PRIOR OCCUPATION

 

  • The Aboriginal people occupied this coastal land for thousands of years. Their continuing cultural heritage is acknowledged.
  • In the 1800s land grants were made to pastoralists. 
  • Shacks were built between 1910 and 1950 on freehold land with the permission of the then owners. Shackholders have never been squatters.
  • A significant number were built during the depression when miners from the nearby Helensburgh community camped at the coast to survive the hard times.

 

PROTECTION LEAGUE LOBBIES TO SAVE LAND FROM DEVELOPMENT

 

  • In the mid-1940’s development threatened with the expected sale of the Era and Burning Palms land.
  • The people formed a Protection League with the object of purchasing the land.
  • When it was learnt that wealthy developers were determined to purchase the land, the Protection League lobbied, along with others, for the land to be resumed. A Protection League delegation went to the Lands Minister, Mr Sheehan in 1949.
  • In 1950 the land was resumed, and incorporated into the Royal National Park in 1953. From this time no new shacks were allowed to be built.
  • After resumption, the shackholders were allowed to remain “in possession of their huts and tents”.
  • Until the mid 1960’s shacks were bought and sold, with transfers of ownership being notified to the Park Trust.

 

NPWS POLICY LEADS TO SHACKS BEING DEMOLISHED

 

  • In 1967 the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was formed as a government department to administer NSW National Parks.
  • For the next thirty years, the NPWS policy was remove the shacks.Under this policy shacks could not be transferred and more than 50 shacks were demolished. Usually this occurred on the death of the owner.
  • In some cases when the owner died, families just continued to pay the rent. Some elderly owners, no longer able to maintain their shack, assigned them to trusted community members. These de facto arrangements saved many shacks from demolition.
  • Fearing that eventually all the shacks would be demolished, the shackholders took their case for preservation to heritage bodies.
  • In 1993, Era and Burning Palms were listed by the National Trust of Australia (NSW), Era and Little Garie by the Australian Heritage Commission and the four communities were listed in the Wollongong Council Heritage Development Control Plan 42.

 

NPWS CHANGES ITS POLICIES - SHACKS TO BE RETAINED

 

  • Following the successful recognition of the significant heritage values of the shacks, the NPWS finally changed its demolition policy.
  • The RNP Plan of Management (POM), adopted in February 2000, now recognises the heritage values of the cabin areas. The Plan requires that the cabins be retained with Licensing conditions to ensure that their cultural heritage values and the social context of the cabin communities are conserved.
  • Two heritage studies, commissioned by NPWS,  the 1994 Cabins Conservation Plan by Ashley and the 2001 RNP Coastal Cabin Areas Draft Cabins Conservation Management Plan by Brooks emphasise the cultural, social and historic value of the communities.
  • The progress towards a licensing system that met the requirements of the Plan of Management and Conservation Plans was not easy.
  • A licensing scheme proposed by the NPWS was rejected by members of the three communities.
  • In 2005, faced with threats of removal if people did not sign what was on offer, the Protection League mounted a Court Case in the Land and Environment Court.
  • This Court Case led to mediation under the auspices of the Court. In 2006 Agreement was reached with the majority of shack owners for licenses for a period of 20 years
  • As part of the Mediation Agreement the NPWS and Protection League were to jointly apply for State Heritage Register Listing. The nomination was lodged in 2011
  • On April 27th in the Government Gazette No 44, the Royal National Park Coastal Cabin Communities of South Era, Little Garie and Burning Palms were Listed on the State Heritage Register under Section 37 (1) (b) of the Heritage Act 1977.