Island not a fantasy

ON THE MARKET: Hielaman Island near Lower Southgate will go up for auction at Maclean Services Club next Friday.
ON THE MARKET: Hielaman Island near Lower Southgate will go up for auction at Maclean Services Club next Friday. Contributed

IT'S probably a safe bet the item "own my own island" would be a pretty common appearance on many people's fantasy wish lists.

Unfortunately opportunities to make that particular dream come true are a bit like hen's teeth (particularly in the Clarence Valley). Until now that is.

Hielaman Island - a 15.05 hectare parcel of land girt by the Clarence River near Lower Southgate has come on the market for the first time in about 20 years - lock, stock and barrel.

While it's probably not the tropical paradise most people imagine when dreaming of owning an island, it does have a house, areas of lush rainforest, fertile flood-mud soil and even a plantation of Australian cabinet timber to boot.

The property - only accessible by a 9 x 3-metre aluminium barge - is currently owned by Sydney-based couple Dr Lawson Levy and his wife Elizabeth who originally bought Hielaman in 1992 as a kind of rural retreat or "river change" from the busy hustle and bustle of the city.

Dr Levy first fell in love with the Clarence Valley area in the late 1960s when he worked as a junior for a period of time at Grafton Base Hospital, so when looking for a rural paradise to escape to from Sydney from time to time, the Valley was high on the list of potential spots. As a result, when Hielaman came on the market in 1992 the couple snapped it up.

Speaking to the Daily Examiner yesterday, the pair admitted that purchase about 20 years ago had been a bit of a "wild move", at the time but said they had loved every moment on the island which they visited every chance they got.

"It's been an exciting thing to be a part of," Elizabeth said.

"It's a place with a great deal of history and interest."

Shortly after buying the property the couple wanted to know more about its past and enlisted the help of the Grafton Historical Society.

The historical society revealed the island was originally owned by a local veteran of the First World War who settled there in 1917 after being wounded at Gallipoli.

With the help of about 70 locals he cleared the island back from rainforest and established a successful dairy which he ran for decades.

Dr and Mrs Levy said living somewhere with such an interesting local tale just added to the experience.

It wasn't always easy for them though, when they bought the property it was operating as a cane farm. Dr Levy said the pair had to very quickly learn the "in's and out's" of cane farming to keep it running.

"In the early days we'd come up probably a couple of times a month. We'd get out of bed at three in the morning, come tearing up here, work our butts off on the farm then go back again to Sydney for work."

However, it was during these cane-farming years the couple had some of their best experiences on the island. Dr Levy said some of his favourite memories had been times the couple's sons had travelled up to stay and help out with the cane harvests.

He said about eight years ago, the couple got out of the cane business and established a plantation of about 4000 native Australian cabinet timber trees which have grown well in the island's fertile soil.

However now after almost two decades the pair have decided to part ways with the island.

The Levys said they had fewer chances to visit the island these days and said the land deserved to go to someone who would live on it and improve it more.

"We wondered if someone might be able to make more out of the property," Dr Levy said.

If the person was to live on the island, they could make a lot out of it and make the place even more beautiful.".

The couple confessed they had no idea what someone might be willing to pay for the island and Dr Levy said it would be interesting to see the result when the property goes to auction next week Friday.

Hielaman Island will go under the hammer at Maclean Services Club at 12.30pm next Friday.

Topics:  clarence river island property

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