Proud: Some of the local elders at Saturday’s opening.
Proud: Some of the local elders at Saturday’s opening. Leigh Jensen

New national park opens at Coffs

TORRENTIAL rain and wind drove the event indoors but failed to dampen spirits at the celebrations to launch the Coffs Coast’s newest national park, Gaagal Wanggaan, south of Nambucca Heads.

The Coffs Coast area manager for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Glen Storrie, said the weather conditions forced a change of venue on Saturday.

Rain partially flooded the riverside Bellwood Park venue where an outdoor stage and marquees had been erected. Nambucca Primary School’s just-completed hall came in handy when P&C president Jeanette Gregory and her husband Mick came to the rescue.

“They helped all day,” Mr Storrie said.

“We made the call about 7.30am and by 8am we were up and running. The new hall was a perfect venue.

“Within an hour the NPWS staff were able to change the venue and set up at a totally different location.

“The Aboriginal community came out in force to celebrate the return of the land to them and the creation of a new national park.”

In spite of the wet weather and the last-minute change of venue, an estimated 500 people flocked to the celebrations.

Performers included the Elders Choir, Aboriginal dancers and well-known and successful Aboriginal singer Emma Donovan, who hails from the Nambucca Valley.

A special guest was the director general of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Corbyn

Mr Storrie said the day had been a very emotional one, especially for Aboriginal elders seeing their land handed back.

“A number of elders said it rains at a lot of happy Aboriginal events because the ancestors are crying in happiness.

“They must have been ecstatic on Saturday.”

For those who have not visited Gaagal Wanggaan (pronounced gargle wungarn) also known as South Beach, Mr Storrie recommended a boat ride up Warrell Creek, saying it was ‘a real treat’.

“The water is crystal clear, there is white sand underneath, beautiful coastal forests and a long beach,” Mr Storrie said.

“Over time we will be developing Discovery tours, with Aboriginal people taking the tours.”

He said as well as creating jobs, the new park would have a board of management with a majority of Aboriginal members as well as representatives of the NPWS, Nambucca Shire Council and Nambucca and Unkyi Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

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