Shoalhaven councillor Greg Watson has rejected claims of caucusing around the proposed reclassification of land in Huskisson.
Developer George Anasta, who is part of a local and Sydney-based Auric Consortium, which had plans for a multi-million development for Huskisson, alleges Cr Watson caucused to get a proposal through to have the Owen Street car park land potentially reclassified to community land rather operational.
“This is a vendetta against the RSL Club,” Mr Anasta claimed.
“In 2007 they [the club] had the property sold for $8 million. Yet overnight its zoning was changed.
“His wife has now put out a letter condemning what went on in the election.
“This is personal attack against me and the club.
“There were six new members of the council. They were only sworn in an hour earlier, yet they voted on this issue.”
Cr Watson refuted the claim.
“No one caucused, this has always been our election policy all the way through. We have been campaigning about the development of the site over the past three months,” Cr Watson said.
“John Hatton and myself put out a brochure to the community regarding this issue.
“My comment on the brochure was I wouldn’t support any development on the block above ground level. And that is coming from the prospect of being pro development.
“I regard the block just too important in terms of the view.”
Cr Watson has put forward a series of notices of motions from the Shoalhaven Independents including saving the helicopter, stopping the rate increase, stopping the sale of community halls and stopping the closure of transfer stations.
“We have had success on about 80 per cent of those and we are still fighting the 27 per cent rate increase,” he said.
Cr Watson questioned why he would have a vendetta against the club.
“As far as I’m concerned I’ve been one of the RSL’s biggest supporters over the years but I won’t go along with the rape and pillage of Huskisson for anyone,” he said.
“If someone puts up a development worthy of support I’d be the first to support it.
“Anything is possible. But from now on developers have to take the community with them and not just get seven councillors on side.”
Cr Watson said the change to community land stops a two storey building being built, like the developers were planning, obliterating the view.
“As it was, the underground development was going to be 1.8 metres above Owen Street itself which would have effectively obscured the view,” he said.
Mr Anasta said the iconic Huskisson view would not be lost in the development which sees Club Jervis Bay relocated to the western side of Currambene Street on land owned by council and construct apartments on the current club site.
“In our proposal the view would remain,” he said.
“We were going to set the development for the RSL site back and the view would still be there.
“We are looking at building an 80 room motel and serviced apartments - it would make Huskisson a destination.
“Development creates jobs. By stopping this decision the town will go under.
“The RSL Club took a $200,000 loss last year. It can’t keep doing that. If the club goes under what has Huskisson got?”
Anasta says he has eight projects planned for the Shoalhaven worth about $1.8 billion.
“Projects in Nowra, Huskisson and Vincentia which will create 6000 to 8000 jobs,” he said.
“We have a resort proposal for Worrowing Heights, something we have been waiting three and a half years for.
“Prior to the election Cr Andrew Guile said he wanted to bring big investment here - it’s already here and council wants to throw it away.
“Four years I’ve been trying and I’ve got the money to come to the area. It’s not easy to get investors in regional areas but I’ve got it and now council wants to throw it all away.
“Three million plus people come to the Shoalhaven, it’s the highest visitation area in the state, yet there is nowhere for them to stay.
He said he could take the money elsewhere.
“It won’t hurt me, it will hurt the area,” he said.
“The ratepayers will lose. We have such a high youth unemployment here this could do something about it.
“I’ve been down here since 1985 I love the people and the area.”
There has been an ongoing feud between the two, after Anasta released an unauthorised video on Facebook prior to the recent local government election which suggested Cr Watson, a Shoalhaven mayoral candidate, was in favour of the apartment development.
Cr Watson’s wife Robyn has since distributed a letter of support for her husband and his many achievements over his long local government career. She also condemned the 22,000 “illegal fliers littered with false statements and inuendos” that flooded local letterboxes prior to the election.
“It was soul destroying to see someone you love have their reputation thrashed when you know what is being said is untrue and also you know how hard he works and has worked to make the Shoalhaven a better place,” the letter said.
“The personal damage to Greg’s reputation can never be fully undone."
She said the matter was in the hands of authorities.