Caravan park closure sparks social media attacks

SUDDEN CLOSURE: Dungog Shire Council has closed The Williams River Holiday Park.

SUDDEN CLOSURE: Dungog Shire Council has closed The Williams River Holiday Park.

Dungog Mayor Tracy Norman is seeking legal advice following death threats and allegations of corruption leveled against her on social media in the fallout from the council's decision to close its caravan park at Clarence Town.

Despite the council unanimously voting to close the Williams River Holiday Park over compliance and legislative issues, Cr Norman has borne the brunt of the widespread social media criticism.

Police attended the meeting Cr Norman and general Manager Coralie Nichols and other councillors held at the Clarence Town School of Arts Hall on Saturday, March 9, to address community concerns about the closure.

"For our meeting on Saturday, (the general manager) contacted the police who took it very seriously, death threats on Facebook and the idea of burning the witch, so we had the police at the meeting to make sure everything was okay," said Cr Norman.

"I have decided to make an official complaint to the police about a couple of people who have made remarks and I am also seeking legal advice about defamatory comments."

The council's general manager Coralie Nichols said there had been numerous "unsubstantiated, defamatory comments" about the mayor.

"There is no evidence which sits behind those comments and they damage her personal reputation and they damage her business reputation," she said.

"I've seen passionate communities and I'm all for passionate communities, that's great, but this has gone beyond passionate and has become very, very personal.

"If the response to decisions that are unpopular are threats of violence and personal attacks, who is going to be brave enough to make decision that need to be made to take places forward?

"It's to everyone's detriment when it becomes personal like this."

Many social media comments centre around the Mayor's ownership of an accommodation facility outside Dungog called Carriageway and the Settlers Arms hotel in Dungog.

She said she had no intention of establishing a caravan park at Carriageway and had not lodged a development application for any of the improvements she suggested might occur when interviewed in 2018 after she bought the facility.

"I spend seven days a week working as mayor for this shire, so most of my projects ear-marked for my businesses have been put on the back-burner," she said.

"This includes my idea of having a small RV parking area. I do not currently have infrastructure for RVs, there is no approval for putting RVs at the Carriageway, nor do I have a development application in for these. "

A development application is soon to be lodged for Carriageway in regards to toilet facilities.

"There is no suggestion to me that a caravan park at Clarence Town has any relationship to any accommodation I have in Dungog, it is a different accommodation offer, it's a different price point," she said.

"There is not and has never been a sign advertising a caravan park at the Carriageway.

"The Carriageway has not and never has had accommodation for caravans.

"These untrue and baseless statements have also included allegations posted on Facebook that I am corrupt and should be reported to ICAC.

"I consider these statements made in the public realm to be slanderous and defamatory."

Cr Norman thanked supporters for their "flowers, texts messages, signals in the street and positive comments".

Cr Tracy Norman.

Cr Tracy Norman.