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About the SSEC

Officially Launched 22 July 1991, the objective of the Centre has consistently been to defend the environment of Sutherland Shire and its bioregions and to propose and promote ways of achieving improvements. The Centre seeks to bring to its advocacy role, well-researched information, full participation of all stakeholders in debates, inclusion of the needs of future generations, and a genuine desire to seek win-win solutions among competing aims for the utilisation of natural resources.

Facing Challenges in a New Millennium

Trees reaching high through tangles of brightly flowering undergrowth, abundant with birds and animals. Rivers running clear, deep and full of life. Creeks clean enough to drink from. As the Sutherland Shire settles into a new millennium, these common Shire scenes of barely five decades ago are disappearing under the weight of urban overdevelopment, transport congestion and environmental mismanagement.

Located on the fringes of Sydney, the Shire is bounded by rivers and ocean and contains four national parks. It has a rich natural and cultural heritage. Its eastern edge, Kurnell, was the site of Captain Cook's first landing in Australia and, since settlement, the Shire has drawn visitors to its spectacular waterways, bushland and beaches. In the last fifty years, however, Sydney's burgeoning growth has demanded more than a simple playground from the Shire. Urban development has removed dense bushland for housing, streets and shopping centres, and foreshores have been alienated by marinas, jetties, swimming pools, retaining walls, boat ramps and boat sheds. Often fragile natural balance has been ignored causing waterways to silt and die. Remnant, overused and undermanaged bushland is increasingly surrounded by housing and so contains fewer and fewer species of plants and animals. Through urbanisation, natural values that made Sutherland Shire precious are disappearing: Disappearing but still surviving, often with difficulty.
Our vision is of Sutherland Shire bioregions in which community, business and government work in partnership to bring about a sustainable natural environment and a productive, healthy society based on ESD principles.
Realistically, the Shire will continue to feel the pressures of urban development. Unquestionably, residents, visitors and regulators of the Shire need to work smarter to balance social and economic needs with environmental needs. Finding that balance is the challenge of the next decade. It is a challenge the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre is prepared to meet.
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Principles guiding the Centre's decisions

Decision-making and action using ESD principles
  • The precautionary principle
  • Inter-generational equity
  • Enhanced individual and community wellbeing
  • Conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity
  • Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms
Transparency
  • Reasons for decisions are available for public scrutiny
  • Production of regular newsletters on Centre activities; also website information, open management committee meetings, audits and annual general meetings
Partnering
  • Seek opportunities to partner with community, business, governments (local, state and federal)
  • Utilise a variety of communication tools to inform and engage the community about issues
  • Network with other groups
Professionalism
  • Develop policies from research and consultation with readiness to modify policy if appropriate
  • Take a strategic planning approach
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Train staff
  • Promote teamwork in an atmosphere of trust
  • Maintain independence from political parties and governments

Ongoing threats to the region's environment

  • Increased Freeway extensions through Sylvania-Miranda-Gymea-Heathcote will increase air pollution, increase car dependence and destroy residential amenity.
  • Unsustainable population increases and higher density urban development producing crowding, traffic congestion and pressure on aging utility structures.
  • Continued threat to expand waste facilities at Lucas Heights.
  • Commitment by the Federal Government to build a new nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.
  • Native bushland continuing to degrade through under-management and overuse
The Centre is a totally independent body, open at all times to public scrutiny and public participation. It depends for funding on membership fees, subscriptions, donations, endowments, and never-ending fund-raising activities. Volunteer service is its lifeblood.

