THE beachside suburb of Stockton is set to be reshaped dramatically and permanently, with two Defence Housing Australia sites on the peninsula to be redeveloped into 300 housing units.
The federal government enterprise Defence Housing Australia has taken the first steps towards building 300 units for both Defence employees and the open market, in a total development worth roughly $150 million.
Defence Housing bought the 111-hectare Fern Bay Rifle Range site and historic Fort Wallace, of about 32 hectares, last year from the federal Department of Defence.
The Rifle Range site is earmarked for about 200 units, and the rest will be built around Fort Wallace.
“[Defence Housing’s] vision is to develop Fort Wallace and the Rifle Range into unique coastal communities with links to the Newcastle CBD and Hunter region,” Defence Housing’s acting managing director Jan Mason told the Newcastle Herald.
“We intend for these sites to provide future residents and the wider Stockton community with a vibrant, sustainable community.”
Defence Housing says it has carried out specialist studies of the Rifle Range and Fort Wallace sites, canvassing their heritage, traffic, and wildlife considerations.
The body is now consulting residents and stakeholders, and next intends to lodge planning proposals with Newcastle and Port Stephens councils.
The two developments will bookend the Stockton Centre disabled care home – which the state government plans to close – to its north and south.
The state government has denied in recent years that it plans to ultimately sell off the Stockton Centre, and a Defence Housing spokesman said on Wednesday the site was “nothing to do with us”.
But Wendy Cuneo, whose son David is a resident of the Stockton Centre, said locals had long ago grown suspicious of the various government departments’ intentions for the land.
“In about 2010 [state government corporation] Landcom did due diligence there, and promised to update us every three months. We had one update and that was it,” Mrs Cuneo said.
“Everybody’s worried out of their brains.”
A blueprint for the Stockton developments is understood to be Defence Housing’s Wirraway estate in Thornton.
Defence Housing purchased half of that 500-lot estate to build its program of leasing residential properties to current and former members of Australia’s defence forces at rents well below market rates.
In a pamphlet distributed to Stockton residents, Defence Housing emphasised the history of World War I Fort Wallace and the natural setting of each site.