Prolific hotel investor, Dr Jerry Schwartz, is urging Cessnock Council to allow him to offer 32 cabins constructed next door to Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley as emergency and temporary accommodation for displaced victims of bushfires in the area.
Dr Schwartz has written to Councillors seeking urgent approval for use of the cabins – originally constructed for use by school, community and Indigenous groups visiting for cultural and heritage experiences – to provide temporary shelter to people who have lost their homes in the fire disaster. All cabins offer their own bathroom, are fully air-conditioned and ready to use.
Despite being installed nearly a year ago, Cessnock Council has currently not approved the cabins for occupation due to a formal development application having not been lodged by Dr Schwartz. According to sources, a meeting to discuss both the DA and use as bushfire relief accommodation is due to take place next week. Dr Schwartz said he appreciated procedures needed to be followed but that due to the emergency nature currently at work, he was asking Cessnock Council for a ‘Temporary DA’ to allow him to use his cabins to help bushfire victims who have lost their homes.
“We have seen some exceptional responses to the crisis from governments at all levels across the country and we would like to support our local community with the offer of free accommodation for bushfire-impacted families.”
In a response, Cessnock Council said a DA had not been lodged in relation to this matter.
“Council would welcome Mr Schwartz to meet with Cessnock City Council Officers as part of our pre DA meeting process and submit a development application. All development applications are accessed on their merits in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979,” a statement from Cessnock Council read.
This is not the first time Dr Schwartz has moved to offer temporary accommodation to displaced victims of natural disasters, having sent eight demountables to Marysville, near Melbourne, following the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009. The temporary housing provided shelter for families for up to four years while the town was rebuilt.