In its decade of existence, the Centre has played a leading role in a number of successful actions for the environment:
  • 1992 a joint Centre and Sutherland Shire Council (SSC) effort to defeat a "Megatip" proposal - a proposal that would have turned a significant bushland region of the Shire into a rubbish tip for metropolitan Sydney, attracting traffic and pollution to the Shire. The Centre initiated the establishment of Sydney's Waste Crisis Network, which is today hosted by the Nature Conservation Council and spearheads waste reforms.
  • 1993 deferment of a new nuclear reactor - the battle against a new nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights continues to this day and is being actively waged by an alliance of the Centre with PANR (People Against a Nuclear Reactor) and SSC. A new reactor would not only cost billions of dollars over its 50 year life, it is unnecessary, poses health and safety hazards for generations and would leave a legacy of dangerous nuclear waste.
  • 1993 construction of noise barriers to protect residential homes from traffic noise intrusion along Menai Road.
  • 1994 defeat of proposal for nearshore sandmining off Cronulla - sandmining which would have destabilised beaches and stirred up seabottom pollution, that would have entered Sydney's foodchain.
  • 1995 defeat of a proposal to rezone further lands at Helensburgh for urban development - a move that would have placed further strains on the already stressed environment of the upper catchment of the Hacking River. The Centre worked together with State Government authorities, Wollongong and Sutherland Shire Councils, environmental and residents groups to win the case to zone the subject lands as bushland.
  • 1997 defeat of a proposal to establish a second Sydney airport at Holsworthy - a campaign that involved the cooperation and coordination of a range of councils and organisations.
  • 1998 modification to proposal for a Cogeneration plant on Kurnell Peninsula (later indefinitely deferred).
  • 1991-2000 environment education in local schools and community groups, including publication of the "Green Team" newsletter, workshops, provision of guest speakers to schools and community groups, writing competitions, and recycled art competition.
A current Centre project is to develop "tools" to help environmental educators at all levels to deliver the message of community sustainability.
In all that it does, the Centre seeks to work with the community and with government organisations, while at the same time maintaining its independence. While it seeks always to empower community members to make their message heard, it does not forget that governments and councils are democratically elected bodies who have the mandate and administrative responsibility to implement social welfare. The Centre takes seriously the challenge to be simultaneously a valued voice of the community, and a critic of policies and actions.

In its years of existence, many people have poured time, energy and idealism into their work at the Centre. Their labours have produced a stable organisation which has attained a creditable reputation in both the Shire and among other environmental groups. Many organisations and individuals have, in varying degrees, come under the umbrella provided by the Centre, relying on the Centre's network of expertise, office resources and capacity for research.

A measure of its success is the increasing demands on the Centre's resources, demands which the Centre is often stretched to fulfil:
  • Library resources of the Centre have been used for researchers from all walks of life: primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, as well as community members.
  • Research capability to both gather and disseminate information about sustainable environment management.
  • Computer resources to facilitate communication and enhance the capability of those who rely on the Centre to resource their campaigns.
  • Accommodation for increased numbers of files, books, equipment, and space for volunteers and staff.

The Centre receives no general-purpose funding from any government source. Occasionally the Centre is awarded specific-purpose grants such as for weed-eradication, or website establishment. Outside a few "peak" Australian environmental bodies, no other community environment organisation can match the Centre's experience, breadth and resources.

Why the Environment Needs the SSEC

In the past few decades the region has suffered many environmental setbacks
  • Heavy industry on Kurnell's historic ground
  • Removal of Kurnell-Cronulla sandhills
  • Inappropriate high rise on Cronulla waterfront
  • Erosion along Shire's Botany Bay shoreline
  • Extensive chemical pollution of Georges River
  • Excess development adding to traffic congestion in Miranda
  • Australia's largest rubbish tip at Lucas Heights
  • Continuous radioactive emissions from the Lucas Heights reactor site
  • A liquid chemical waste dump at Lucas Heights, polluting Mill Creek
  • Large tracts of bushland lost to urban development in Menai
  • Silting and major pollution of most heads of bays in Port Hacking
  • Increasing pressures on major wetlands of southern Botany Bay
  • Invasion of remnant native bushland by many weed species
  • Poorly planned medium density development congesting neighbourhood amenities
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Structure of the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre

The Management Committee of the Centre, subject to the Associations Incorporation Act 1984, the Associations Incorporation Regulation 1985, its own constitution and any resolution passed by the Centre in general meeting, controls and manages the affairs of the Centre.

