Yes we need houses. . . but we also need trees…

And koalas and clean waterways, and fresh air to breathe, and space around us, and economical homes designed with imagination. 

So do we need approximately 900 houses in a pristine nature environment on the coast of NSW? Where the developer states every shrub, tree and bush will be cleared to just dirt as Parry’s Cove Development Proposal specifically states –

“Extent of earthwork will entail removal of all vegetation and trees within the footprint of the site.”

 They might say the people wealthy enough to purchase these homes might do some planting and landscaping. But will they know their luxury home sits on a site where koalas and all manner of vegetation trees and wildlife once lived and thrived? 

Such developments set a precedent already in tow for highrises, suburban developments and luxury home estates all the way along the NSW coast to meet and marry the glitzy Gold Coast.

The process of getting a significant development approved these days is up there with the best of the TV high dramas. However public awareness or interest is pretty minimal as often things slide through approval processes which, let’s face it, do not have high viewing ratings!

But the saga of Parry’s Cove could soon rate with the best of TV’s dramas or horror movie.

The synopsis is as follows – find one of the most stunning areas of the Myall Lakes near Tea Gardens with significant early Australian history, beautiful natural habitat which once supported wildlife and a large koala population plus Aboriginal middens and possibly heritage artefacts, and a deeply connected Indigenous community.

Well Kept Secret

Following its historical significance, over the generations pockets of white settlers grew within the area, but until the past decade or two, it remained still something of quiet backwater. 

Sure, it got a mention when then PM John and Janette Howard took their annual holidays in the unpretentious setting.  

Like a lot of similar precious, unspoiled and stunning locales along the NSW north coast, families and tourists had their fave spots for family hols. And the hidden gem they liked to keep to themselves was Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest. This Worimi land straddles land north of Port Stephens. 

It was formally dominated by Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) with an understorey of Wallum Banksia (Banksia aemula) this was a swamp but indeed a beautiful one, once largely inhabited by Koalas, Wallum froglets, Squirrel Gliders and other Threatened Species. 

In 1824 a land grant of 1 million acres on the northern  shores of Port Stephens was handed to the white settlers who’d formed the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) to improve wool production of flocks of Merino sheep and crops like Tobacco.


Headquarters for AACo were built at beautiful Tahlee, a local Worimi word meaning “sheltered from the wind and above water”. An apt name as a lot of the Fens Embayment and sand ridge country was largely a swamp.

The area was named after William Parry, an explorer who was knighted in 1829, and aged 39, with his wife, Lady Isabella Louisa Parry, settled in Tahlee as AACo Commissioner in 1830 with nearly 18,000 sheep at pasture on this Port Stephens ‘Carrington’ estate. 

The present Parry’s Cove site originally was called ‘Riverside’ by Crighton Properties around the year 2000 but over the past decade it’s been known as ‘Parry’s Cove’.

The present developers (Sheargold) explain in their sales material that   

“The word ‘Cove’ was selected because it is a descriptor referring to the river bend adjacent to the property and its ability for the essence of the word to invoke a feeling of comfort, protection and security to the community’s future residents.”

“A number of precincts, each with their individual character and history combine to make up the Parry’s Cove community and throughout the course of the development we will explore and celebrate more great stories of this area for future generations to come.”

But within this much touted new development in Myall Lakes, an actual cove doesn’t exist. Yet.

Sheargold’s sophisticated sales material states that it intends to commence construction in 2023 

“The Parry’s Cove Masterplan connects the entire development to the Cove on the eastern side of the project. Through the inclusion of a main green and blue spine through the centre of the development Sheargold have been able to integrate the new living environment with the existing Myall River. This includes protecting and enhancing the natural environment.”

One has to wonder how on one piece of paper the natural landscape land has so be scrubbed clean and then be “protected and enhanced”.  This and more fluffy adjectives might sound great to prospective buyers but there is the small matter that this Parry’s Cove Development doesn’t have an actual cove, which to many of us would give the illusion of a marina, boating, luxury cruisers etc.

