‘We thought we were in for a really big fight and we were ready to keep it up,’ said Michelle Shearer from the Lennox Head Against The Ski Jump (LHASJ) group after hearing the news that the ski jump proposal had been stopped. ‘This is just unbelievably good news.’
The Winter Olympic Ski Jump training facility had been presented to the Lennox Head community as a fait accompli—a done deal. And yet now it’s over. Many are still in shock.
Here’s how the fight was fought and won.
Although there was a public relations presentation in mid-2016, the community didn’t comprehend the full extent of the development until the plans were put on public display at the Community Centre in late March. Images showed a 38 metre structure only metres from the beach, looming up out of the heathland. Many immediately felt it was glaringly inappropriate to the site.
Within a week of that display, a group formed with the express goal of stopping the development. They called themselves Lennox Head Against The Ski Jump (LHASJ). Led by Michelle Shearer they put together a grass roots campaign involving social media and good old fashioned letter box dropping, posters, information stalls and protests.
Letters of Objection
The cornerstone of this strategy was to encourage locals to write objection letters to Council, and this had a big impact, with close to 250 letters of objection already lodged with 3 weeks to go before the DA was due to be closed for comment.
Council’s Opposition Was Key
LHASJ also lobbied as many Councillors as possible, and gradually they came out against. Most vocal in opposition was Councillor Phil Meehan, who at the May Council Meeting, moved a motion that Council reject the ski jump application and this was passed unanimously. (Mayor David Wright who was due to sit on the JRPP, left the chambers.) While Council were not the approving body, their unanimous opposition to the project was a big win for the campaign.
Bipartisan Political Support
Behind the scenes LHASJ’s strategy involved targeting politicians on all sides, and they received early support from Tamara Smith and Justine Elliot, with Catherine Cusack and Ben Franklin coming out in support in the last weeks of May.
Having had success with the LAB-organised Howl at the Moon protest in early May, LHASJ planned to pull the community together again for a protest on 27 May at Williams Reserve.
But this protest turned into a celebration, when National Party MP Ben Franklin took the stage to speak to the crowd before the march, and announced that he had managed to stop the project.
LHASJ’s fight was over. There was much jubilation at Williams Reserve.