The Management Committee consists of three office bearers of the Centre and five ordinary members, all elected from the general membership. It holds an Annual General Meeting each year, normally in September, and meetings on the third Thursday for all other months with the exception of December. All meetings are open to members and the community.
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The Challenge Agenda

The Centre's aim is to defend and promote the environment of the Sutherland Shire and its bioregions. Realistically, this goal can only be achieved through attention to the myriad of issues that threaten environmental integrity. Over the next decade, the Centre believes it will achieve its aim best by:

  • Stopping unsustainable urban development and unsustainable population growth in the Shire.
  • Demanding safety in our environment: eliminating activities producing radioactive waste while opting for non-reactor high technology; ameliorating the effects of electromagnetic radiation.
  • Preserving urban greenspace and regenerating degraded bushland.
  • Restoring the quality of waterways.
  • Promoting sustainable transport usage.
  • Calling on the Federal Government for the development of an Australian Population Policy.
  • Encouraging sustainable consumption and waste avoidance, promoting zero waste and the reuse and recycling of goods.
The Centre sets this agenda without losing sight of the need to have the flexibility and capacity to react to issues which threaten the environment as they arise. The Centre relies upon its network of volunteers, liaisons with local government, and environmental and community groups, as well as its own research, to stay abreast of issues. Weekly staff meetings supplement monthly management committee meetings where issues are raised and reviewed. Where necessary, strategies are formulated and responsibilities allocated.

The Centre, through its various standing groups, has developed policies and committees covering a range of environment issues. Summaries of these policies and the work of the groups follow. As with all the Centre does, policies and campaigns are reviewed regularly in consultation with interest groups, and taking into account latest research and legislation.
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Bushland

The Sutherland Shire has significant areas of bushland. Most significant are those that are relatively safeguarded in national parks, including the Royal National Bark, Botany Bay National Park, Towra Point Nature Reserve, Georges River National Park, Heathcote National Park and several Recreation Reserves. As well, bushland corridors still exist along the foreshores of Port Hacking, Georges River, Woronora Valley, and escarpments around Menai and Engadine. But all bushland areas are under threat from urban development. Harmful effects of urbanisation are numerous and include: over use, abuse, weeds, dumping, pollution, housing and commercial development and development for playing fields. These are incrementally reducing bushland cover, its biodiversity and its viability.

Local, state and federal governments are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of bushland to the sustainability of the environment, which supports the quality of life, and welfare of urban societies. Legislation seeks to minimise the detrimental effects of urbanisation on bushland; for example, the federal government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the state government's Native Vegetation Conservation Act and Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, and various local government development control plans. Central to much of this legislation are the fundamental principles of sustainable development accompanied by the precautionary principle.

While the intent of governments to protect bushland is enshrined in laws, government resources and expertise to implement that intent is often lacking. Urban development pressures often lead to compromises that are steadily reducing the native vegetation cover of the Shire - estimated at 8% per annum.

Through its Standing Group, the Preservation of Urban Bushland Society (PUBS), the Centre advocates:
  • No compromises should be made that reduce the total bushland cover in the Shire. Removal of native vegetation from sites to be developed should be discouraged and revegetation plans be submitted together with development applications, and no development given a compliance certificate till revegetation efforts are deemed satisfactory. In the case of re-establishing canopy trees and middle-storey vegetation, this may take several years.
  • All efforts should be made to increase bushland cover through increased planting of natives on private and public lands. The Centre supports activities by volunteer and government groups to educate residents on the value of favouring native vegetation gardens, especially ones that comprise local indigenous vegetation.
  • Bushland corridors should be established, and where they already exist, maintained, to enable natural interactions of seed stock and movement of fauna. These corridors should be given a highly protected zoning to restrict types of development.
  • Appropriate management plans, funding and resources should be provided by public authorities for the removal of noxious and nuisance weeds from bushland areas.
    Appropriate management plans, funding and resources should be provided by public authorities to encourage appropriate access to bushland and discourage access, which leads to degradation.
  • Encouragement should be given to schools to foster a love of bushland and native gardens.

The Centre provides advice to community members and groups to help them in their efforts to safeguard bushland. It also has its Ministerial appointees on the National Parks and Wildlife Service Advisory Committee, on the Southern Catchment Board and Southern Sydney Catchment Board, and has an appointed representative on Sutherland Shire Council's Integrated Environment Committee. The status of native bushland in the Shire and its bioregions will be highlighted on the Centre's website by the end of 2000.

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EMRAA - Electromagnetic Radiation Alliance of Australia

In this consumer-driven, information-hungry society of ours, technology is enthusiastically embraced for its ability to meet our needs for speed and instant gratification. But this technology has its price. Every building we enter, every power-driven appliance or machine we operate; every computer or mobile phone we use emits electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

EMR has been associated with a litany of health problems. Studies have found that exposed populations have a higher rate of leukemia, brain cancers, breast and other cancers, depression of the immune system, learning and performance problems, neurological problems and changes to brain wave patterns. There is also evidence of a host of cellular effects including breaks to DNA strands, changes to gene expression, activation of allergic responses and effects on enzymes and neurotransmitters. And these are just some of the effects that have been found!