Regional Planning Panel

In March this year I was one of many who watched the Zoom meeting to hear speakers addressing Sheargold Pty ltd, Parry’s Cove Planning Proposal being heard before the Regional Planning Panel. This panel consisted of  Sandra Hutton, Juliet Grant, Councillor Kathyrn Bell, Deputy Mayor Alan Tickle, and the chairperson  Alison McCabe. Speakers for and against the proposal were selected to give their views to the convenor via zoom or phone. 

However the Chair of the Panel did rather interrupt some speakers to a degree that would not be tolerated even in our Parliaments. 

Several speakers who’d put in submissions and had businesses locally were all for the development to enhance and enlarge the town.  

Other submissions were against it on environmental grounds.

But when the articulate CEO of the Karuah Land Council spoke she very firmly raised her concerns.

“I thank this Regional Planning Panel for hearing my Submissions. My name is Shai Richardson and I am the CEO of the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council.

I am a Worimi woman. I present this submission on behalf of Elders, past and present and our Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council community. We are the traditional custodians of lands that include Parry’s Cove.

We, the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council are against the present DA 171/2020 development application that is known as Parry’s Cove.

Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council (KLALC) have made two submissions to this Development Proposal, but I have no idea if you, this Regional Planning Panel have received our two submissions. The General Manager of the MidCoast Council, Mr. Panuccio, has assured us by email that he was sending our second submission to you, however I can find no mention of our concerns regarding 7 Petrel Place, Tea Gardens, a home within Lot 10 within the proposed Parry’s Cove overall site. We had made representations to Council on the legality of this house – but have received no reply. This house is in close proximity to our Midden Site – known as Riverside 01.

KLALC mention to you that we have no idea of certain matters as Council never placed any submissions received for the Voluntary Planning Agreement on Council’s website although KLALC is aware that the General Manager advised Councillor Alan Tickle on 22 February 2022 that Council would be placing all submissions on Council’s website after 4pm on 22 February 2022.

So, Councillor Tickle, now we see you as a representative on this Regional Planning Panel today, KLALC ask. ‘What happened’?

Why weren’t any submissions on the Parry’s Cove Voluntary Planning Agreement placed on Council’s website or provided to Councillors?”

The Chair cuts in – 

 “Shai, this is we are not dealing with procedural aspects of the VPA  agreement   we actually dealing with this development. Think it would be if you just concentrate on that and as I said at beginning. I don’t want question directed at Panel members, uhm,….It is not a Q&A. The only question I’m prepared to answer were procedural ones, just this is the application, it would be good if you would deal with that. I can’t deal with procedural stuff relating to the VPA, as it’s not the panel responsibility.”

Shai Richardson returned to her original question.

“That’s fine, so going forward, have you got our two submissions?”

The Chair responds-

“I definitely have one submission, so I will make inquiry of Council. I have one submission in front of me that was in relation to this application dated 7 December ah, I we will check with Council if there is another one…”

Significantly the particular missing Karuah submission was about the legality of land fill coming onto the Parry’s Cove site over this last decade and has raised questions as to the legality of a house – known as 7 Petrel Place, Tea Gardens.

Ms Richardson continued,

“We, the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council again reiterate that this Parry’s Cove site has been continually desecrated over the decades, with imported fill, levelling of natural features, removal of treed vegetation, particularly required by Koalas and other threatened species habitat….

KLALC totally disagrees with the current position of accepted Biodiversity Offsets and impacts on this Parry’s Cove site.

KLALC again state that we find no mention of our concerns on 7 Petrel Place, Tea Gardens. Where is the DA application and Approval for this major house construction? Why hasn’t MidCoast Council answered our concerns? We, the KLALC advise that unless our concerns of what we consider to be wilful desecration of the former ‘Riverside site’ – now known as Parry’s Cove – and problems with the Aboriginal Heritage reports and the imported fill, plus 7 Petrel Place – are addressed in meetings with the Developer, then we remain against the Approval of DA 171 / 2020 by you, this Regional Planning Panel.

KLALC has not given permission for all these acts against our Aboriginal Heritage.

We have tried to get the permissions from Council for these developer activities – but we are going nowhere.

KLALC advise that we are giving most serious consideration to having this Parry’s Cove development proposal placed before the Federal Supreme Court under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act (2005).. . . ..

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity of addressing you today,” summed up CEO Ms Richardson.

