IT'S a 194-year-old saga that reads like the pages of a rollicking crime novel, but now Northern Beaches councillors and locals are hoping resolution is nigh.
Bush-filled and on the water, down a long, winding path, Killarney Point was once a community meeting spot, featuring picnickers and a popular dance hall. That changed when it was sold to owners who blocked public access and commenced funny business. The timber dance hall became a secret bikie drug lab and was set on fire at least twice, and police eventually raided when they learned of an illegal inclinator being built to haul drugs from bay to building.
On Monday this week, amidst rumours of a "motivated seller", council penned a letter to Environment Minister Matt Kean and Planning Minister Rob Stokes asking them to buy back the Killarney Heights land for the public, preferably as National Park.
Councillor Stuart Sprott is leading the charge. He first approached then-planning minister (and also state member for the area, Wakehurst) Brad Hazzard in 2014, to try to convince him to buy it back. Back then, Mosman Rowers Club had sold the dilapidated property to its caretaker, after owning it for 50 years and renovating it into rowing accommodation and storage - but never securing the investment, support or permission needed to develop it. Now it was for sale again, for mid-$3 millions, and Cr Sprott thought it a perfect opportunity.
But the state government passed, and the new tenants soon blocked access to the popular walking track, part of the scenic stroll from under Roseville Bridge to Bantry Bay.
Four years later, after the police arrests, the vacant property was destroyed by arson and sold cheaply to a guy who was unfinancial. Not one but two caveats were soon placed over the property, with a court awarding the rundown, overgrown prize to a Russian cryptocurrency baron.
"You couldn't write this stuff," said Cr Sprott, who fished on the now-destroyed wharf as a young boy. "I don't want to lose a second chance." He sees a state government buyback as the only rational solution, given the burnt-out property is landlocked (with no ownership of water in the title) and has no real access.
"I want to have that experience passed onto future generations, so our kids' kids can do the same thing. It seems silly not to have it opened to the public. It's such a shame, that such a beautiful place is left in ruin. Now it's just a mess."
At the time of writing, a change.org petition by locals asking for the National Parks and Wildlife Service purchase of 107 Killarney Drive had secured 750 signatures, and Cr Sprott said he was not going to stop working to get the land back.
"It's not over yet," he said.
"We need to keep the pressure on the government to at least try and get in contact with the owner and see what he wants to do."
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