Since its inception in 1996, EMRAA has played an important role in providing information about the health effects of EMR. We have:
  • Contributed community representatives to the following committees:
    • ACIF committee, developing a Code of Practice on the Siting of Telecommunications Infrastructure;
    • Standards committee;
    • EME Reference group, Department of Health.
  • Provided submissions to the federal government on a number of relevant issues including the 2000 Senate Inquiry into EMR.
  • Provided support for groups and individuals concerned about the health risks of proposed infrastructure. (EMRAA receives numerous calls and regular correspondence.)
  • Provided information to the public through:
    • Quarterly newsletter, EMRAA News;
    • Articles in other newsletters and papers;
    • Media interviews;
    • Presentations to numerous groups, including participation in 1999 "Mind of a Child" conference;
    • In house publications.
  • Conducted measurements of homes and workplaces and reduced fields where appropriate.
EMRAA currently has a network which spreads throughout this country and overseas. We receive up-to-date information about the issue and are in regular contact with leading researchers on the issue. It is our observation that, as communications technology proliferates, so does the demand for information about its health risks.
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The Impact of Population

The ocean has an enormous capacity to act as a waste-sink, and if one small pleasure boat discharges the body waste of its occupants directly into the ocean, no great harm occurs. But when 200,000 Sutherland residents discharge their body wastes straight into the ocean at Potter Point, even the ocean's ability to act as a waste-sink is overwhelmed.

Such is the multiplier effect of population growth: the more people there are, all other things being equal, the greater the environmental impact.

But all things are not equal. Our per-capita impact is increasing at the same time as our population is increasing - a double whammy!

Most environmentally aware people take positive steps to try and reduce their personal environmental impact; a difficult task given the constant barrage of advertising which urges them to consume even more. Yet, individual successes in reducing personal environmental impact are swamped by population increase.

Australia's population is projected to grow by up to 9 million during the next 50 years. Sydney's population (now just over 4 million) is projected to rise to somewhere between 5.7 and 6.2 million in the same period, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' recent publication Population Projections - Australia, 1999-2101.

The Bureau assumes that Australia will continue with high immigration levels, but points out that a policy of zero net migration would see Australia's population peak at 20.9 million in 2028.

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Kurnell

The Kurnell Peninsula is a significant cultural and ecological asset. It is the Birthplace of Modern Australia - the site of Captain James Cook's first landing in this country - and the first meeting place of European and Aboriginal cultures. Kurnell is also the site of the most important wetland in the Sydney region (at Towra Point), regionally significant vegetation, sand dunes, a village of about 2600 residents, and many industrial establishments, including Sydney's largest oil refinery.

Sadly, the Kurnell Peninsula has been neglected and abused over many decades: Its once spectacular sand dunes have been depleted through sandmining and landfill operations, overgrown by noxious weeds and eroded by 4WD and horse riding activities; Sutherland Shire's sewage is discharged from the Peninsula's coastline; and there are ongoing tourist/residential/industrial development proposals which would add to environmental pressures in the area.

The magnitude, complexity and fragmentation of issues facing sustainable environment planning on the Kurnell Peninsula place heavy constraints on achieving a lasting rehabilitation of the Peninsula.