Her mentioning that one of her submissions against the development did not seem to be included was a bit of a bombshell. 

(Though it’s not an uncommon occurrence at MidCoast Council where submissions can go missing unless the sender jumps up and down for it to be found. Many people never notice their submissions aren’t made public or else are severely redacted.)

The Ceo was not alone. Other submissions spoke about ‘Where is the fill coming from?’ ‘What about the Koalas ? Why is this proposed development occurring on swamp land ? What about all the trees ? What about Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley recently listing the Koala as Endangered in NSW, and also unsatisfactory replies from the Developer’s representatives.

Once A Swamp…

Land approved by council to be set aside as offset land within the development, will, it seems, be of little interest to koalas and other wildlife as it is an uninhabitable swamp for them. 

However, just speculating, if one was to dig out said swamp, it could become a lovely waterway. Rather like a cove. Leaving you with maybe 40,000 truckloads of fill to dispose of. 

 Otherwise where will approximately half a million cubic metres of fill, requiring truck and dog trailer deliveries at exorbitant delivery charges come from? Will these proposed truck movements from a distance away be appreciated by the local Tea Gardens residents, let alone damage to their roads? 

The answer as to where and how the fill required on which to build houses is yet to be clearly answered.


However in the MidCoast Council’s Urban Release Report of 205 pages dated July 2021, take a look on page 106 where it states – 


That this area (this refers to 7 Petrel Place Lot 10. ed.) be nominated as an Urban Release Area to be rezoned in the ShortTerm (1-5 years) to provide a mixed use outcome supporting a marina and supporting business and boating facilities as well as other water recreational activities and environmental opportunities, subject to a Planning Proposal.”

So, the bigger question is ‘Why didn’t the Parry’s Cove developer include this 10 hectares of land that they own on the bank of the Myall River in their Development Proposal before the Regional Planning Panel on 16 March 2022?

Following Ms Richardson’s reference to 7 Petrel Place the Panel requested ‘further information’ from MidCoast Council on DA 171 / 2020 for Parry’s Cove, including –  “Clarification on the location and relevance of 7 Petrel Place as it relates to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage”.

Note that the Panel did not ask Council to confirm whether 7 Petrel Place was a legally DA approved dwelling. 

Subsequently the MidCoast Council clarification was –

“7 Petrel Place is Lot 10 DP 270100. And incorporates stages 15, 16a and 16b, which are not recommended for approval under this application”.

And what was the MidCoast Council’s Recommendation for the Parry’s Cove Development Proposal on 16 March 2022?

They recommended APPROVAL.   

And yet by 18 March 2022 – the Council recommendation for stages 15 and 16 was DISAPPROVAL.

So 7 Petrel Place was withdrawn from the development before going to council, but has now been excluded by the Regional Planning Panel, and one can’t help but wonder why. It seems 7 Petrel Place, which is a large waterfront mansion, has something of a question mark over it! 

But it seems the developer isn’t worried about the Regional Planning Panel decision problem, as it is now proposed for 900 allotments! 

So, after being knocked back it seems all you need to do is put another planning proposal before MidCoast Council. 

But what about the “cove”?

Is the answer in Sheargold’s Press Release for Parry’s Cove where it says –

“Sarah Thompson of Sheargold Property Developments Pty. Ltd. is excited for the future of the development.

It is envisaged the entire Parry’s Cove community will deliver approximately 900 dwellings once approval is obtained for a further two stages and plans are submitted to MidCoast Council for a diversity of housing choices across the site Ms. Thompson said”.

Climate Future?

Perhaps somebody should take a good scientific look as to where the sea level (and the level of the Myall River) will be within the next 50 years or so.  

Perhaps Sheargold Developments might consider a Venice Style development?

Of course our Council will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of rates and developer fees from 900 upmarket homes!

One suspects this is not the last we’ll hear in the expensive drama of Parrys Cove. Stay tuned. 

(The full Determination and Statement of Reasons of the NSW Government Regional Planning Panel (4 April 2022) and Audio for DA 171 / 2020 Myall Way, Tea Gardens, Parry’s Cove is available on the Internet. This includes names of those mentioned in this article.)


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