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Caravan Park Residents may lose their homes in three months
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 03 February 2006
This week I met with 13 residents of the Maleny Palms Caravan Park, on a site which many of them have called home for over a decade. It is a site which is earmarked for demolition, if its new owners get the green light from Caloundra City Council.

Photo above:  Maleny Palms Caravan Park residents whose homes are under threat from a proposed development to consist of 93 new home sites and other recreation facilities.

Residents including Norm Lewis,
Lesley Radford, Betty Kendrew- White, Yvonne Carmichael and Beverley McLeman were all present at the meeting, which communicated an atmosphere of fear and desperation over an uncertain future for all.    Currently there are about 20 permanent home owners resident in the park and most face relocation if the land is redeveloped by new owner Kenmount Property Pty Ltd.

The company plans to build 93
new home sites, a bowling green,  tennis court, lap pool, community recreation room and on-site maintenance facility designed to complement the neighbouring Hill Top Village. Overall, the new site, which will be called the Opal Garden Residential Resort, will provide 138 residential units.    The development application is with council, who will have a maximum of eight weeks to mull it over, following a three week advertising process, which is ongoing until February 22.    But the bulldozers could be on site in three months time, according to Peter Puljich, the director of Kenmount who is overseeing this project.

Mr Puljich says the company will
rehouse and compensate everybody affected.    But the residents have their reservations. Moreover, with many of them aged between 70 and 80, they simply don?t want the upheaval at this time in their lives.    Their plight has won the support of local community group Maleny Voice.    Spokesperson Joe Colreavy said Maleny should rally around the caravan park?s residents and oppose its redevelopment.

"Most of the people here are over
80 years of age and forcing them to move is a disgraceful act from a humanitarian point of view," Mr Colreavy said.    "As a community it?s essential that we unite behind their cause and oppose the redevelopment of this site!"

The situation is one that is
happening increasingly to residents in caravan parks across Australia.    And while it's terrible for those facing displacement, developers like Kenmout are acting within the law and submitting plans which conform to council planning requirements.    That makes it very difficult for councils to say no.   Either way, it puts Division One  Councillor Dick Newman in an awkward position.

"It's a bloody awful thing that's
happening to them," Cr Newman said.    "But all I can do is feed them with factual information from council so they are aware of what is on the horizon - so they don't go in blind.    We are in the middle of a process but this development seems, on the face of it, to meet all necessary criteria and therefore council is legally obliged to approve it."

Cr Newman said that he wasn't
convinced that the residents of the Hilltop Village would oppose the project.    And on the face of it this seems a viable assumption. After all, they will benefit from better facilities that the Opal Gardens provides and no doubt benefit from a rise in the value of their house.

But that will come as cold
comfort to those who will be forced to move from the caravan park.   One resident commented that she had come to the park 16 years ago and felt it was a sin for Maleny to lose its caravan park facility.   "It's such a beautiful, peaceful environment to settle into," she said.

"Residents will now be put through
such upheaval, tension and insecurity a decision to bulldoze all its areas and gardens and loose all the birds and wildlife should not be taken lightly."    "We're not animals," another gentleman said. "The RSPCA would look after animals better than we will be looked after."

The group facing relocation claim
that they have looked at other caravan park areas within 300 square kilometres of Maleny and they say there isn't one site that can accommodate their homes which is close to essential services people of their age need like hospitals.   This is something Mr Puljich disputes.    Mr Puljich said he has called on the services of Ray Smith of the Caravan and Manufactured Home Residential Association, a government body which acts in the interest of caravan owners to settle any disputes.

"People must understand that under the current town planning we have the right to redevelop and this is something that is happening all over the country," Mr Puljich said.   "We will do everything we can to find suitable locations for these people and with Mr Smith's intervention, solutions will be found for all."

He said the company could probably absorb three people into the new site and assured TRN that he was observing government rulings and paying for the relocation of those with Manufactured Home Agreements.    And with one of the caravan park residents undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a battle with cancer, I would hope Kenmount's social conscience will dictate that they will be one of the lucky three rehoused in the new resort.   Mr Puljich added that two residents already had agreements to leave and of the remaining 18, he said four were present as caravans under Residential Tenancy Agreements.

"All we need to do is to give them 60 days under government ruling, but we haven?t done that yet, although it will be a last resort,"  he said.    "We are trying to help people to move out even when the law does not force us to do so."

Meanwhile, there is still hope for those opposing the redevelopment.   Recently the Tingari Village South caravan park in New South Wales was slated for redevelopment into 90 high end units - that?s until the state?s Environmental Court stopped the developer in his tracks.

The court's commissioner Tim Moore was persuaded by residents to halt the development on the grounds that it would significantly change the interactive nature of the Tingari society by having an adverse social impact on the residents, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.    However it should be noted that New South Wales has different laws to those in Queensland and an outcome of this type might not be achievable.   Mr Colreavy said that Maleny Voice would fund any costs incurred by the caravan park?s residents, if they choose to fight the developer in court.

Currently you can view the planning application at CCC?s offices at 1 Omrah Avenue, Caloundra, and make a written assessment to The Assessment Manager, Caloundra City Council, PO Box 117, Caloundra, quoting file number 2005/56-00018. Assessments must be received on or before Wednesday February 22.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 September 2006 )
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