Over the past five years, the Centre has significantly increased its role in trying to find lasting solutions to problems at Kurnell:
  • Convening meetings of Towra Point Nature Reserve stakeholders - 1996-1999
  • Providing an administrative base of Towra Lagoon sandbagging project - 1997-98
  • Acting as a major player in campaign against Cogeneration plant - 1997
  • Acting as a major player in 'Reclaim the [Botany] Bay' campaign - 1998
  • Providing an administrative base, convenor, and member of Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council - a coalition of 8 community groups - since 1998
  • Establishing two websites - TOWRA-Net, Kurnell History
  • Coordinating Weedy Pond Rainforest Restoration Project at Towra - 1998-2000
Kurnell
The Centre believes the following measures are required to resolve many of the problems in the Peninsula, to properly honour Kurnell's cultural heritage, and to ensure environmental sustainability:
  • Cessation of sandmining and protection of all remaining dunes
  • Rezoning most of the land to ensure environmental protection
  • Review of the Peninsula's statutory Regional Environmental Plan
  • Establishment of an independent strategic plan/management plan for the Peninsula
  • Cessation of 4WD activities on the Peninsula
  • Promotion and encouragement of all weed eradication efforts across the entire Peninsula - from private landholders to volunteer groups
  • Increased funding and resources for NPWS to manage the two 'icon' reserves, namely Towra
  • Point Nature Reserve and Botany Bay National Park
  • Promotion of public access to the Peninsula
  • A Masterplan for the Taren Point area to protect its important habitat values
  • Support for the concept of a protected corridor of native vegetation/open space across the length of the Kurnell Peninsula.
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Landfill Sites

Lucas Heights Waste Depot or "landfill" or "tip" is located in the Sutherland Shire Council area. This facility is controlled by NSW Waste Service and comprises Lucas Heights Landfill No. 1 (LH1), closed since 1985 and in the process of rehabilitation as a sporting/recreation area; Lucas Heights Landfill No. 2/Lucal Heights Waste Management Centre (LH2/LHWMC), the largest tip in Australia; and Lucas Heights Conservation Area (LHCA), which is no longer intended for landfill use.

In 1996, an attempt to expand LH2 ended in mediation (Report by the Commissioner John Woodward). Sutherland Shire Council and the Centre joined in that mediation process and conceded an expansion of 8.225 million tonnes, conditional on certain basic requirements. The Centre has the following policies with regard to those conditions and on management of waste to landfill in general.
Landfill Tip
  • The door should be permanently closed on the issue of expanding the Lucas Heights tip beyond the conceded 8.225 million tonne expansion.
  • Waste Service NSW must live up to its agreement regarding the annual reduction of putrescible waste into LH2/LHWMC from approximately 1,000,000 tonnes down to 575,000 tonnes after 31 December 2000.
  • If Waste Service NSW is able to increase recycling capacity of LH2/LHWMC by about 55,000 tonnes per annum, it must not be allowed to increase the overall amount of waste into LH2/LHWMC.
  • Severe penalty fees imposed on Waste Service for exceeding annual tonnage must adequately reflect the long-term cost to Sutherland Shire of reduced tip life.
  • The number of Councils using the LH2/LHWMC site should be decreased by 40% from its current 23 before 31 December 2000. · There should be no incineration or receival of incinerator residues at the LH2/LHWMC.
  • Waste Services NSW should implement a quarterly waste reporting program to enable Sutherland Shire Council and the community to monitor quantities of waste received from each member council using Lucas Heights.
  • All references to pollution levels complying with EPA standards should be "below the limits of detection".
  • All water and other sampling should be non-routine, without prior notice to tip authorities, and carried out by independent agencies.
  • Leachate must be managed on site and disposed of to prevent potential downstream impacts.
    Tip odours should be sourced and controlled.
  • LHCA was handed over to Sutherland Council ownership on 4 September 2000 and Council must now expedite Waste Services' redemption of the site for hand over to National Parks and Wildlife by 2002.
  • A plan of management of the area should be drawn up and implemented. This should include cleaning up the old landfill sites near the LHCA.. The Commonwealth and State Governments must accept responsibility and begin clean up of little forest burial ground.
  • All options to encourage small-scale waste-derived produce ventures within the LH2/LHWMC boundaries should be pursued.
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Nuclear Issues (PANR)

In 1958 the first and only nuclear reactor of any kind was commissioned at Lucas Heights. Its stated purpose was to assess the possibility of nuclear power in Australia. The first years of the nuclear reactor's operations were during the "Cold War", so it also carried out some research on nuclear weapons. Around 1970 both areas of research were discontinued and five years later the reactor was described as being technologically obsolete.

From that time, at intervals of five years or so, requests were made to successive Federal Governments for a new reactor and, just as frequently, the requests were rejected. In 1992, following another try, the government set up the Research Reactor Review to investigate the request. The Review rejected the need for a new reactor on the grounds that the scientific effort alone could not carry the case - there was no prospect of commercial or industrial capital. The Review added that work should be commenced immediately to identify and establish a high level waste repository.

