History Lesson

February 25th, 2023

Ocean Shores could have been a completely different place than what it is now. American firm Wendell West first purchased the land in 1977, with backing from American crooner Pat Boone. The well-known singer lived in Ocean Shores, Washington State, so our Ocean Shores was named after it. Forty years ago, in 1983, Alan Bond won America’s Cup and his Bond Corporation had a part to play in developing this large parcel of coastal land north of Byron Bay.

But the ballad crooner and the dodgy yachty were not the only connection to fame or notoriety for the fledgling Ocean Shores. At the time, the words Nugan Hand Bank immediately conjured drug dealing, gun-running, organised crime, and clandestine intelligence activities. The founders of Nugan Hand were American Vietnam Vet, Michael Hand, and Australian solicitor Frank Nugan. They were apparently laundering money through the project. It all came to grief when Hand was found dead by gunshot wounds in his parked car in a town near Lithgow. In those days, our own Fast Buck$ was a lot sharper than he is today, as he was on to the shenanigans and tried to expose it.

Bond’s Cup Runneth Over

Alan Bond’s 1982 development application stated: “It is the developer’s objective that should the opportunity present itself for Australia to defend its hold of America’s Cup, such a challenge would be held in the waters off this estate making a marina within this area the focus of world attention.” He also promised an international hotel, shopping centres, and high-rise.

It involved cutting a giant excavation in the beach to provide a navigable ocean entrance and digging out the large wetland which is now the core of Billinudgel Nature Reserve. The map below shows the concept – it also involved extending Capricornia Canal to the marina and extensive mass clearing of the various forests in the locality. A population of some 30, 000 in Ocean Shores was envisaged.


Obviously, the locals were not happy and fierce resistance to the proposal arose. The size was cut back and much of the wetland was preserved. I remember sometime around the late 70s as a teenager visiting a friend who was renting a house there. It was a two-story brick and tile house standing on its own in the middle of flat, treeless ground zero and it was surreal.

Background for this story came from local planner, Rob Doolan. Rob was a fresh young face in the BSC planning department at the time and was intrigued to watch this go down.

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