballina, he said.

"We'll also allow all the schools to use the educational videos and facilities on a rostered basis."

Ballina Shire Council head of regulatory services Rod Willis said the development application was still being assessed.

"It's an unusual application," he said.

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