This Review was the only independent public inquiry that has ever been carried out on nuclear activity in Australia. The SSEC was heavily involved in it.

In 1997 the Federal Government arbitrarily announced that a new reactor would be built and that it would be at Lucas Heights. Since then the Centre has continued to oppose the proposal on the grounds of cost, safety, emergency planning, national interest, lack of access to insurance, waste storage and handling, and intergenerational responsibility. Detailed arguments on each of these points can be found on the Centre's website in the form of submissions to both Australian and international inquiries.
Anti-Nuclear Rally
In co-operation with People Against a Nuclear Reactor (PANR) the Centre's policy is to:
  • Urge the HIFAR reactor be closed down urgently and eventually decommissioned in the safest way to prevent harm to workers and to members of the local community.
  • Oppose the building of a new reactor either at Lucas Heights or at any other location in Australia.
  • Support responsible waste management practices that will be sustainable to future generations. Passing on a problem to our descendants is unacceptable.
  • Support a major scientific establishment at Lucas Heights but without the use of a nuclear reactor. Such an advance would have the total support of the local community. It would erase the years of mistrust of the operator.
  • Encourage research into alternative methods of producing radioisotopes. In particular those of use for medical therapeutic purposes. Australia could become a world leader in the manufacture and use of accelerators, which do not produce intractable waste. This would ensure that employment increase to the level of a decade ago.
  • Urge the NSW Government to independently carry out a study on local residents' health, funded by the Federal Government. No serious study of local residents' health has ever been undertaken. The effects of radiation on health may take decades to show up. Because HIFAR has been operating for 42 years any adverse effects may now be evident.
  • Urge the Federal Government to ratify the international agreements on liability in the case of an accident involving any nuclear device in Australia.
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Safety in Our Environment

"Companies that manufacture and defend the use of pesticides decry epidemiological studies done on mice and rats as inconclusive, but will not disclose production and use data that would allow scientists to better evaluate the actual effect exposure to these chemicals is having on human populations because it is 'confidential business information'. Nevertheless, we do know that farmers who use herbicides have six times greater risk of contracting certain types of cancer, and that children in homes that use pesticides have a seven times greater chance of contracting some form of leukemia."

In this quote, the author Hawken is only concerned with pesticides, but the same story can be told about a range of technologies and services that are commonplace today, such as: the production of isotopes for the health industry, supposedly necessitating a nuclear facility; explosion of telecommunication systems which increases the exposure of all to electromagnetic fields; and increased production of genetically modified produce.

The Sutherland Shire Environment Centre supports the precautionary principle in these matters and supports the efforts of specialist groups who advocate the same precautionary stance. Two such groups are based at the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre: PANR and EMRAA.
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Transport

Transport is one of the most intractable problems facing urban areas. The Sutherland Shire is no exception. Inadequate public transport, a lack of comprehensive cycleway networks, increasing road traffic congestion and air and noise pollution from cars are just some of the elements that need to be addressed.
Woronora Bridge
The link between road building and increased private vehicle use is well established, as is the link between increased private vehicle use and air pollution, greenhouse gases and utilisation of finite oil resources. In many modern cities (particularly in western Europe), private vehicle transport is being discouraged, while preference is given to public transport, cycleway and pedestrian network development.
In Australia, average passenger vehicle fleet fuel consumption has not changed significantly from 1976 to 1996, yet there are now 70% more vehicles on Australia roads. New passenger car fuel efficiency has improved from 13 litres per 100 kms to 9 litres per 100 kms in the 20-year period, the number of four wheel drives consuming nearly twice as much fuel has doubled, keeping the per capital average petrol consumption the same.
In Sydney the recent trend has been to build more freeways and tollways. At the same time, funding for public transport, cycleways and pedestrian facilities has been reduced. However, Sydneysiders protest often against freeway and tollways. These protests are made known through the media, while court cases against the environmental and economic impost of freeway developments are now frequent.

The highest priority for Sydney must be development of an efficient public transport system. The prerequisites of such a system are a high level of coverage, with travel times competitive with private transport, adequate capacity loading during peak times, fully integrated ticketing, high service frequency, and coordinated timetables for interchanges.

