‘Where the bloody hell do I go?’

• Eric’s feeling less mobile than his motorhome, and can’t bear the thought of having to relocate and start over again at 84. Photo by Steve Grant.

“WHERE the bloody hell do I go?”

Eric is one of about 70 elderly residents being forced out of the Coogee Beach Caravan Park so their motorhomes, caravans and transportables can make way for more lucrative tourist cabins.

But the 84-year-old, whose feet are so swollen he can barely walk and who relies on regular dialysis to stay alive, says starting over again is unthinkable.

“I want to stay here for dialysis,” he says.

Neighbour Jillian Spruyt drops in regularly to make sure he’s okay, but her days are increasingly busy keeping people up-to-date with the latest news and lobbying on their behalf.

Some cling to the hope of convincing park manager Discovery Parks to let them stay, while others hope for financial assistance to cover the expense of moving a transportable homes.

Ms Spruyt said they had a setback at a meeting with Discovery CEO Grant Wilckins last week when he pointed out their existing leases only required the company to cover relocation costs to another site within the same park.

But there was better luck at Cockburn council’s annual general meeting of electors on Wednesday, who voted for the council to hold off signing a new lease until there was a satisfactory outcome for the residents.

Ms Spruyt said despite most of her contingent leaving early as debate over the council’s dog ban at Woodman Point stretched past their endurance, she was thrilled at the show of community support.

Two motions from the group were adopted 65 to 1, despite the council’s planning director Daniel Arndt reminding the chamber several times about the short-term nature of the caravan park.

That doesn’t cut the mustard with Edie Mueller,  who has been living in the park for 21 years and says she and her husband were assured its status as an A-class reserve offered them security.

Ms Mueller said they moved to the park after years of working six-days a week to support their son, who had a terminal illness, and then caring for her elderly father in his last years.

“We never asked for any money from the government,” Ms Mueller says.

“But my husband was worn out and he had a bad back, so we decided to come here for a quiet life and because it was affordable.

“My husband had as stroke four years ago and we just don’t want to move because of the tranquility.”

Ms Mueller says they simply can’t afford an expensive move.

Sue Ivison has been at the park so long she can’t remember the exact details of how she and her husband got here, but they’d only been married four months.

“We paid $13 in rent and you put 10 cent coins in the meter,” she says.

Ms Ivison said at that time the park was full of young families: “People came here who could not afford a house but were saving up for a house.”

But the home ownership dream eluded many and she and her husband are now in their mid-70s and desperate to cling to their community.

Discrimination

“I think there is a bit of discrimination in saying we are not good enough to be living in this nice place,” she says.

“There was none of this ‘you are on prime land’ – I’d never heard anything like this until all this started.”

Ms Spruyt says that as she delves into the details of Discovery’s proposal, she’s becoming angrier about the council’s involvement and believes staff have led the development agenda that’s now causing the elderly residents such concern.

She discovered a reference to additional tourist accommodation in the council’s management plan for the Coogee Beach foreshore. It was started in 2018 and adopted in November last year; she says in that time none of the residents were consulted about the potential impact on their lives.

“I find it absolutely immoral that they have been negotiating together for years – and have let people buy houses and spend all that money,” Ms Spruyt said.

She’s also warned the broader community that their access to the beach and area could also be affected, with the management plan outlining fencing to surround the lease area.

“We have six entrances on the east side, and from the beach there are four entry points – how are these child-proof gates going to affect people accessing the beach and surrounds,” Ms Spruyt said.

One response to “‘Where the bloody hell do I go?’

  1. Absolutely appalling what is going on here. The land is an A Class reserve as a historical area on the Land Title. City of Cockburn and Discovery Parks Pty Ltd don’t seem to think that matters, instead referring to it as “Crown Land”. Community support is very much needed here to fight in protecting the Land AND it’s people.

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