From the Newsroom

The former Gorman’s restaurant site at Yamba. Image: Rodney Stevens

Gorman’s demolition struggle for Crown Lands consent

Rodney Stevens


Clarence Valley Council will request that the NSW Government Crown Lands department work with the traditional owners of the former Gorman’s restaurant site at Yamba to establish an access agreement to allow the derelict building to be demolished and redeveloped into a prime tourism drawcard for the town.

Surrounded by Crown Land, the former Gorman’s restaurant sits on about 200 square metres of land, which was sold by the traditional owners in September 2020 for $2,005,000 to company Swell 77 Pty Ltd, which has impressive plans for the site.

In September 2023, council issued an order to demolish the former restaurant due to its dilapidated condition, but on March 4, 2024, council were advised by Crown Lands it was unable to issue consent to the owner so the building can be demolished unless it was through an Indigenous Land Use Agreement ILUA.

Cr Ian Tiley moved a motion at the March 26 council meeting which was seconded by Cr Bill Day that council: Note that the Yamba Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation have already had Indigenous Land Use Agreement discussions with the owner in relation to access for the development of the Gorman’s old restaurant site.

Cr Tiley said he received a letter from Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation CEO, William Walker about the issue on the morning of the meeting.

When Cr Steve Pickering asked Cr Tiley why Crown Lands aren’t mentioned in the motion as they are the owner of the surrounding land, he replied “because Native Title is on the land”.

“The would-be developer can’t do a damn thing to get access until he reaches an ILUA agreement, which this letter tells you has now been achieved,” Cr Tiley said.

“The Corporation have been meeting with the developer of the old Gorman’s restaurant site for a number of years, before entering into an ILUA,” Mr Walker’s letter said.

“Please advise council that the Corporation already had discussions with the developer in relation to access for the redevelopment of the Gorman’s old restaurant and have reached an agreement to move forward with an ILUA for the redevelopment of the site.”

Cr Debrah Novak asked whether Crown Lands had to be involved given there is an ILUA between the Yagel people and the developer.

“While there is a Native Title over the land, it is still crown land,” General Manager Laura Black responded.

Cr Karen Toms then asked whether Crown Lands would need to be involved in the ILUA.

“It requires Crown Land as the owner of the land to be involved,” GM Laura Black said.

Cr Toms then foreshadowed the council officer’s recommendation, which was seconded by Cr Johnstone that council:

  1. Write to the Member for Clarence, the Hon. Ritchie Williamson MP seeking his support and advocacy of the State Government for a process to allow the demolition and removal of the former Gorman’s restaurant on Hickey Island.
  2. Write to the Minister for Lands and Property, the Hon. Steve Kamper MP requesting that the State government engage with the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and their legal representatives to agree on a process to resolve the current need to demolish the former Gorman’s Restaurant for public health and safety reasons and to secure long-term legal access for Swell 77 to access their property.

Cr Tiley said Mr Walker was adamant that the officer’s recommendation was redundant, based on the information he provided in the letter.

Cr Tiley’s motion was defeated five votes to four, with Cr’s Clancy, Day, Tiley and Smith voting in support.

Cr Steve Pickering moved an amendment to Cr Toms’ motion to note the letter from Mr Walker.

The motion was carried 6 votes to 3, with Cr’s Clancy, Day and Tiley voting against.