The rail system has been neglected by governments from both sides of the political divide. The network's track capacity and signalling systems are unable to run the number of trains the city now requires. Focusing on Sutherland Shire routes alone reveals that several points along the Cronulla line are only single-track. This limits the number of services.
In the Netherlands, with urban densities approximating those of Sydney, there is high emphasis on safe cycle networks. There are 14 times as many person trips by bicycle and 810% more bicycle kms ridden than in Australia. Deaths of bicycle rides per 100,000 population, however, is a third of that in Australia.
Use of bicycles and walking are alternative to use of the private motor vehicle. Yet, while bicycle ownership in Sydney is high and recreational cycling is popular, use of bicycles for short journeys is low. This is because Sydney does not have a comprehensive network of safe cycleways that connect commercial centres, public transport terminals, schools and civic areas. There is also a lack of facilities to park and secure bicycles.

Similarly, footpaths are often poorly maintained and lighted, and in many cases made uncomfortable because of proximity to fast flows of car traffic.

Recognising the integrated nature of transport issues, the Centre's policies on transport are:
  • An increase in cycleways to public nodes and bike storage areas at those nodes to encourage greater use of the bicycle for short trips. Facilities for bikes on trains and stations to store bicycles also needs to be encouraged.
  • Penalties for use of high fuel consumption vehicles commensurate with their load of pollution, together with education programs which increase awareness of the effects of vehicle pollution on the environment and health of people.
  • Programs to encourage car pooling and car-shared-ownership schemes.
  • A direct transfer of funding from road and car parking development to public transport infrastructures. Signalling systems and track infrastructures for the rail network should be improved and options for transport such as light rail and feeder bus services should be given priority over new road construction. In particular, the Centre is lobbying for CityRail and the Rail Access Corporation to improve the Illawarra Line and increase frequency on the Cronulla line. The Centre is also promoting its Bay Light Express light rail proposal (below) as a way of increasing coverage of the public transport network for short and medium distance trips.
Sydney Light Rail Proposal
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Urban Development

In the space of almost 50 years, Sutherland Shire has had to cope with nearly twice the rate of development of Sydney as a whole. High rise buildings and medium density development have dominated building efforts. While some people have benefited from this form of development, a large number of long-term residents have not. Traffic and parking congestion, rapidly multiplying units and high rise, and dual occupancies have all contributed to a sense of loss of a the spaciousness that identified the quality-of Shire-life. As well, a 400% increased in population in the Shire in the past 50 years has placed severe stresses on sewerage, transport and recreation infrastructures. Bushland is disappearing through urbanisation, overuse and undermanagement. Waterways have degraded through pollution and inappropriate foreshore development.

The Shire is in danger of losing much of the environment and ambience it counts as precious unless sustainable urban development is introduced in the planning regime and is rigorously implemented.

The Centre contributes at every opportunity to debates regarding urban planning. Members of the Centre participate in Sutherland Shire Council's working parties on urban development, and in strategic focus groups. The Centre monitors opportunities to make submissions on urban planning issues and has, over the years, participated in several inquiries on the topic. Importantly, the Centre provides advice to community members and to Precinct Groups on how to oppose urban development proposals or to work with developers to achieve sustainable outcomes.
  • Urban planning should not start with assumptions regarding population growth. Growth should be controlled to suit the aspirations of communities and to protect local ecologies.
  • No rezoning for higher densities should be commenced without the agreement of 80% of affected residents and property owners.
  • While variations to controls will occur, such variations should be by means which allow for maximum resident input.
  • Building heights should be limited in principle to prevailing tree canopy, in an effort to protect the leafy character of the Shire. This is particularly the case on escarpments where the canopy, rather than the built form, should always remain the dominant form.
  • As far as possible, vegetation should be left undisturbed during development. This is particularly the case for mature canopy trees. The balance in deciding the appropriateness of development should be tipped in favour of retaining tree canopy.
  • Native vegetation corridors should be safeguarded from development impacts.
    Foreshore areas should be protected from urban development with permissive occupancy being rescinded as a condition of property redevelopment.
  • Urban development should not exceed the carrying capacity of the transport, sewerage and recreation infrastructure. In particular, plans and funding for managing increased loads on such infrastructure should be in place before urban development takes place rather than being left to times when crises become evident.
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Waste and Consumption

In 1990, Australia produced over 14 million tonnes of waste - nearly one tonne for each person (domestic waste comprises 45%; commercial and industrial, 37%; and construction and demolition, 18%). Most of this waste was dumped into landfill, short-circuiting any likelihood of re-using or recycling materials, while causing contamination of large areas of land.

