‘Snobbery’ claim in Wyee West debate

CROSSROADS: The century-old conundrum of the Wyee West paper subdivision divided Lake Macquarie councillors on Monday night. Picture: David Stewart
CROSSROADS: The century-old conundrum of the Wyee West paper subdivision divided Lake Macquarie councillors on Monday night. Picture: David Stewart

THE CENTURY-old conundrum of Wyee West was dubbed both a “shantytown” and the victim of “snobbery” on Monday night as Lake Macquarie council voted to come up with a plan for the paper subdivision.

The cluster of 199 residential-sized lots was carved out in 1914 before laws required roads and sewerage. Despite there now being 141 landowners there, none of the lots are connected to reticulated water or a sewer.

The lots can’t be built on legally but some families still live in Wyee West homes.

Council staff recommended on Monday that councillors support devising a development plan for the paper subdivision (so-called because it exists “on paper”) that will include seeking tenders for engineering designs and the costs of roads and other critical infrastructure.

But Liberal councillor Jason Pauling, while supportive of forming a reference group to determine how Wyee West’s infrastructure costs might be shared among landowners, said seeking tenders was beyond the council’s remit.

“We have basically what’s an unauthorised shantytown. Right now I think it’s a bit early for us to think about putting our hand in our pocket for what’s a 100-year-old problem,” Cr Pauling said.

“I’m not without sympathy for these people but if I don’t pay my mortgage, the bank comes and takes my house. I would be very disappointed if we end up being the ones carrying the can.”

Labor councillor David Belcher.

Labor councillor David Belcher.

But Labor councillor David Belcher and Lake Mac Independent John Gilbert hit back at Cr Pauling’s comments and those of his fellow Liberal Kevin Baker, who had criticised the council for encouraging people to stay in “places that are not  compliant and never will be compliant” in Wyee West.

“A lot of this discussion strikes me as snobbery,” Cr Belcher said.

“These families live in dwellings because they have to. In some cases there are families involved who’ve lived in these dwellings for generations. These are real people. This is not an abstract discussion.”

Councillors voted down an amendment by councillors Pauling and Baker to omit the plan to seek tenders to cost developing Wyee West and the original motion, including the formation of a reference group, was carried.

A council report says about 87 of the lots in Wyee West have some form of structure, many of which are occupied at least semi-regularly.

“Although council records show that five approvals were issued in the 1980s for machinery sheds, almost all of the structures that exist today have been erected or placed without any form of approval,” the report says.

The state government approved a rezoning for 1250 houses at Wyee West in 2013.