In line with many other States and in response to the Federal Government's call to reverse wasteful practices, the NSW Government introduced legislation to reduce waste in NSW by 60% by 2000. It introduced the notion of a 3Rs hierarchy of waste management practices which calls for reduced consumption, greater re-use of products, and more recycling of goods.
Hierarchy of Waste Minimisation Practices - the 3Rs:
  • Reduce consumption. Buy only according to need.
  • Re-use products. To find new uses for old items is to create something new, saving both money and resources.
  • Recycle. Energy used in manufacturing products is only partially recovered in recycling, but is never recovered when thrown away. Recycling reduces our demand on natural resources.
The 60% by 2000 is still a long way from being achieved. The Centre wants the NSW Government to support extended producer responsibility (EPR). Unless we insist on government legislation that obliges industry to take a leading role in responsibility for waste, industry will not seriously introduce waste reduction into its products and packaging. Manufacturers should take a cradle-to-cradle approach to the goods they produce, ideally never terminating ownership of goods but leasing them over their useful life to be returned and reworked and made productive once more. The Centre promotes its policy on waste through:
  • Participation in campaigns to promote sustainable resource-use through decreased waste.
  • Representation on the Southern Sydney Waste Board and on the Sutherland Shire Council Waste Committee and the Nature Conservation Council's Waste Crisis Network.
  • Lobbying for container deposit legislation, an effective method of implementing EPR.
  • Highlighting problems with current consumption and disposal practices through education campaigns and competitions.
  • Calling for a ban on greenwaste to landfill.
  • Promoting the principle of zero waste which will negate the need for waste landfill sites.
This last factor is among the most controversial and long-running campaigns on waste management the Centre has been involved in.
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Waterways

The waterways of Sutherland Shire are its jewels. They wedge into the landform from the sea, separating urban developments and providing sought-after vistas and recreation opportunities for residents and visitors alike. The waterways are the Woronora River (below) and Georges River which merge and flow into Botany Bay, and the Hacking River which flows into Port Hacking.
Waterways
The waterways exist in some of the most rapidly growing local government areas in Australia. Their catchments contain the homes of almost half of Sydney's population. Because of the demand for waterfront living, the foreshores of the rivers and estuaries and bays are subject to intense urbanising pressures. Environmentally unsustainable land development, including vegetation clearing, increased hard surface area, and unfiltered pollutants entering waterways through stormwater pipes - many replacing natural water courses - have contributed to the siltation of creeks, rivers, estuaries and bays, the disappearance of wetlands and seagrass beds, the reduction of water quality, and the reduction of biodiversity. As well, many bays have become crowded parking lots for water vessels and have lost any semblance of tranquillity and safety with the proliferation of noisy motorised vessels.

The Centre believes that:
  • Waterways are a public asset that should be managed for the public good. No part of a waterway should be relinquished for private gain unless there are significant and demonstrable social gains and no reduction in the environmental sustainability of the waterway. In this respect, the Centre believes the precautionary principle should be the predominant decider for development proposals.
  • Management of waterways should be carried out on an integrated basis. The Port Hacking Plan of Management provides an example of the many issues that should be considered in the management and development of a waterway. All government authorities with jurisdiction over the waterway or parts thereof should cooperate fully to bring about optimal and environmentally sustainable gains for the waterway.
  • Permitted uses of waterways should adequately consider the full range of users, including the requirements of native fauna in national parks and reservations. The desires of residents, foreshore picnickers, canoeists, surfers, swimmers, windsurfers and the like, for relatively quiet and safe waters, should be as important as the desires of users of highly mobile, motorised craft.
Improving the environmental sustainability of waterways has been high on the agenda of both local and state governments, and of many community-based groups. The Georges River Catchment Committee and the Hacking River Catchment Committee made a significant contribution to increased knowledge of the catchment and the parameters required to ensure appropriate management. The Centre is represented on the Southern Catchment Board and the South Sydney Catchment Board which have replaced the Catchment Committees in 2000 and are charged with the development of strategic plans for these catchments. The Centre is also represented on Sutherland Shire Council's Hacking Plan of Management Panel and works closely with community groups to improve waterways management.
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